Wellness London speak exclusively to Martijn Van Pieterson about his personal experiences in both work and wellness.
Hi Wellness, certainly.
I studied Econometrics at Erasmus University in Rotterdam after which I did internships at Shell Oil’s Finance Department in the Czech Republic, and ABN AMRO in Amsterdam on the trading floor. I became an employee at ABN AMRO on graduating and remained with them for the next 12 years moving up the echelons towards management of the Financial Markets business. It was great fun but the pressure certainly increased, with the increasing level of responsibility.
I was working 12 hour days. Eventually, I had more and more overseas duties, travelling to London each week and further abroad. I never worked on weekends, as is the nature of working in the markets, but work during the week was intense and I never truly switched off.
As part of ABN AMRO’s take-over I started working for RBS, and at this point, I moved to London. I continued working in management functions in the Markets business and eventually became part of the management committee where I was responsible for a large trading department. My overseas travel continued.
In 2013, I quit my job and moved my family to Antwerp to set up our art gallery and dealership: Ibasho.
Wellness was not important to me at all in my 20s nor 30s. I worked hard, played hard. Hot coffee and alcohol played a regular part in my life. I spent zero time in the gym or playing sports. I basically ate and drank whatever I wanted, without considering the negative effects.
I was overweight, over 100kg, had high blood pressure and high cholesterol. I was stressed because of the pressures and demands at work and the excessive travelling and suffered from the usual stress related complaints, sleeping poorly, and suffering from various ailments. This of course spilled over into my home life.
Yes, although I think I felt worse than the rest of my team as I carried the weight of responsibility. My team actually looked after themselves much better than I did. Looking back, I would do it differently, I would set the example.
In 2010 I was rushed into A+E. I had a fever and other serious symptoms. I remained in hospital for a week. After I was discharge, my wife said “enough” and insisted I start looking after myself.
6. What strategies did you put in place to address your work/life balance?
For a few weeks I did nothing, I did not want to leave the house, I had no energy. I then decided to take control. I met Philip Jones (co-founder of Wellness London) and started having once a week personal training sessions, which progressed to three a week as I became able to do more and recover more quickly. I began enjoying myself. My wellness journey has continued to improve. I started seeing two coaches: one for my career and one for my life in general. It made a huge difference.
I decided to quit my job and made a career change into trading art where my wife and I opened our art gallery, Ibasho, in Antwerp.
After approaching my physical and mental health, I then sought advice from a dietician to help with my weight and wellbeing. I have now lost 17kg, and I no longer drink alcohol or coffee. The real key was becoming aware of calorie intake; I had no idea how many calories I was consuming.
7. What are your thoughts on wellness in the workplace, now compared to then?
My views on wellness in the workplace and my own wellness are entirely different now. With a proper focus on wellness for their employees, corporates will improve productivity and reduce sick leave. If I had done all the things I do now back then – things would be different. I possibly would not have left, but this aside, I certainly would have been healthier and avoided such serious health issues.
8. Do you think wellness programmes will become a standard offering in the future?
People need educating. Wellness is one of the ingredients for a sustainable career, particularly in the sector in which I worked. Attitudes are changing with the rise of the tech firms and influence of American ethos, but many corporates have a long way to go to provide their employees with an appropriate wellness offering.
9. Finally, do you think millennials have a different attitude towards health and wellness?
I believe that they already do, yes! They have less of a view on career alone and more of a motivation for life as a whole. They have a lot more perspective and balance and will be looking for employers who value and respect this.
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