From farming to founding coaching businesses, Virginia Shaw is a woman who has worked hard – and excelled – in many different roles.
And after many decades, she’s proud to now be focusing on one that speaks to her heart the most: helping women reduce their work hours to achieve their goals and take care of themselves.
Virginia is also one of our 2023 Flexi Impact members based in Hub Civic Quarter. In this article, she tells us more about her business, Shaw Wellness – and why it means so much to her.
Finding her way to wellness
Virginia Shaw is known within her professional circle as an effective business coach and an amazing change management leader. And that’s evidenced by her years of experience – and results – in corporate coaching too.
But while helping people excel in their work and productivity is definitely something she enjoys, Virginia is now pursuing a slightly different niche that’s close to her heart.
“I started Shaw Wellness about three years ago, and since then, there’s been a shift in terms of how and who I want to work with,” she explains.
“It’s always been about working with women. But now, I really want to focus on women who are transitioning from full-time work to part-time or reduced work hours.”
And although she wasn’t always in the wellness sector, she’d always felt the pull.
“I was previously in the agriculture industry. And being in that space made me realise the need for wellness, because I was seeing so many people working 24/7, who were not caring for and looking after themselves. I think things have definitely changed now, but back then, it was really hard seeing people running themselves to the ground.”
After leaving agriculture, Virginia took on a number of different jobs. But life – and a general interest in health, nutrition and wellbeing – soon led her to coaching.
“By 2018, I’ve had a long career in project management, business productivity and change management. So I started doing executive coaching. I enjoyed it, and staying in that field made a lot of financial sense,” she admitted.
“But I knew that’s not where my heart is.”
Narrowing the niche
When it comes to businesses, there is ‘niche’ – and then there is ‘niche of the niche’.
And Shaw Wellness certainly feels like it’s moving to a very specific focus. But to Virginia, it’s exciting. Especially since she has personally experienced what her clients are going through – and has a lot of life experience to share.
“I know how hard it is to navigate this transitioning to reduced hours, because I’ve had to do it myself,” she says. “I know what women go through when making that huge decision and battling with the challenges and concerns.”
Because reducing your working hours from five days to four days a week is not as easy as it sounds. It’s a decision that comes with a load of questions and worries that can easily weigh a woman down.
“There’s a lot of things from a mindset perspective that people go through when they start to reduce the hours,” Virginia explains. “From how to negotiate with their employers, to the reality of a reduced income, to what they should do with the extra time on their hands.
“So I help them walk through these concerns, and ensure that they’re using the freed-up time wisely – and looking after themselves.”
That includes setting up boundaries – so they don’t end up still working five days on a prorated income – and putting their own wellbeing first.
“A lot of these women who I work with have families, and often, they really want to use that freed-up day to invest in their families. And that’s great!” she says.
“But they forget that they should also use that time for their own sleep recovery, or to exercise, or to improve their own nutrition. So I’m here to remind them of that.”
A trend driven by burnout
The coaching that Virginia does is in its nature very holistic and completely tailored to the individual. But there are a few recurring themes.
“I often touch on things like how to burn bright and not burn out. How to flourish and not fade. And because my focus is on wellness, it’s all about prevention.
“I’m here to help people not get to the point where they are completely burned out. Using that holistic approach to make sure that as a whole, we’re strong.”
Unfortunately, burnout does seem to be one of the main drivers behind women wanting to reduce their work hours.
“One of the reasons is definitely because they’ve been burned out,” she agrees. “Some of them have been in different roles that are very all encompassing. Some others are just sick of being on that 9-to-5 treadmill and they want to move to something a little bit different.”
The pandemic, too, has had an influence. Firstly, because it opened up the opportunity to work remotely and, through this, showed the possibility – and benefits – of flexible work arrangements.
But it also can’t be denied that many women are emerging from the pandemic exhausted.
“Women are always known for multitasking. But during the pandemic, a lot of women were multi-multitasking,” Virginia says. “They were working, while also homeschooling and supervising children. And there were other responsibilities too, which included caring for parents or extended family members.
“By and large, a lot of women were taking these on. And when all of those responsibilities combined…,” Virginia shakes her head. “They’ve just had enough.”
Keeping things simple
While the deep desire is there, Virginia’s clients are often still wrestling with the idea of reducing their work week when they come to her. They’re not quite sure if it’s the right decision. And what it would mean for their family, income, and security.
Because she’s been through that stage herself, Virginia knows exactly what her clients are feeling. That’s why she takes the time to understand her clients’ circumstances, why they’re where they are, what they want to achieve – and what burnout is to them.
“Sometimes burnout can be incredibly mental,” Virginia notes. “And it feels like you’ve mentally hit a wall. But burnout could also be physical – so what you need is rest and better sleep.”
When coaching her clients, Virginia uses a simple approach. (In fact, she insists that ‘simple’ is really the key to what she does. “‘Simple’ is my big mantra!” she laughs.)
“At the start, I usually sit them down with a big piece of paper. And I tell them to write down, on one side, all the benefits and reasons they want to reduce their work days. Then on the other side, write down everything that’s scaring or worrying them about doing it.
“Once we’ve done that simple exercise, it’s all about working through the points and exploring ways to go around their concerns.”
And sometimes, the solutions are simpler than expected.
“As we break down their worries and work through them together, the solutions could be simple things that they’ve just never thought of before. For example, if they’re concerned about having less money to spend on their family now, they could organise a picnic at the park rather than pay for expensive activities.
“Then, I help them decide on a work week pattern that they can stick to, whether that’s taking Wednesdays off, or going for a longer weekend. And we’ll plan out the freed-up day so they can prioritise their wellbeing and goals.”
Putting self first – without guilt
To Virginia, being able to run Shaw Wellness as it is now has been a very personal win.
“It’s been about a heart and mind connection for me,” she says. “Because this is the space I want to and need to work in. To share my life experience with others, and help them do some of the things I’ve done, like transitioning to a shorter work week.
“And while I’ve left it to much later in my life – I only made the leap when I was 60 – I want these women to have the mechanism and the confidence and the understanding that they can do it earlier if they need to. And not feel guilty about it.
“You might have to make some little compromises,” she adds with a smile, “but there’s no guilt. And that’s a big thing for women. We often feel guilty about reducing our hours because we feel like we’re letting somebody down.”
But if we’re not listening to our gut and not putting ourselves first, Virginia cautions that the person we’d actually let down is ourselves.
“When we let ourselves down, when we don’t look after ourselves, we get burned out. And we become snappy and hard. That’s the worst place we can be, because that’s actually when we’re not doing the best – for everybody.
“So I’m here to help women through this journey,” Virginia says. “And do it in a way that they’re still looking after their own wellness and wellbeing, their physical and mental health.
“I’m here to set them up for success.”
On her experience as a Hub Flexi Impact member, Virginia says she feels incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity:
“What brought me to the program was the opportunity to be able to work in a workspace where I could concentrate on what I wanted to do – without distractions.
“And having that ability to be around people and bounce ideas off others, and get to know other people from other businesses – it’s been amazing.
“It’s been the most awesome experience, really. I feel very blessed and privileged to have had the opportunity to be here. Everyone’s so lovely and helpful.
“If I could do it again, I’d be applying for the program again right now.”
To learn more about Shaw Wellness, connect with Virginia on LinkedIn.
Are you a purpose-driven business like Shaw Wellness? You may be able to get free access to Hub’s workspace for one whole year through our annual Flexi Impact program.