Designers / Interviews

Balancing the Grind With Mike Jones, Customer Experience Lead at The Works

Mike Jones is the Customer Experience (CX) Lead at The Works, a Sydney-based brand, design and CX agency. He has played a key role in agency’s development of a formidable CX practice that has seen The Works awarded CX Agency of the Year in 2016 and 2017.

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

My wife and I have 2 boys, aged 7 and 10, and we live on the Central Coast, north of Sydney. I commute each day by train to The Works at Milsons Point, a full-service creative agency, where I have been for almost 5 years.

I’ve worked in a lot of industries over my career. I drove tanks in the army, knocked doors for Foxtel, sold CRM tech in the USA, and designed disaster response plans for a cruise-line company.

2. What is your current role and what does it entail day to day?

I am the Customer Experience (CX) Lead for The Works. I design experiences for customers and employees that they want to use to solve the problem that is most important to them. This is because, regardless of the final form of a solution, it’s the human experience of how they interact with these things that matters.

On any given day you may find me spending time with understanding the people that we are designing for, their needs, behaviours, and attitudes.

You might find me creating prototypes based on a hypothesis of those needs, and how we might serve people better in the solution we are creating.

Or I might be sweating the details of how our solutions might show up best in the world, in physical form, visually or experientially.

3. What does a typical day in the life look like for you? Could you take us through a recent workday?

The alarm goes off at 5 am. Most days, I get up and go for a run or do a training circuit in my back yard. It’s a little harder to do that when it’s cold in winter like it is now.

I’m on the train at 6:50 am heading into Sydney and take the time to get a jump on the day.

I’m at my desk just after 8 am and have my day mapped out from when I left the previous day.

Then the day could take many forms. I could be working with designers on a prototype, or working with researchers preparing or analysing research for a project.

I find myself in front of clients most days either in meetings or presenting back a project update or final delivery.

I try to be our of the office before 6 pm, and if I have more to do, I’ll work on the train home if I can.

I’m usually through the door around 7:20 pm in time to see my boys and get them ready for bed and to read a book. And then dinner and time with my wife.

Rinse and repeat.

4. Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you prioritise your workload.

I can’t say yes to every request made of me. Instead of staying no, I take the time to understand the problem better and then connect them with a good alternate person to help.

Make a plan. Things move very fast, so my personal plan is usually no more than 2-4 days in advance. But I make a plan for the following day, and I block out time in my calendar. If the calendar is empty, someone will fill it for me.

Keep a task list. I use a digital list on my phone and laptop broken down into projects and categories. If someone asks me for something it needs to go into the list. I assume I am going to forget everything the moment I leave the room.

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5. In between your job, life and all your other responsibilities, how do you ensure you find some sort of balance in your life?

I make a plan for that also. It’s the reason I get up and exercise in the morning.

I realised that staying healthy and active was the most important thing to me. So, I made it the first thing I do with my day.

The same goes for anything else. I plan my personal life with the same discipline as I have with my professional life.

Not that every activity is planned, but I make sure the important things are in the calendar and make the time to do those things.

6. What are some of the things you do to take time out to recharge?

I book in short breaks through the year so that I can take a beat and catch my breath. These are usually school holidays and spend it with my family.

I plan this out and book it all in at the beginning of the year. It allows me to look at those breaks coming up when I am a little overwhelmed and look forward to them.

I am now doing the same thing with date nights with my wife. I need to book those in and commit to them or I just become swept away with the demands of life.

The other thing I love to do as a circuit breaker is Mud Runs like Tough Mudder. The courses are hard fun, but I always find myself in a flow moment doing them where everything else falls away, and there is just the simplicity of me focusing on finishing this course. Mud is my therapy.

7. What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help strive for success and balance?

Work is never done. So you may as well go home and see that people you love. Work will be there when you get back.

I also don’t let being tired stop me from getting things done. Often I feel more energised once I’m moving. It’s breaking the inertia that can be a problem.

And I always remember the saying “We’re not saving lives here”. I try to remember that all the time to gain better perspective when I’m feeling overwhelmed.

8. Are there any books you’ve read that have helped you with work-life balance?

I’m really enjoying Mark Manson’s, Everything is F*cked – A book about hope. I think it does a wonderful job of adding some perspective and explaining how our brain works in understanding hope and despair.

I’ve also become very passionate about the Climate Emergency, and find that reading books like Damon Gameau’s 2040 provides excellent perspective. Thinking about the role I can play in climate regeneration helps bring perspective to the demands of work.

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

I look for the creative, compelling, or just fun part of what I’m doing. If it doesn’t have that element, I look for ways to inject that into it.

When I find that perspective, I can forget that I’m tired, that I’m distracted, or that I’m just not feeling it today.

If I’m feeling challenged or creative, I can do this job all day long.

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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.