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New Zealand’s Startups

Workplaces should be a place of healing

How I Keep Well

Taxi cofounder Nicola Taylor builds wellness into every day ‒ for herself and her employees.

Journalist

Mary Hurley

Taxi cofounder Nicola Taylor

Starting a business for the first time is no mean feat. 

Nor is managing a redundancy, going without income, raising a young family, and moving house with a six-day-old baby, but those challenges are all part of the origin story for Nicola Taylor’s first business, Tax Traders and, more recently, Taxi. 

“It wasn’t great,” Taylor says. “But hey, it’s real life.” 

Tax Traders, cofounded by Taylor and her husband Josh 12 years ago, is an IRD approved-tax pooling intermediary which creates smart tools for accountants to help their clients manage the timing of their provisional tax payments. This all happens via the tax pooling framework which was introduced via legislation in 2003.

The recently launched digital platform Taxi creates a new source of funding for small and medium-sized Kiwi businesses. It unlocks a key benefit of the tax pooling frameworkand uses their provisional tax payments as security so they can access affordable, and flexible funding.

From the start, Josh and Nicola had two drivers for their businesses. First, tax system benefits should be available to every New Zealand business, not just big corporates.

“For me, that’s a matter of equity. The tax system should be fair and transparent. And the benefits should be available to everyone.”

The other driver is that business should be a force for good, particularly in the workplace.

Workplaces should be “places of wellbeing, satisfaction and joy, even healing; a recovery from whatever else is going on out there”, she says.

Taylor sits down with Caffeine to share her tips for managing her own wellbeing as well as that of her workplace. 

  1. Practice silence

For me, practices of silence, solitude, prayer and meditation are extremely important. The older I get, the more important I find them.

I typically start my days on my deck with hot water, and I’m quiet. About 10 minutes sets me up for the day.

Then, there’s my ‘one woman retreat’. I go away by myself for, say, a Thursday night and return on a Saturday morning – often, it is to my sister’s bach or an AirBnB about an hour away.

I wake up when I want to wake up. I eat what I want to eat. I go for long walks. I sit in silence. Sometimes, I take a very short mental list of things I want to think about, read or work on, or a tricky problem I want to solve The most important part is I’m quiet.  It’s a real privilege.

If I don’t prioritise this time, I look for quiet in all the wrong places like being awake at 2am.

The Taxi team with Taylor centre

  1. Nail the basics

You have to get the basics right, so that’s water, food, exercise and sleep.

Things like lunch, for instance. We have a routine on a Sunday night; all the food shopping arrives and before it goes in the fridge, either Josh or I make little lunch pots for the week and line them up in the fridge.

Then, when we eat lunch, we don’t sit at desks. There’s good research to show breaks contribute to high performance; they’re not some kind of indulgence that’s going to slow you down. Take them outside looking at nature; even better with another human and walking, not stationary. Most importantly, disconnect from work. That’s an ideal break.

Do I do it every day? No. But, I’m mindful of how important it is and making it part of our culture.

  1. Turn up authentically 

One of the most important things about mental wellbeing is being able to turn up at work authentically. I can do that at work and I hope everyone else feels that way too. It’s exhausting for people to wear masks and, as Brene Brown says, ‘have to armour up.’

We try to cultivate authenticity in so many ways. Our employee experience starts 28 days before people land in the office. It’s got a lovely little personalised welcome video, and includes a personalised website with everything [the employee] needs to know ahead of starting with us. That’s where we get all the important information from their IRD number to who is in their family to their favourite drink. Then we have this all ready for them on day one. This sends the message that we are interested in them as a whole person, that they matter to us and that we want to understand who they are and how they tick.

Once they’re here, there’s a whole syllabus we work through. We not only teach them about tax pooling and the Taxi product but about their strengths, teamwork, trust, vulnerability, and feedback. We’re giving them all these great tools. And our core human ritual is the weekly check in where we ask, ‘Hey, in the last week, were you working to your strengths? Did you feel excited to come to work?’  And again, the message here is we want you to flourish as you are and bring your authentic self to work.

All that is to say that the kind of environment that you walk into every day is a big part of mental and emotional wellbeing. Is it supportive?

  1. Find compassion for yourself

Self-compassion is big for me and my wellbeing. Self-compassion is the ability to notice what is and sit with that, and not beat myself up about what it should be or what I think other people might think it should be.

If I feel I’ve made a mistake or not met my own standards, I try to talk to myself like I would a dear friend or child. But it takes practice. I’ve been practicing self-compassion for years as a key part of living with a chronic illness. Just being like, ‘Hey, it’s okay. This is hard. You’re doing well. Tomorrow’s another day,’ rather than beating myself up for perceived failures.

  1. Creative pursuit

Having a creative outlet and doing something with my hands is important for me. I have a minor obsession with flowers and I enjoy creating floral moments for people and events. I did a little floral arrangement for every woman here for International Women's Day, for instance. It’s not for everyone, but for me, that was quite a therapeutic way to spend a night.

Journalist

Mary Hurley

Mary Hurley brings three years experience in the online media industry to the Caffeine team. Having previously specialised in environmental and science communications, she looks forward to connecting with founders and exploring the startup scene in Aotearoa New Zealand.

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