Interviews / PR & Communications

Balancing the Grind with Anna MacIntosh, General Manager at Polkadot Communications

Anna MacIntosh is the General Manager at Sydney-based full-service marketing, communications & PR agency Polkadot Communications.

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

I fell into PR after studying a Bachelor of Business in Marketing and having great ambitions to become a sports marketer but as luck would have it, PR chose me.

Living on the Gold Coast at the time, I got a call from my friend in Sydney who said her flatmate was looking for a junior consultant to join the agency she worked at called Michels Warren.

Michels Warren was an agency started by two Adelaide founders – and being born and bred in Adelaide, I knew the agency and jumped at the chance to apply for the role.

I drove to Sydney for the interview on a Friday, got the role on the spot, then drove back to the Gold Coast that night to pack up my things, move to Sydney that weekend and start on the Monday. That was over 23 years ago and looking back I think, wow I was bloody brave! But being brave is a trait we need in PR.

Since my first role, I have always worked for agencies which has included global firms Hill & Knowlton and Edelman and independents including Zing and Polkadot Communications where I am now as General Manager.

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

As a competitive swimmer growing up, I have not been able to shake the early morning rise. I am generally up between 5.30am and 6am depending if I have Pilates or spin class.

However, if you had asked me this during lock down, I would have said all of this was out the window! But our team is transitioning back into the office now, so my old routine is coming back to life a little but with a lot more flexibility thrown in.

After exercise, I get home around 7.15am to wrangle my 14-year-old teenager out of bed to get him ready for school. Before exercise, I do a quick scan of the news and Twitter to see what’s trending then properly read the news between coffee and leaving the house around 8.30am.

If I have calls with some of my global clients, I will stay home to do those then head into the office later that morning.

My day is a diverse mix of client work, new business, and team discussions. I thrive on people and creativity and must admit, I am loving being back with my team and feeding off their energy from bouncing around ideas (social distancing style of course).

I am a newshound and have been given the nickname of Chief of Staff in the agency. I am always sharing news, politics, pop culture, reality shows, you name it, I am reading and sharing it.

I always make time during the day to get out of the office. Having worked from home the past three months, it has validated just how important it is to have a break.

If my son has sport, I take him to training and most nights I am out of the office around 5. I try not to log back on unless necessary (like a pitch). Nights are for cooking and family time as well as the dreaded high school homework, followed by TV, Netflix or Stan. I am not a night owl, so lights are out early.

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

Yes. We have always had flexible or remote working options but even more so now having worked from home during lockdown. Our team has firmly established habits in virtual connections including Microsoft Teams, Zoom and WhatsApp and our industry is so mobile so can work from anywhere.

Founder of Polkadot Communications, Dionne and I have huge respect for each other being working mums. We have an unwritten rule that flexibility and balancing life is paramount for the success of the agency.

Leading by example is always something that has been a big driver for me in my career too, so it’s important to show my team that work and life are equally as important as each other.

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

The worlds of work and life definitely merged more since working from home but now that a ‘new normal’ is being established again, for me, balance means giving myself permission to take a break when and how often I need it.

I also prioritise time for me and don’t apologise if I need to switch off, put headphones in, pour a glass of wine and binge-watch something that gives me a giggle like Schitt’s Creek or something that grips, like Billions.

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

Not looking at my emails before bed has changed my life. I used to read emails before bed then wake up in the night worrying about the email. But now, I don’t check my emails at least 30 minutes before bed. Clients know I can be contacted via text if there is anything urgent.

I also avoid sending my team or clients emails over the weekend that isn’t story-sharing related. If I feel the pressing need to email, I will send it to myself which reminds me to talk to my team about it on Monday. We often laugh at the amount of times I do this but it’s so important for the team to have a weekend and for me to have one too.

Most recently, for me it’s checking in on my team and clients to ask how they are. Our industry has been so affected by the coronavirus so my daily check-in will continue.

And finally, the routine of having a little pet around (my raggie Milo) during lockdown will stay with us in the agency. We all have pets so the team will be bringing them into work. Mental health and pets go hand in hand.

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

With a teenager in high school, I would love to say I have a list of books to recommend but at the moment, my reading repertoire consists mostly of cooking books.

I have found a new love for cooking and will spend all Sunday afternoon with my partner cooking up a storm for a family dinner to end the weekend and mentally prepare for the week.

I subscribe to a million global news sites and Twitter really is my go-to source of news across all sectors and genres.

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

On a personal front, lockdown proved that I couldn’t live without my family and FaceTime. I know I am going to sound old school but everything I need is on my iPhone and when working from home, it’s my UE Boom that keeps me motivated with music throughout the day. For team and client comms, I couldn’t live without WhatsApp and Microsoft Teams.

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

Leigh Sales or Jacinda Arden.

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

Find something you love to do outside of work and schedule it in your diary – treat it like a meeting which will make you prioritise it. My diary is full of locked out times with my son, family, workouts and friends.

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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.