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This year at SearchLeeds, a Women in Digital panel was introduced to cover the topics of Balance, Confidence and the Industry. For the first panel discussion, Sarah Beaumont from Edit, hosted a talk on how to have a healthy work-life balance within the Digital industry, and she was joined by three inspirational speakers: Jill Quick, Catherine Shuttleworth & Arnout Hellemans. You can re-watch the panel here, and we have written up some of our notes for you as well. 

Sarah outlined the importance of finding a positive/healthy work-life balance, and went on to say that all of us at some point will be affected by this in our careers. In the discussion, the panelists discuss the challenges, what hinders getting a balance and what we need to do as individuals and businesses to help improve this for everybody.

What does work-life balance mean to you?

Sarah started the panel discussion by asking each panelist to share personal insights about who they are, and the challenges they have when trying to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Jill shared her story on how to have a work life balance by describing life as being like a triangle, and how life is made up of 3 points. You have yourself (self-care/self-love), your family (partner and or children), and your work. Although the triangle has been described as the strongest structure to man, when it comes to having a work/life balance, something is always going to be slightly out of sync. Sara then went on to ask Jill what she thought were the biggest things that people don’t talk enough about when trying to find that equilibrium between work and life. Jill went on to say that, for her, it was failing to admit that sometimes her mental health wasn’t okay. But nowadays, Jill has created a safe space to open up to her husband, asked for external help and tried to manage anxiety through meditation.

For Arnout, creating a work-life balance is all about having fun and to do work that gives him energy. He went on to say that it’s important to be fully focused in both work and life, to be fully engaged with work and fully present in your personal life i.e put the phone down when you’re with the kids and being mindful. He also opened up about the importance of talking to our partners, his wife opened the discussion so that he could open up. This allows him to unload, and let go of a lot of stress by communicating and being open and honest. He advised to either open up with with your partner or friends, and that only when we share can we find solutions.

Our third panelist, Catherine, took this point of view as an employer. She talked about how there’s been a huge shift recently in what employers are demanding (and rightly so she adds), about processes within the workplace, and these demands aren’t just coming from people who have children. She enlightened the crowd by saying that employees are coming into the workforce at a great time for equality, flexible working and balance. She went on to say that during life, we will all encounter difficult stages in our work life and that there will be moments when we may feel a bit trapped, feel like we can’t get out of a job or move because our responsibilities are quite significant. She stressed the importance for employees to have an open dialogue with their employees, and that if they’re not willing to listen or make reasonable adjustments, then you should look elsewhere for work.

Catherine went on to share that “success is a personal thing, and only you can make a decision on what that is”. Sharing that her daughters look at her life and probably don’t want the life she has, but that’s okay. Catherine explained that we’re all different, and to think really carefully about what you want, and what success looks like to you, and how you want your life to be balanced. She also stated that “the most balanced employees you’ve got, are the best and are the most effective”, and to embrace this new-age work-life.

What tools or learnings have helped you with balance at work?

Jill believes that there are still some businesses out there that want to do the whole Digital Transformation piece and put all their focus on the customer and be amazing – which is great, but they don’t put the same effort, and consideration into the teams that are meant to be doing the work! From her own personal experience of being a mum, she believes there’s a huge chunk of talent that is abandoned in the workplace because businesses won’t be flexible with shifting work hours, hindering professionals whom may have gone for maternity leave and struggle to find a job to work around daycare and their schedule. Jill went on to say that companies need to show more empathy and take a more humanist approach to work, so that each and every one of us can thrive.

Catherine mentioned that life isn’t like a fairytale, but a number of incidences that we work through with others. She went on to share a personal story and gave some examples of how a ‘typical day’ looks in her household. Despite her success, she wanted to be raw, open, and to share what really happens behind the scenes to help others realise that life really is a juggling act. Catherine is extremely flexible with her employees (think 10am starts and yoga in the office), and spreads the message that “it’s okay not to be okay”.

Sarah asked the panel to share their top tips for a work-life balance. Arnout believes that it’s important to make decisions, and stick to them. He discusses the need to be open and honest with how we’re feeling and not to presume that everyone is always okay. Sometimes just by asking people if they’re okay, even if they’re not ready to talk about it, it lets them know that you’ve created a safe space for them to open up, which is the biggest key.

Jill shared top three tips for a healthy work life balance that have helped both her, and the clients she consults with:

  1. Jill shared the importance of having a community and suggested an email community for a women only network called ADA
  2. Have a look at what other role models are doing in the workplace. There’s a company called Push, Mind and Body who help companies create healthier working environments whilst also helping businesses to support mental health and create a positive and productive work culture
  3. To have confidence in yourself, and with others within your work environment (being able to have the ability to talk to your teammates and/or boss about conversations that can sometimes be quite difficult).

Sarah summarised the discussion by saying to “find your reality, find what’s true for you, find what your values and drivers are and stick to those things” for a work-life balance.