Coaches / HR & Culture / Interviews

Balancing the Grind With Alana Bennett, Human Experience Fanatic & Coach at Connected Experience

Alana Bennett is a HR professional with over 15 years of experience spanning talent acquisition, talent management, employee experience, employer branding and generalist roles.

She is launched her own consulting business, Connected Experience, where she is the Human Experience Fanatic and Coach.

We’re looking to partner with companies that share our passion to promote healthy work-life balance around the world. Get in touch with us!

1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I’ve been in HR for over 17 years (gosh that makes me feel old!). And during this time, I have moved between talent acquisition and HR generalist roles. And I must admit I have loved being able to move between the two.

I call TA the “fun side” of HR as it’s bringing people into an organization and helping make people’s career dreams come true and this has always been balanced out with the HR generalize roles, which are so varied and really round out your HR expertise.

I have just launched my own consulting business, Connected Experience, focusing on designing connected human experiences, which enable individuals and businesses to thrive.

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2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

Well I’m on a 6-month career break at the moment, so my days are looking very different to what they do when I’m working. I have decided to take 6 months to focus on my family as my youngest son started school this year.

Whether working or not my days start early, I’m a morning person and I love to be up to relish that quiet time before the house wakes! I start my days with hot lemon water, I’m a big believer of hydrating first thing, we get quite dehydrated whilst sleeping. And at least 4 days a week I do some form of exercise to wake my body up and energize myself for the day ahead.

Once the house wakes up it’s all systems go to get out the house in time and in the mornings, I usually drive in silence. This has become an opportunity to connect with the kids in the short drive to school.

Late last year I was recommended Adam Fraser’s book The Third Space which is about using the ‘Third Space’ (that moment of transition between a first activity and the second that follows it), to mentally ‘show up’ right for whatever comes next. And on busy days, driving has become my chance to mentally debrief and get myself in the right mindset so that I showed up at home as the person I wanted to be for my family.

Once I got through the uncomfortable period of driving in silence (which felt so strange at first) I started to relish this time to myself with no noise and I’ve learnt so much from doing this around the importance of being able to clear my mind at the end of each day.

Once I got through the uncomfortable period of driving in silence (which felt so strange at first) I started to relish this time to myself with no noise and I’ve learnt so much from doing this around the importance of being able to clear my mind at the end of each day.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

Now being self-employed, my home is my office. And in the current environment we’re living, covid-19, this is the normal way of working.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

I like to think of it as work-life harmony rather than balance. As I feel balance insinuates that both parts are equal, that there has to be a trade-off when the reality can be quite the contrast. Whereas harmony for me suggests that there is a contentment for how work and life are co-existing.

Over the years I’ll admit that I haven’t always got this right however I feel that’s been integral to learning how to get it right. It’s also important to recognize that what “harmony” means one week may differ to the next.

I have always said there are some weeks where Friday’s I’m celebrating that we’re all alive! And other weeks I feel like we nailed it. This is life right!

What I am clear on though are my priorities, my boundaries and maintaining my well-being and I specifically call that out from my priorities because I believe when we’re all busy it can be so easy to skip the gym class, not eat well, maybe have an extra glass of wine and not get enough sleep. But I passionately believe that our well-being is the critical enabler of our daily success. Taking care of myself means I can show up and be the person I want to be at home and at work.

5) What do you think are some of the best habits or routines that you’ve developed over the years to help you achieve success in your life?

As I’ve mentioned looking after myself is key. I make daily movement of my body a priority, this could just be gentle stretching in front of the TV at the end of the day, a reformer Pilates class or a HIIT session. I fuel myself with the right foods and lots of water!

Lastly, I have a gratitude journal that I complete even night. Last year I moved my gratitude journal from paper and pen to a private Instagram account. I’m a visual person and being able to scroll back through my gratitude journal and see the images that have brought me joy is such a wonderful experience.

6) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

Gosh where to start. Adam Fraser’s The Third Space as I referred to earlier is such a great read.

Anything written by Brene Brown, I adore her, and her work and I think if you haven’t read any of her work or seen her TEDx talks then you’re hugely missing out! I am also a huge fan of Mel Robbins.

The other book I would highly recommend is Ikiagi. According to the Japanese, everyone has an ikigai—a reason for living. Having a strong sense of ikigai—the place where passion, mission, vocation, and profession intersect—means that each day is infused with meaning.

I read every day and find that I always have a few different books going at one time. Sometimes I just want to lose myself in a good non-fiction and other times I want something to really stretch my thinking.

7) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

I am a list person and in making the decision to take a career break I have had to fight the urge to run my days by completing “tasks”. However, the one benefit of having a list, is having clarity of purpose and focus for the day.

So, each morning, I mentally run through what I need to achieve that day and getting clear on my daily purpose, which could just be ‘being really present with the kids’.

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

I think there is so much content in this space and so many wonderful role models I can’t say that there’s a particular interview that stands out however I am always inspired when I read about people such as Barrack & Michelle Obama, Jacinda Ardern and Mel Robbins to just name a few!

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Having clarity on your priorities and boundaries I believe are critical components to living life harmoniously. Once you know this overtly communicating to everyone around you will help bring it to life.

Lastly, you’re human! And every day can’t be perfect and that is ok, so being kind to ourselves on those days or weeks that we feel like we’re just scraping through is so important for our well-being.

I love this quote by Dolly Parton “Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.