HR & Culture / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Ann Roberts, Chief People Officer at Flo Health Inc.

Ann Roberts is the Chief People Officer at Flo Health Inc., a company on a mission to significantly improve the health and wellbeing of every girl and woman worldwide.

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

In the most pithy possible way – I am building rocketship companies in the high-growth tech space! I’m the Chief People Officer of Flo, the #1 most downloaded Health app globally on a mission to improve the health and wellbeing of every woman worldwide.

Before Flo I was the Group HR Director at Bumble, with previous gigs in Goldman Sachs and Rolls-Royce. Always in the People & Talent space, always building awesome workplaces.

I’m interested in all things at the intersection of modern human capital practices, emerging consumer tech, and making an impact through brands that are dripping with purpose. 

I’m born and raised in the Nordics (Estonia), educated in Bangkok and have been calling London my home since 2008. I got my BSc from the London School of Economics under the Stonex scholarship, an MBA from Imperial College, and was the HR Professional of the Year Gold Award Winner in HR Brilliance Awards 2019. 

When I’m not working I like long-distance running (away from my twin babies), and watching obscure mid-century filmography you’ve probably never heard of. 

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

Now that I have two 1-year-olds my day always starts sooner than I would like it to, and with copious help from caffeine. 

Once the babies are ready for their day with daddy, I check the meetings for the day and pick up the Slack (pun intended). I have an empty-inbox system so whatever is there effectively makes up the to-do list.

I always make sure to have enough non-facetime in my day for deep work, and have flex in my calendar when somebody in the business fancies a chat or just a sounding board, so I keep my pulse on what’s the employee sentiment in the business, what is bugging people, what are the currents and trends, what do I need to dig deeper into.

Ultimately, it’s a lot of Zoom time and office time, depending on where I am for the day. My Fridays are no-meeting zones and give me the chance to pick up deliverables from the week, check in on my teams and catch up with what’s going on in the industry and the People space.

It’s hard to carve out that dedicated time for keeping abreast of wider societal conversations but it’s instrumental to staying ahead and crafting long-term directions for the business. 

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

At Flo we re-opened our European offices over the summer, and are now running a hybrid workplace – people have offices to come and catch up with others, collaborate, go for a pint, but there’s no mandatory office presence.

The flexibility is incredibly helpful for my work-life balance, I can cycle to work on days when the home is full and busy (and I can use the exercise), and stay at home if it fits our schedules better. I’m also grateful we’re able to travel around a bit more to see our family and friends overseas.

Because travelling with toddlers is a logistical and emotional quagmire, we’re able to go abroad for longer and mix holidays and work (#workaction), or I can take my family on business trips with me so I’m not away from them for too long. 

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

The term work-life balance sets life off against work, like there’s compromises to make on each side. I think we should all aspire to find the right work-life blend.

Our work and careers are one of the most intrinsic elements of our self-identity: we put most of our waking hours into our work, we crave for a strong social fabric and a sense of belonging from our workplace, we put most of our creative energy and capabilities into our work.

Work will become a lot more gratifying and fulfilling if you do work that is part of your life, not a necessary evil whose impact on our lives we try to minimise. Rather than trying to manufacture a ‘balance’, it’s easier to bring them together. 

You know that saying: “If you love what you do you won’t work a single day of your life” – I think that’s BS. I love what I do and I’m energised every day by the impact that I’m making, but we should not be delusional that it’s all one big wonderful frolick across a meadow.

Some weeks are more stressful, some key events for the business require all hands on deck for sustained periods of time, crises arise that need to be dealt with. Bringing the energy required to get through the ups and downs is just more possible if you believe in the bigger picture and have a strong sense of belonging and loyalty to your work. 

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

I used to be in the 5am club – it does what it says on the tin. It somehow really worked for me, I’ve always been an early bird but being able to structure my day to start really early gave me a sense that I’m ahead of it all somehow. I think it comes down to some craving for a sense of control and ownership, not letting the day run away from you and control you. 

I’ve also been doing intermittent fasting for many years, which is a fancy way of saying I skip breakfast. It lowers the glycogen volatility in my blood and keeps me sharp and alert in the mornings, without the sugar lows and brain fog that comes from it.  

This is not in the past 12 months, but I became a hardcore minimalist about 6 years ago, this is probably the most lifestyle-altering habit and worldview change in my life. Decluttering your physical, digital, emotional environment to make space for things that really matter in life is priceless for a more mindful living. 

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I love reading and absorb so much of my inspiration and evolving world views from books. 

Books that have shaped me: 

  • Isaiah Berlin Two Concepts of Liberty
  • Jason Fried ReWork
  • Reni Eddo-Lodge Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race
  • Phil Knight Shoe Dog
  • Douglas Rushkoff Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus
  • Jia Tolentino Trick Mirror
  • Ben Horowitz The Hard Thing About Hard Things
  • Daniel Kahneman Thinking Fast and Slow
  • Abhijit Banerjee Poor Economics

I was also probably one of the first 1000 followers of James Clear, who has now written a fantastic book called Atomic Habits, his newsletter covers cutting-edge content on behaviour change and marginal gains theories. 

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

  1. Flo Health app, to optimise and manage my female health and daily wellbeing, biohacking the cadence of my monthly cycle and hormonal fluctuations.
  2. Strava app – I mean if you did a run but didn’t track or share it with your friends, did you even run!? 
  3. AirPods – I listen to a lot of content and music on the go and couldn’t live without them. 
  4. Baby monitor – kind of a necessary evil not to get up 4 times a night, but also allows me to be able to see the babies when I’m not at home and my heart starts aching for them, and to capture on video footage their shenanigans that are already becoming beautiful memories. 

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

Matt D’Avella and James Clear.  

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

Advice on life design and optimising a thoughtful mix of things you are about in life – do less. Obsess over the things that matter, and outsource everything else. 

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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.