‘This isn’t convenient’: HSBC manager’s heart attack spurs debate

Near-death experience of 45-year-old highlights work-til-you-drop culture in the financial industry.

Jonny Frostick, 45, who suffered a heart attack while working for banking giant HSBC, says he wants to drive the conversation around the post-pandemic work culture and hopes employers will implement a more-flexible approach [File: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg]
Jonny Frostick, 45, who suffered a heart attack while working for banking giant HSBC, says he wants to drive the conversation around the post-pandemic work culture and hopes employers will implement a more-flexible approach [File: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg]

When Jonny Frostick realized he was having a heart attack this month, the first thing that occurred to the HSBC Holdings Plc contractor was: “I needed to meet with my manager tomorrow, this isn’t convenient.”

Then he thought about funding for a project, his will, and finally, his wife.

Frostick, who manages more than 20 employees working on regulatory data projects, chronicled his near-death experience in a viral LinkedIn post that had been viewed almost 8 million times. The 45-year-old Briton is the latest financial employee to weigh in on the work-till-you-drop culture during a pandemic that’s obliterated the lines between office and home life for droves of workers.

“Whereas before I would finish sensibly anywhere between five and half six, I’d be finding myself there on a Friday at 8 o’clock at night exhausted, thinking I need to prep up something for Monday and I haven’t got time, and I started then to actually work weekends,” Frostick said in a phone interview from his home in Dorset. “That’s my responsibility. I think that was probably for me where it was those blurring of boundaries.”

“We all wish Jonathan a full and speedy recovery,” said HSBC spokeswoman Heidi Ashley. “The response to this topic shows how much this is on people’s minds and we are encouraging everyone to make their health and wellbeing a top priority.”

Frostick said he and colleagues spend a disproportionate amount of time on Zoom calls, and work days can stretch to 12 hours. The isolation of remote work also takes a toll, he said.

“We’re not able to have those other conversations off the side of a desk or by the coffee machine, or take a walk and go and have that chat,” he said. “That has been quite profound, not just in my work, but across the professional-services industry.”

The former construction worker took a different path into finance than many of his peers. A native of Bournemouth, an English coastal town, he worked in his father’s building business and didn’t get a bachelor’s degree until he was 29.

When he arrived in London, the self-described country boy had to learn how to use the Underground subway system, and mixed for the first time with ballet and theater aficionados. From there, he went down a path of intense work that included stints at Accenture Plc, JPMorgan Chase & Co., U.K. government ministries and Deutsche Bank AG. He cultivated a so-called mask to fit into corporate culture.

Frostick, who has three young children, said he is responsible for the overwork and neglect of his health that culminated in the heart attack. Now he wants to share his wake-up call with others.

“I owe a responsibility to myself and other people,” Frostick said. “This happened to me, this could happen to you. You need to change that.”

He wants to drive conversation around the post-pandemic work culture and hopes employers will implement a more-flexible approach. In the post, Frostick vowed to make changes, including limiting Zoom calls, restructuring his approach to work and spending more time with family. The post received more than 214,000 likes and generated thousands of messages from people who are rethinking their attitudes.

Frostick is still recovering from his hospital stay, and only has enough energy to get out of bed for a couple of hours at a time. He’s enjoying time with his wife and children, and eventually wants to do more work on a dilapidated Mercedes. There’s some talk about non-executive director roles or advisory work. Someone suggested he write a book.

The decision to write the raw LinkedIn post comes at a precarious time in his life and finances, said Frostick. He’s racked up costs from court proceedings with his ex-wife over child-care arrangements for their daughter.

“My back’s against the wall,” he said.

Still, he doesn’t blame HSBC for his health problems and is bullish about future prospects.

“I don’t think this should reflect badly on the place where I work, I think it’s fairly consistent across the industry, and I think that’s why it’s resonated with so many people,” he said. “If an organization didn’t want to employ me because I’d actually taken a moment to reflect, and capture this, then that’s probably not the right place for me to be working.”

Source: Bloomberg

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