Dr. Elizabeth Berryman is the founder & director of chnnl, a platform helping to transform workplaces, teams and individuals through the power of psychological safety.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
Before founding chnnl in 2020, I spent 10 years working in the medical sector. I started my career as a Registered Nurse in Community Maori Health, before becoming a Medical Doctor.
During this time, I noticed workplace bullying and burnout was a huge issue across a variety of industries. I quickly became wildly passionate about supporting people’s mental wellbeing through digital tools, particularly in the workplace.
I founded a peer-mentoring program for medical students and seeing how successful it was encouraged me to found chnnl, a psychological health and safety platform that helps engage employees, business leaders, and high performing teams by monitoring their personal mental wellbeing and enhancing psychological safety in the workplace.
In my current role, as Founder and CEO of chnnl, I work with our stellar team to ensure we’re performing at our best and constantly driving towards our mission to transform workplaces, teams, and individuals through the power of psychological safety.
I also sit on the Ministry of Health’s Professional Behaviour Taskforce Group and Health Informatics New Zealand Board where I review academic and commercial evidence on solutions to solve complex challenges facing our future health system.
2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
We’re currently under COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in Auckland so my day looks a little different than usual! A typical day is full of investor calls, team meetings, project meetings, and lots of cuddles with my two boys — Elijah (3) and Caleb (10 months).
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
As an accidental tech entrepreneur, I started chnnl while in labour with my first born — the date of incorporation is 12th of November and his birthday is 13th of November!
I was working in the hospital as a doctor and running a new company all while juggling mum and home life. My full focus is now on chnnl, and although juggling two kids and a startup going global in lockdown is certainly challenging, I wouldn’t have it any other way!
As a mother myself, I strongly believe women should not have to choose between a career or children — but that you can have both. Providing a hybrid working environment that’s flexible and supportive enables companies to employ the best of the best.
For example, at chnnl, we have a nursery set up in our offices for when parents may need to bring their children to work and frequently have walking WIPs, which sometimes means meeting at playgrounds or walking the beach with frontpacks!
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
At chnnl, we set ambitious yet achievable goals and function in a high-trust environment. Our working week is flexible with very few set meetings.
If you want to stop work to go pick up your kids from school early or have a long lunch with a friend, that’s fine. We trust our employees to manage their time and meet their targets.
High levels of communication enable us to succeed and we promote a culture of trust and transparency — where performance isn’t measured by hours chained to a desk!
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
Good mental health is about doing the basics and doing the basics well — this is a tip I have carried with me from my psychiatry professors. Sticking to an achievable routine of exercise, ensuring good nutrition, and staying in contact with people who fill my cup has made a wonderful difference — especially in lockdown!
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
Podcasts are a great tool to gain and challenge knowledge, especially on topics related to mental health! At chnnl, we’re currently loving:
- Leading Psych Health and Safety in New Zealand with Dr Hillary Bennett
- Wellbeing in Not Mindfulness at Lunch with Sir Cary Cooper
- Revolutionaries of Wellbeing
- How I built this with Guy Raz
And I cannot live without a good book! A few or my favourites of are:
- Good to Great by Jim Collins
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Stephen Covey
- How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie (this is a book you can read over and over to remind yourself of it’s tips! I try to re-read every year!)
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
I can’t live without my airpods, I need both hands available to type, talk, and burp my baby at all times!
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Michelle Obama! I admire how she managed her roles as wife, mother, and first lady while balancing politics, her own career desires, media, public advocacy work and being on the world stage with everyone watching her every move. I love her honesty about attending marriage counselling with Barack. It is so refreshing to hear they have ‘normal’ issues too!
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Understanding that everyone has a different working style and recognising that I thrive when working to a deadline was an important lesson that has not only helped my own productivity, but has enabled me to be a more empathetic leader. Surprisingly, when I tried to work differently and be “organised”, my grades fell!
I talk to leaders about sustainable resilience i.e. knowing your own limits and indicators for pressing hard on the accelerator or taking your foot off. A good analogy is sport — you have pre season (practicing, preparing), game season (go hard, win big), and then recovery season.
A lot of people think they should always operate in game season and drive dangerously into burnout territory, but allowing time for pre-season and recovery is imperative for sustainable resilience.
I work hard during the week so on the weekend I can have a clear 48 hours to spend time with family and friends. It’s so important to step back, take a break, and enjoy the life you work so hard for!
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