Post Blog: Battling back

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Made redundant form his role at HSBC Insurance Brokers after being diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Nick Thomas returned to the market last year at the helm of a new company. Thomas caught up with Post to talk about his tumultuous last decade.

Nick Thomas was six years into his tenure with HSBC Insurance Brokers when he was told he had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The national development director had been used to burning the midnight oil until his body decided enough was enough.

He says: "Around 2003, I developed chronic fatigue syndrome and, despite working for a number of years this took me in completely different direction."

"To go from someone who worked long hours to someone who could barely work was difficult. I felt horrendous all the time, blinding headaches, constantly tired, unable to sleep, my stomach was completely messed up, feeling faint and always feeling to urge to be sick.

"If I did more than a certain amount of work I just felt worse. If I overdid it the headaches took over and it felt like I was being hit over the head with a sledgehammer. It was unmanageable."

Thomas had been working in the insurance industry since 1991, when he joined SBJ Stephenson as a graduate account handler before taking up posts at Bradstock Blunt & Thompson and Minet before joining HSBC Insurance Brokers in 1997.

However, his illness changed everything and after being made redundant he decided to launch a company with the help of author and psychological therapist Alex Howard, who had spent several years battling a chronic illness in his teens.

He says: "I decided that my health was much more important than working so I took some time out from HSBC and the idea was to go back but my life took me in a completely different direction.

"I had to go back to scratch with my lifestyle and my eating. I had to learn to relax. A lot of it was stress related and I wondered if my life was over? Would I ever get to look after my kids? Would I ever be able to work again? However, by 2010 my recovery starting picking up speed."

He adds: "I spoke to Marsh [owners of HSBC Insurance Brokers] and said I was ready to come back to work but I was told that there was no role for me at the company. Once I got my redundancy in September 2011, Alex and I started looking at it in more detail to figure what we were going to do. We launched the business in February 2012."

Fully recovered and chastened by his experience, Thomas and Howard established Pear (an acronym for Performance Energy And Resilience), focusing on employee health and wellbeing. The company is in active discussions with a number of industry firms, with a view of helping improve worker performance by keeping staff healthy.

Thomas says: "We are very much looking to achieve positive business outcomes through improving the health energy and wellbeing of the employee population. Primarily, what we do is training and coaching, as well as health checks."

Looking to the future, Thomas believes he has learnt much from his battle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which ultimately gave him a second start with a brand new career.

He concludes: "There is a lot of improvement that can be made in this area. I have changed from being a big corporate person to being really passionate about health and wellbeing. I want to live what I stand for. As far as Pear as concerned we want to be market leaders in the UK. Then we will take it from there."

Nick Thomas, co founder and director of Pear and health, performance and fitness consultant Ollie Martin are hosting a free talk, in conjunction with IDEX, on health and wellbeing in the workplace on 28 March. Click here for more info.

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