Balancing the Grind With Zoe Brownlie, Workplace Programme Director at YWCA

Zoe Brownlie is the Workplace Programme Director at YWCA, elected board member for Auckland DHB and ambassador for the 4 Day Week.

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

I’ve worked around well-being, belonging, and equity for my whole career, focussing mainly on gender, ethnicity, and sexuality, and mainly on workplace wellbeing for the last few years.

Although some days I have to do things I don’t feel like doing, most of the time what I’m doing feels more like something I love and a purpose rather than a job.

I have a few jobs at the moment; I’m a Workplace Programme Director for the Y, working with organisations to help them create gender equity in their workplaces. I’m an elected Board Member on the ADHB, setting policy and strategy. I also hold a couple of voluntary roles, and co-parent two young kids, which I definitely count as a job!

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

A workday for me usually starts at about 6am, helping to get my kids ready in the morning, then working from the office with internal and external meetings, usually at cafes. Then home to continue my work as a parent until about 8:30pm.

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

The Y is excellent around flexibility as we know it is a major factor in reaching gender equity. I can work from the office, a café, or from home, as long as I’m in the office some of the time. I can also start and finish when suits to work around the rest of my life. It’s about productivity and trust rather than being in an office 9 to 5.

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

Work-life balance means making sure that I have time to myself, time with my partner and friends, time parenting, and time at work.

Some weeks I have little time to myself and some weeks I do less work, but as long as I’m feeling like I’m close to balancing it well then that’s what matters. I find that structured time is helpful, e.g. booking into a yoga class, booking time alone into my calendar, spending 30 minutes of uninterrupted time with each kid, that sort of thing.

And from 9pm I’m always on the sofa zoning out in front of the TV or in a fiction book. It’s a massive help to have a flexible workplace which makes it easier to have work-life balance.

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?

Saying yes and then figuring out how to do it later, always going with my gut, standing barefoot on grass or sand as often as I can, spending time on LinkedIn, and being empathetic, kind, and non-hierarchical to others.

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

To be honest, I read a lot more online articles than non-fiction books. I prefer reading for 10 minutes and then talking through the information with others as I learn and work better that way. I do love reading the Guardian supplement, and always feel smarter after reading it!

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

I always shower and have coffee as soon as I wake up, as I’m a much better version of myself after those! I then spend the first few hours of my work day getting the most important things done, as know I operate best then.

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

The first person that comes to mind is Laura O’Connell-Rapira, the Director of ActionStation, among other things. She does the most amazing work and I always wonder how she fits it all in and still feels healthy and well. The new PM of Denmark. And Jacinda of course.

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

In my 20s I read an article about the things that people regret when they’re about to die. It was never that they worked harder.

Since then I’ve stressed a whole lot less about work, only worked on things that have purpose and that I’m passionate about, and made sure that I’ve got lots of energy left for the other parts of my life. It’s meant that I often haven’t been as well off financially as others, but it’s made me well off in other ways.

If you’d like to have a conversation with us about how you balance the grind, get in touch with us!

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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.