How Do You Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance?

Saragossa

We asked four of our team members to take us through their thoughts on work-life balance, flexible working, and their own approaches to managing their work and home life.

Rory Gaston, Director

When I started in recruitment, I was definitely guilty of overdoing it.

I would check my phone constantly, every hour I was awake (which was far too much), and felt the need to respond to every email as soon as I received it.

But this had a real effect on the kind of worker I was. Being in the habit of answering every email straight away definitely made me a lot more reactive than proactive. Rather than taking the time to sit on a problem and thinking of the best way to solve it, I would respond first and think later – and this led to more than a few mistakes in my early career.

These days, I’m far stricter with myself. The first thing I will do on a normal working day is organise my emails by importance, highest to lowest. I’ll then spend my day responding to the highest priority issues first and working my way down.

This has been a real game-changer for me and I’d definitely recommend this approach to anyone who finds themselves stretched thin, as it’s allowed me to tackle important issues more effectively, without me getting bogged down by the little things. I’d also suggest turning off pop-up notifications on your phone for emails if you can, so you’re not tempted to fall back into reactive habits.

It’s just as important to look at your at-home rituals as it is to examine your working habits. I once had a rule that as soon as I’d taken off my suit, I wasn’t allowed to think about work.

Now I have an even simpler rule – as soon as I get home, I put my phone away and – apart from quickly dealing with any urgent issues before bed – I don’t look at it again. I think it’s essential for any hard-working person to have a ‘work mode’ and a ‘home mode’, and that can be almost impossible when you’re constantly connected to the office by technology.

This may not always be practical – if I’m dealing with an international client, I may need to keep my phone on slightly later than usual. Any rules or routines you set for yourself need to be pragmatic, and you can’t get too upset if you break them every now and again. But don’t tell someone that you’ll be able to get something over to them by 3am – that’s when you should be sleeping.

More and more agencies are offering some flexibility to their consultants, and I think this can only be a good thing. Ultimately, just because a certain approach works for you, it doesn’t mean it will for everyone.

Coming up with a work-life balance strategy that suits you can take some time and will usually involve more than a bit of trial and error. As a manager, your responsibility is to equip people to do the best job they can possibly do – and that includes letting them make a few mistakes along the way.

Jason Howlin, Team Manager

I’m a person of structure, so having clearly defined working hours works really well for me. If I have too much flexibility, I can’t focus fully, as I feel I need to be in the office to get 100% out of myself.

When I’m in the office, I try and get as much done as possible, so that when I leave at 6pm I’m safe in the knowledge that I’ve had a good day and I can relax in the evening. If I do end up checking an email at home, it’s because I enjoy the buzz of hearing some good news later in the day – but only if it’s super urgent do I feel I need to respond.

For most good recruiters who’ve been doing the job for longer than 6 months, the hardest thing is often switching off after you leave. I really had to train myself not to think about work after I left the office. In particular, the temptation to work when on annual leave was really strong – I always worried I was letting people down if I wasn’t responding to them as soon as possible. That’s where it’s important to have a collaborative team who you can trust to take things on in your absence.

Everyone is different though, and that’s why I think a certain amount of flexibility in working hours is a great idea. At the end of the day, you’re dealing with adults, so if someone wants to come in a bit later or leave a little earlier, it should be up to them to adjust their schedule to do so. Quality of work is better than quantity, so anything that increases that quality can’t be a bad thing.

Marcus Jones, Marketing Manager

These days we often hear on LinkedIn about how so-and-so successful entrepreneur only sleeps an hour a night, or this one CEO who works 18 hours a day and wakes up at 3am to write up their goals for the week.

I personally don’t feel any need to try and compare myself to the Jack Dorseys and Richard Bransons of the world – it can be motivational, sure, but I think it’s important to remember that these people are the exception, not the rule. Like most people I’ve met, I want to go to work, do a good job, and then come home and fill my evenings with quality time with friends and loved ones – and I don’t see anything wrong with that.

Generally speaking, when I’m at work I’m ‘work me’, and when I’m home I’m ‘home me’. While the two may intersect from time to time, I try and separate them as much as possible. I’ve found making this mental distinction has enabled me to really enjoy my time at work and get the most out of it, and it’s also helped me to have a more relaxed and happy home life.

I’m more than happy to spend time at home tying up loose ends when needs be, but I’m determined not to find myself unable to enjoy my non-working hours because I’m obsessing over that one email I didn’t send. A productive work life and a happy home life aren’t mutually exclusive – on the contrary, one enables the other.

In my opinion, a little bit of flexibility from employers towards their employees goes a long way. Ultimately, it’s up to me to prioritise my own time – and I for one really appreciate a working environment where I’m trusted to do so without needing to be held to a strict schedule.

Rebecca Cawley-Hassall, Head of Finance

My work has always been something of a ‘safe space’ for me. And, I’m good at it. Better still, I enjoy it.

It’s a ‘special’ type of person that prefers a spreadsheet to a pub crawl and a highly pressured month-end cycle to a night of Netflix bingeing. Well that’s me. At least, it was me. Two things have changed for me in the last few years.

The first, I married a woman who is great at work-life balance and is less than tolerant of my commitment to work. Granted, not the most compatible qualities, and my inability to leave work at work is responsible for about 80% of our marital spats. But, I do more life stuff, take more holidays (rather than just using my annual leave to recover from burn-out) and am a better daughter, friend and general human.

The second is that I am now working for people who are highly protective of my work-life balance and mental health – they enable my oat milk flat white addiction, listen to my caffeine-addled rants, woes and ideas, and even fund the occasional R&R trip. They also have realistic expectations of what can be done and how much time it takes to do it.

I still love work. I still put in more hours than I should and my balance is still more work than life, but I’m one of the lucky ones – not everyone loves what they do, where they do it and who they do it with.

How do you keep a healthy work-life balance? 

Saragossa are a recruitment consultancy specialising in Financial Technology, Data Science and Senior Appointments. Our role is to match clients with high calibre candidates. Our work encompasses filling temporary contracts along with building permanent teams and resourcing projects. To find out more, please contact enquiries@saragossa.co.uk or call 020 7871 3666.