In this age of the Sunday scaries, people who are truly optimistic about and invigorated by their 9-to-5 may seem few and far between. A full 53 percent of workers aren’t engaged at work, according to a 2018 Gallup poll, and that same poll shows that turnover rates are only getting higher.
The key to reversing these grim numbers? Creating company cultures where employees are truly supported, both professionally and personally. For Liz Anderson, a project manager at Chicago-based principal trading firm DRW, she sees the impact of what this level of support can look like every day. And as a single mom to three kids, having access to that kind of support makes her all the more invested in her work.
“Especially as a single parent, DRW is great for supporting my schedule and letting me work that around child care,” Anderson recently told Fairygodboss. “No one ever questions if I have to leave in the middle of the day for a Halloween parade, for example.”
On the contrary, she’s found that the culture at DRW doesn’t just tolerate the notion that employees have a life outside of work — it actively encourages it, a far cry from the ideology she’s seen present at other companies.
“What’s different here is that there’s just a lot of support and trust in people, whether that means flexibility with my schedule or people sincerely wishing me a happy birthday,” she said. “There’s an expectation that there are other aspects to my life outside of work, and people are interested in those aspects and respect them. That’s really important to me.”
While Anderson says her coworkers are “smart and hardworking and great to be around,” and that the employee benefits are “wonderful,” what’s ultimately elevated her role at DRW from a job to a career is feeling “respected on the human level.” This trust and respect, she added, is also evident in the freedom she receives to tailor not only her schedule, but her approach to tasks, as well.
“One thing I think is great about DRW is that there’s a lot of flexibility and autonomy within our roles. I can manage three different projects in three completely different ways, and if there’s a business case for it, that’s how we’re doing it,” Anderson said. “We’re not bound by doing things process-for-process… and since I work on a variety of cross-functional projects across the firm, I hardly ever do the same thing twice, which I love.”
Whether she’s ensuring the firm is prepared to operate in the EU post-Brexit or managing the technology that supports DRW’s compliance department, the commonality linking these diverse projects, she explained, is having a solution-focused mindset.
“My job as a project manager isn’t to sit down and write software, for example, or to set up a network — it’s making sure that the people who are doing those things understand what the priorities are, and thinking about any potential roadblocks or needs for a given project,” she said. “What are all the possible scenarios, and are we covered for them? It’s about identifying issues before they become problems.”
Perhaps counterintuitively, Anderson has found that keeping a critical, problem-spotting eye on her projects actually lends itself to an ultimately optimistic attitude on and off the job.
“Having that mindset is what allows me to be optimistic,” she said. “Being like, ‘Okay, we’re going to run into problems, but we’re going to be able to solve them because we’re going to work through them before they become unsolvable.’”
Knowing you have the full support of your employer, of course, doesn’t hurt toward keeping this kind of confidence either.
“I just feel really respected as a human,” she said. “Not just as an employee.”