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Kathryn's story

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Kia ora Koutou! Nō Kotarani ahau. Engari, i whānau ahau i Tāmaki Makaurau. Kei Manukau tōku whenua tupu. Nō reira, kei Aotearoa tāku kainga. Ko tāku tūmanako he tino harikoa rawe ngā kaimahi. Nō reira, he kaitohu ahau o Joyworkz Ltd!

Ever since I was a young girl growing up in Auckland, I had dreamed of having an amazing, stimulating, truly meaningful work-life. So, I studied hard at school and university, believing that this would take me beyond the mere mundane and win me an incredible job. I knew that I would be spending a lot of time at work and wanted to make the most of it! During my time at University, I worked in several roles to support myself, including coaching students as a music teacher and working with people with disabilities as a social work practitioner. I enjoyed a lot about these roles but saw them as interim positions on my way to a grand career.

After finally graduating from University in Sydney with a PhD (where I had moved to study) I finally entered the much-anticipated full-time workforce. However, things didn’t turn out quite as I expected and I became increasingly disillusioned. (You may relate to this experience too post university studies!). Rather, I experienced many challenges in my early working roles as a researcher, including maintaining motivation and a bullying manager. I was also noticing that many people around me were experiencing high-stress and unhappiness at work. The intensity of their misery somehow struck me as wrong. I knew that I wanted to have as much fun as I could at work and I wanted to find out how! After returning to Auckland I realised I wanted to do something to help people enjoy their work more. So, I began researching on how to achieve fun at work and also wrote a memoir that combined my experiences, personal learnings and research: Fun at Work: A Journey of Acceptance, Joy and True Meaning. I also established Joyworkz with my partner, as a way to help others enjoy their work better.

Around five years ago, I was blessed to find my 'dream job' at a local University. It was an amazing opportunity to coach students with their writing and encourage them to reach their dreams. Initially I just couldn’t believe having landed such a great position and felt challenged (in a good way) and excited and on a high for the first year! Then, after about a year, I realised I had finally gotten on top of the role and at times, would get a little bored. I didn’t pay too much attention to this at the time though, as on the whole, I still loved the role and the team. However, the next year, my team was restructured resulting in friction and uncertainty. I subsequently experienced two episodes of burn-out, resulting from the restructure, my isolation and increased workload. Over the next six months, as I struggled to come to terms the changes to my work (and workplace), I started to feel quite miserable. Wow, I couldn’t believe that my once perfect job had turned into a job that was now making me ill and unhappy. But the worse thing was, I just didn’t know what to do about it.

I started looking for someone to help me turn my work situation around, so that I could move from feeling miserable to enjoying work again. I looked to my managers, but they seemed just as overwhelmed as I did at the time. I had some EAP (Employment Assistance) counselling, but while the counsellors I spoke to recommended good rest after the burn-out, they were not able to provide practical coaching to find a positive way forward and help me learn to love my job again. Instead, I stayed floundering, wanting to take positive, proactive action, but not knowing where to start.

Without any practical guidance, I continued to feel miserable and eventually chose to leave my job. While some benefits came from this – including an opportunity to study Te Reo Maori for 5 months while I sorted out my future direction – the situation was not ideal. For one thing, my decision to leave the job had been reactive, rather than proactive, and had left me uncertain of my further work path. It had also created a career rupture that left me little chance of moving back into a similar profession. As well as that, I remained haunted by the thought that there might have been an alternative option to leaving my job.

The upshot was that I became determined that, if I could help it, the same thing was not going to happen to other people! I realised that I wanted to provide other people access to the information and guidance that I would have loved when I was miserable at work. I therefore conducted and published an academic study (with a colleague) on some remarkable people who have enjoyed every job they’ve ever had! Planning and writing up the study involved extensive research into the science of happiness, positive psychology and workplace wellbeing. The study results were both fascinating and encouraging, revealing tools and strategies we can all use to enjoy our work more.

The ‘Practical Approach to Happiness at Work’ (group workshop and 6-week individual programme) is the coaching programme that I wished that I'd had when I was miserable at work at my ‘dream’ university job. It distils the secrets of people in my research and reveals these using a range of practical tools and strategies so that every person can take practical steps to achieve greater fun, fulfilment and enjoyment at work. I am so excited about being able to offer these tools to others!

I currently love working in Joyworkz to provide coaching in organisations and for individuals (as well as presenting a variety of wellness seminars). At the current time (given the COVID-19 situation), much of this is conducted remotely via Skype to home workers. I know alot about the challenges of working from home too, as that's where I work. Luckily, I have the best work colleague ever, puppy Pania (see pic).

Some of the things I've been fortunate to do:

  • Coaching experience encouraging people to live a great life in a range of contexts including music teaching, university, as a social work practitioner, and with Joyworkz
  • Over ten years’ experience in the work-place wellness industry
  • Published academic research on wellbeing and fun at work
  • Author of 'Fun at Work: A Journey of Acceptance, Joy and True Meaning'
  • PhD in Sociology from the University of New South Wales
  • Masters in Sociology (First Class honours), University of Auckland
  • Bachelors in Sociology and Music, University of Auckland
  • International Life Coaching Certificate
  • Certificate in Tertiary Teaching, AUT University
  • Wellness WiseTM Practitioner Training, Accredited training with the Wellness Wise Academy
  • Presenter at a range of Wellbeing Conferences in New Zealand

Contact Kathryn now to chat about whether coaching is right for you or your organisation...