It's critical to make sure we're helping manage the impacts of the pandemic on our people and customers: a work-life balance with Natalie Whitty

We spoke to Natalie about how she's found settling in to working from home, her best travel memory and why the house always needs to be stocked for a good breakfast!

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What has surprised you most about lockdown?

I’ve been amazed at how well and easily I settled in to working from home. I have always resisted it (the sense of isolation hampers my productivity) but I have loved it – getting up early and going for runs, having lunch with my partner, doing one to ones with my team whilst walking in the sunshine.

It is harder in winter and have been busier than ever, but I still have a better distinction between work and home now: when I stop, I really am ready to stop. I don’t have a commute to tinker on email or worry about something I haven’t done, so down time is actually, genuinely down.

I have also learned I can enjoy quality TV drama and, indeed, binge watch. Again, I always resisted them saying I lacked the concentration span. Turns out, I too can watch three episodes of Succession on the bounce! Or the whole of Love is Blind in two days… 

How did you get into insurance?

I was looking for a way to get some listed communications experience - I’d worked at a FTSE but never in the “PLC” team and was keen to see it up close. That opportunity just happened to be at an insurance company, and I wasn’t sure it would be for me… but the more I looked into it I felt the draw of the underlying social purpose and human stories that are tied up in what we do. Then I really, really wanted the job.

What have you learned in this time that you’ll hold on to in the future?

I think people are more aware and respectful of the many dimensions of other people’s lives. I feel we’ve become less transactional and more interested in the light and shade of others’ experiences. People are physically apart but I think more genuinely connected.

I had a miscarriage during the first lockdown, which in another context I might not have shared so openly, but through recognising my own and others’ vulnerability at during this uncertain time, I’ve learned that the bonds you forge by letting go a bit can make you stronger and more effective in the long run.

So I’m trying to be braver about letting people know where I am at, what I think and why, recognising I am fortunate to be in a position where I have a voice and can make a positive difference if I use it in the right way. I think that openness and honesty has brought me closer to people in all aspects of my life.

What would you say to someone considering a career in insurance?

I think that, as with many industries, experiences of working in insurance are very different depending on the role you are in and the company too - so build some networks and do your research so you can be confident that the role and the organisation is right is for you.

Night owl or Early Bird?

Completely depends on the time of year. Winter I am very nocturnal, Summer I get up early.

What did you not expect about working in the insurance industry?

Honestly, I did not expect it to be so fast paced and full of interesting, bright, sparky people with passion for what they do. Looking from an outside perspective I was worried it would be conservative, quiet and slow – I think I had fallen for all the lazy pub jokes about insurance. As it is, I’ve barely sat down for three years!

What’s your Karaoke song?

I try, Macy Gray.

Who would play you in a movie of your life?

I’m struggling to think of an actress with unruly enough hair.

What is your best travel memory?

Cycling through the Mekong Delta in Vietnam in 2013. We had an extremely knowledgeable and generous local guide who took us through the backroads to all sorts of interesting and remote places, and found us excellent food. He optimised our experience of the country overall – open, keen to educate and to learn, cheeky, and brilliant at eating.

I’m at my happiest when…

I’ve just been for a long run and the house is well-stocked for a delicious breakfast.

What new skill would you most like to learn?

Speaking Spanish. I have always been rubbish at languages, but my partner speaks 4! He’s half Colombian so Spanish would be the most useful one for me to learn, so I don’t rely on his relatives to talk to me in English, which I always feel bad about!

What is your main priority at the moment?

At work, the main priority is to juggle all the priorities as well as I can! I’m not joking – as a leader right now it’s critical to make sure we are focused on helping manage the immediate impacts of the pandemic on our people and our customers, but still putting the right emphasis on the foundational and strategic work we need in place to handle the long term. It’s my job to help us get that balance right as a Communications and Marketing function and as a business.

At home, I want to recover from my latest injury so I can get back out there running!

What would be your ideal dinner party menu?

I’m obsessed with foodie podcasts so I think about last meal / desert island meals a lot but I’ve not thought about dinner party menu as much, which requires you to think about what others might want to eat too!

I am sure it would be different every time you asked me but today I’d go with something Asian-inspired…

some sort of dim sum / gyoza to start, then miso cod with rice noodles and some tenderstem broccoli, sugar snap peas and spinach, cooked all sweet and salty and spicy. Then some really good quality ice cream.

DISCLAIMER – I don’t know how to cook much, if any, of that.

What change would you like to see in the insurance industry in the next 3 years

I would like to see the industry shake off that slightly faceless, dour image once and for all. I think it can hold us back in terms of the diversity of people who work with and for us, and also prevent customers engaging fully with the products and services they buy from us. We should try to build deeper relationships with customers so we can learn more about them, evolve with them and speak out on and react to issues that matter to them.

What are your three top tips for maintaining a healthy work life balance?

1) is to do what works for you not for other people. Everyone works and lives in a different way and has different boundaries and preferences so knowing what yours are and what YOU need is most important.

If saying that doesn’t undermine me giving any more I would say:

2) surround yourself with people that make you laugh, at home and at work

3) don’t ever feel guilty about taking the quiet times as opportunities to step away – there will always be a busy time when you will make it back up.

How is insurance making the world a better place?

Insurance provides both emotional and practical security. The right insurance policy gives you peace of mind that you’ve done what you can to protect your home, business, car, pet, whatever from something that you aren’t able to control. I think there is huge value just in lifting that mental strain. Then on the occasions that this converts to a claim because something has gone wrong, the value rises exponentially again. There are thousands of people every year for whom an event that could have been literally life changing is – while still difficult, inconvenient and upsetting - something they are able to move on from.

What are you currently binge-watching/listening/reading?

I am always listening to podcasts. I love foodie interview ones like Table Manners and Hoovering, current affairs / journalistic ones like From Our Own Correspondent, Today in Focus and The High Low, uplifting interviews like How to Fail with Elizabeth Day, and anything that makes me giggle – Fortunately with Fi and Jane, Sh*gged, Married, Annoyed and Football, Feminism and everything in between.