5 tips for a healthier work/life balance and the photo that changed my life

There has been a shift in the workplace towards a better work/life balance. David Leen, Director at Grovelands, talks about his experience working in the 90s and building a company centred around people.

One of the most over-used phrases of the past few years has been work/life balance. It has become a catch-all umbrella term for flexible hours, working from home, job-sharing and the like. Overall I think companies have embraced a new working culture, one that I believe gets more productivity from staff, generates goodwill and loyalty, and ultimately contributes to the bottom line.

We do our best to reflect this new style of work at Grovelands to ensure our staff are happy and motivated in their roles. Our team are able to work from home if necessary and we have a flexible working policy and procedure should our team’s circumstances change and they need to alter their working hours.

There is free fruit at the office and to encourage more interaction between departments our team are able to hot desk around the office to develop their existing relationships and gain a better understanding about how other parts of the business function.

I have heard a number of new developments in the workplace that sound very innovative albeit some are slightly concerning, in any case I’ve heard about these new enhancements more frequently. However, I would like to take you back to a workplace that you may not recognise but one that was pretty much commonplace in the 1990s.

As a rookie Recruitment Consultant working for a large international firm, I loved my job because I’d had some early success so I was put on a ‘fast-track’ programme to run a practice – they saw my potential! I was given the honour of being mentored by the firm’s no1 Consultant, we’ll call her Mary, who I found an inspiration. Mary talked about how you could put in an extra 1% here and extra 1% there and used an analogy of Daley Thompson, the Olympic gold medallist, who trained on Christmas Day because he thought his competitors wouldn’t do the same so he would gain an advantage.

I was sold and being fast-tracked to stardom! In one of my monthly mentoring sessions Mary asked how I could improve my performance. This was hard as I didn’t think I could stretch the working day anymore, lunch breaks were beyond a rarity and I felt I couldn’t deliver anymore work – I was at full capacity. Mary asked: ‘What stops you doing a bit of work at home as you can reach candidates better after hours?’ I told her I was doing this already but if I did anymore work at home my girlfriend would flip out.

She then said something which to my naive ears sounded like THE ANSWER and it went something like this: ‘Do you and your girlfriend enjoy a good standard of living? Do you enjoy good holidays and nights out? If yes, then you and your girlfriend need to think about where you put your time and effort. Tell her that she’s important to you but without your job, it would all go.’

Mary was essentially suggesting that I prioritise my job over my girlfriend and to my eternal embarrassment I told my then girlfriend where she was in my pecking order; she was above my beloved Liverpool FC but definitely below my job. Needless to say, she wasn’t my girlfriend for too much longer after that. Still, I was climbing the ladder at my company, won lots of awards and accolades, and secured promotion after promotion. I was doing brilliantly and continued at an unrelenting pace even after I met my wife Fiona and we had our children.

work-life-balance_grovelands

To illustrate just how much I took Mary’s point to heart you’ll find a holiday photo alongside this blog which was taken by my father-in-law on a beach in southern Spain. My work was still very important to me and I think my father-in-law was trying to tell me something – he was on his second marriage and wanted me to avoid the same fate. The small boy in the photo is my son Paddy who’s now 16. There I was sun kissed and knee-deep in the Alboran Sea and I was still making work calls – I cringe even looking at it and know I wasn’t in a great place at the time.

I have a better work/life balance now thanks to a few adjustments I’ve made over the years, they are by no means revolutionary but they helped make a difference:

  1. Work out whether the firm you work for has the right culture, policies and approach to flexible working. I worked for two firms in the past where this wasn’t the case and would likely be on my 5th marriage if I still worked there. When Mark and I set up Grovelands we put our people at the heart of the business and have continued to develop policies and procedures that treat people like adults and are supportive in times of need. We continually make improvements and are a lot better than some companies.
  2. Use technology to organise your time; I use my diary to schedule meetings and block out time with my family, and use our advanced CRM system to keep track of calls, notes and follow-ups.
  3. Be active, not only is it great for your physical fitness but it’s a great way to clear your mind too. I started running 2 years after the photo was taken and lost 30lbs. I run with my family and have just started marshalling my children’s local running group each Sunday.
  4. Set reasonable deadlines and don’t feel guilty about taking a well earned break away from work. Be mercenary about your private time and don’t email after 6pm – delayed emails are great for this.
  5. Above all respect other people’s time and they will reciprocate. A few years ago when I was working at the company I mentioned earlier, I remembered bemoaning to my CEO that one of my directors was unresponsive after he left work. My exact word to the CEO was: ‘I called him and it was like he didn’t want to speak to me, he’s like a different person at home.’ I hadn’t realised it was intentional – how the tables turn.

Any comments about this blog are welcome; a healthy work/life balance and mental well-being at work are becoming increasingly common practices so it would be wonderful to hear your experiences or views about this topic.

If you are interested in any of the recruitment services provided by Grovelands please contact us directly on 01273 651 500 or email contactme@grovelands.co.uk. To keep up to date with our news and developments don’t forget to follow our social media channels.

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