Balancing the Grind With Celia Newlands, Community Manager at Central Business Associates

Celia Newlands is the Community Manager at Central Business Associates, a business centre providing flexible workspaces, where she is in charge of facilitating growth within the business community.

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

In my corporate life, I spent over 15 years in Customer Service, Sales and Management.

I worked in some very diverse industries – Frozen Food, Waste Management, Interior Design, Coffee and Facilities Management.

Finding myself doing very similar things in each of them, I realised that some of the biggest challenges and resolutions were the same no matter what your offering/service was.

I led teams of up to 20 people, and learned about all the different reasons people were in their jobs, and how to best motivate & lead them. I loved my work, and the outcomes that came from being successful in my roles.

In my very first management role, within my first 6 months of taking on the role, we had:

  • one person go on Maternity leave,
  • two other permanent staff members tell me they were also pregnant, and
  • another temporary staff member also announce she was pregnant and could therefore no longer do the job she had just been employed to do.

It was a massive learning curve. I had no concept of what I was getting into. I didn’t have my own family at this stage, was used to doing my own thing, working ridiculously long hours, and my work was my priority.

The two permanent staff members decided they would like to job-share (this was over 20 years ago, so we were early adopters of the concept!), and with great trepidation, I and the company agreed.

I held my breath waiting for:

  • phone-calls from day-care
  • increase in sick days
  • drop-in productivity’, and of course
  • decrease in motivation

None of those materialised, and instead I got an:

  • increase in productivity, as they were more focused (and probably happy to get a break from home sometimes, and to speak to other adults!)
  • increase in productivity as they weren’t taking lots of little coffee breaks throughout the day – only being there for maybe 4-6 hours a day
  • increase in motivation – I understand now the motivations of taking care of others (your family) by earning money, and wanting to make the best of the job / work hard to see the company succeed, so you have the job for as long as you need it

I have my own family now, and we made a couple of huge decisions which changed how I was able to work.

We moved about 2 hours drive from where my last Corporate Management role was, and the commute was going to be too much. I resigned from the job, which was earning me good money, but was high pressure & fairly inflexible.

After less than a year of being a stay-at-home-mum, and becoming Chair of the local Baby & Toddler group, I realised I really needed the mental challenge of work again.

Nothing I saw advertised looked like it would suit – too many hours, or the work wasn’t going to challenge me – why would I go back to a job where I was only earning money to pay for the required childcare if it wasn’t going to challenge & interest me…?

I started up my own business, and ran my own consultancy as a sole trader for about 6 years, really just to cover childcare costs and a little extra, and allowing me to do some personal development study while doing some work for local businesses.

In 2011, we then made the huge decision to move to Australia from Scotland, to give our children a different way of life. Again, after we settled in, I had itchy feet to work again. Corporate, or Self-employed?

It was a relatively easy decision for me, as I recognised the importance of flexibility to our family life. I’d had 6 years of great flexibility, and couldn’t see that the corporate world was ready to offer true flexibility.

I started up a similar venture, but this time got fully involved in the local business community, looking for gaps where I could potentially be of most benefit. After many conversations of a similar nature – around

  • people not wanting a long commute to work, or wanting to work close to home to spend more time with family, or on lifestyle activities / sports etc
  • local business owners enjoying networking events but feeling like they should be working/earning instead of socialising/spending
  • needing a professional space to work from

I set up our flexible workspaces in January 2015, and have been running them ever since. We have coworking desks, private meeting rooms, a boardroom/training room, and an amazing, connected, collaborative, welcoming community.

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

This was towards the end of 2019 – my youngest was about to finish primary school, so it was one event after another – I have a friend who works in a corporate job, and she calls the last two weeks of school “Working Parents Guilt Fortnight”, as she can’t go to everything.

I have a colleague whose children are a little older than mine, who can be in the office to ‘open up’ for non-tenants.

I took both kids to their schools, popping in to say farewells for the year, snap a photo of my youngest son with a trophy his house group won (this was the last days of having one at primary and one at secondary, so I will have another shift in routine again next year!), stopped in at the café at the bottom of our building to grab a coffee, then headed in to work – getting there about 9.10am.

I got on with some client work for the rest of the morning, did some marketing for the business, & caught up with other tenants and regular community members in our flexible workspace.

We were sneaking up close to Christmas, so I headed to the Post Office to send off cards, grabbed some lunch at a local café, and headed to my hairdressers.

A short burst of work in the car outside school waiting for pickup time, 5 minute drive back home – another hour or so in the home office, then time to finish work officially for the day at around 5pm.

Technically, I was in a work frame of mind from 9 til 5, but able to fit lots of other life activities in without having to travel far!

That’s not how it always is – some days I arrive at 8.30 and work through til 5 or 6pm if I have a large project on, or to get ahead with marketing scheduling.

The flexibility I have created allows me to perform at a high productivity level when it’s needed, but also be able to drop everything if my life requires it, or if I just need a break.

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

As mentioned above, flexibility is everything to me, and I think this is the way the future of work is heading. More people are looking for this kind of flexibility in their lives, and the best employees will go to the companies who offer it.

Therefore, those companies who want to get and retain the best employees, will have to offer genuine flexibility.

Any new consultancy clients I take on understand that this is how I work – they understand that the work will be done, but not necessarily during what used to be considered ‘office hours’.

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

I hear people saying it shouldn’t be called ‘balance’, but I disagree. Everyone has their own sense of balance, but that is ultimately what I think we are all looking for.

To find a way to work, but also to enjoy our lives. And sometimes they may merge.

For me – I genuinely love my work, so long holidays don’t suit me – I miss the challenge of work when I am away from it for too long.

For others, they are looking for ways to spend more time on a hobby, or a sport, or just spending more time with family and friends.

Why shouldn’t we all find the right balance to be happy – what is the point in life if not to be happy & enjoy what’s around us?

It’s not always easy, but little changes can be made to help us towards that happiness.

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?

I keep the ultimate goal of flexibility in my head whenever I make big decisions or am offered a new project. I can sometimes compromise and take on a project requiring me to work long hours for a period of time, so long as I know I can balance it out with a break at the end.

I am an introvert, so I need to make sure I take time to myself to regain energy, or my productivity takes a nosedive!

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

Simon Sinek’s books and ideas have been a real inspiration to me – I love the way he is encouraging us all to think differently about how we work, lead, live and behave – at work & in life generally.

I believe that we are in a time where we desperately need a huge injection of ‘soft skills’, in order to get the best out of ourselves and those around us. And we need to try to enjoy life more – flexibility is the way to do that.

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

Get enough sleep!

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

Maybe the inspirational Sanna Marin, the Prime Minister of Finland. Or indeed our NZ neighbour, the amazing Jacinda Ardern! They are leaders who are shaking things up around the world, showing us a new way to live.

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

We all need to talk more about these things, find out what others around us think.

Get inspired by those who seem to have it figured out (not by comparing, as we all need to find our own balance, for our own family/lives).

Understand that your ‘balance’ will change, constantly – throughout different stages of your life, so we must all be prepared & open to change.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m enjoying a lot of Simon Sinek’s work including his recent discussions around ‘The Infinite Game’ are fantastic, talking about the way our leadership needs to change. But we all need to change – accept that we are in a huge shift around technology/work/life/balance.

Instead of being afraid of what’s next, we need to help create what’s next, by having these discussions, talking about, and showing, how we can balance our lives better.

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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.