Cat walking towards a hill

Mid-year circuit breaker at Farewill

We’ve had a pretty remarkable 18 months here at Farewill. We’ve launched new products including Funerals and Lasting Powers of Attorney, grown our team from 60 to 140 people, increased our revenue 600%, and raised our Series B.

In normal times this would be notable, but it’s also come during a pandemic that has turned work patterns on their head, and brought uncertainty, stress, and grief to many.

To recognise the efforts of everyone who works at Farewill, and to acknowledge that it’s been a tough time and people need a bit of extra help to recharge, we’re calling a “circuit break” next week: giving all of our staff extra paid time off to focus on themselves before coming back for the second half of the year.

It’s been an exceptionally tough time in people’s working lives

At Farewill our mission is to change the way the world deals with death, and we expect to be working with tough topics. However, since the pandemic started, as you can probably imagine this has moved to a whole other level. Our teams have tirelessly worked to make quick product changes (for example to facilitate new work patterns, and to give free wills to NHS staff), have helped huge numbers of people needing support for themselves or their loved ones, all while working fully remotely for the first time and having to navigate lockdown and personal situations.

Working in a fast-paced, high-growth business with shifting goalposts, and spending a lot of time having to think about and talk about death, is a challenge at the best of times. We hire people who are empathetic, high-achieving, and self-reflective, and who’ve often spent much of the last year focusing on supporting others. 

Earlier this year we’ve started to see the impact. Sickness rates, particularly for mental health, had been creeping up. With the country starting to open up a little bit we were seeing people start to think about taking extended time off to reclaim some of their lives. Articles such as Lara Hogan’s “We need to talk about your Q3 roadmap” resonated, and it became clear that we needed to be proactive with rethinking what the rest of the year should look like.

We planned a “circuit breaker”

Back in April 2021 our Head of Sales and Operations, Mitchell, came up with an idea for a “circuit breaker”. After discussing the shape of this as a leadership team, Mitch worked with a range of people including our COO Constance and CPTO & Co-Founder Tom to put a plan together, settling on the following:

Over the course of two weeks in July (split to make sure that our teams working with customers can still provide great support), we’re giving the entire company extra paid time off. The idea is that with everyone off at the same time, nobody has to worry about what they’re missing, or what awaits them on their return.

However, we know that time off alone doesn’t change a tough situation. On top of the paid leave, we’re making it a true break by also doing a number of other things to make positive changes for when everyone comes back for the second half of the year. Some of these things include:

  • Bringing in weekly “no meeting days”, times when the whole company agrees to no internal meetings, and avoids external meetings as much as possible.

  • Giving additional support to our Sales & Ops teams, including looking at additional grief training and support (on top of the support already in place through our employee assistance programme), and considering other ways we can help them with their challenging roles.

  • Resetting our targets to balance our high ambition with taking some pressure away from individuals and teams.

  • Doing a company-wide calendar defrag to revisit whether meetings need to be held, and when they’re best scheduled to help with deep work time.

  • Finding time for everyone to reflect on sustainable work practices, led by our People Development and Engagement Lead (Carl) and People Engagement Coordinator (Juanita).

We’re in this for the long haul

As a leadership team and business we’re very mindful that there’s no easy fix, and that we’ll need to keep listening, adapting, and being prepared to support people in different ways as the pandemic continues to make waves. For now, we hope that everyone can have a little bit of an extra break, feel recognised for their hard work, and can come back to some positive changes for the rest of the year.