Dave Chapman is a Senior Customer Advocate at fully-remote, social media management company Buffer, where he helps troubleshoot issues and find solutions.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
Sure! So for just over 6 years I’ve been working in the support team at Buffer. My current role is Senior Customer Advocate. I think I’ve always enjoyed helping people; troubleshooting issues and finding solutions.
I’ve had a zig-zagging career path! I’ve previously had roles in hospitality, healthcare (I was an Osteopath for a few years), and IT security. I studied forest management when I left school but that really wasn’t for me, it was a very isolated role. That said, apparently my technical skills with a chainsaw were really good! I’d be terrified to pick one up now, though.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I get up at 7am and do yoga for about half an hour, then make a coffee and head up to our roof garden unless it’s raining. We’ve got great views across south London so that’s a nice chilled way to start the day.
I then do about 15 minutes of French lessons before starting work at around 9am. I start my work day saying hello to my team on Slack, checking for any relevant news or announcements that would affect our team or our customers, and then produce a report on our current support stats (inbox volume, response times) to get a quick sense of the shape of things.
I’m then focused on working directly with customers for around 6 hours of the day, with the rest of the time spent in team syncs and calls, or personal projects.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
At Buffer we are 100% remote, we have been for years and years! There are so many benefits to remote work: the flexibility of being able to work in different locations – wherever you feel most productive.
Being able to plan your work day in a way that fits your life, home and family needs. And, no commute! There are some trade-offs, for sure. There are some aspects of human interaction and work which are easier or more natural in person. So we try to over-communicate quite a lot to allow for that.
Working from home, I think it’s important to have a routine in the morning that involves some kind of activity so that when you start work, it’s a conscious shift into a work mindset. I don’t think I’d feel great if I just rolled out of bed and sat at my laptop.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
They tie into each other, you know? A lot of what I do in my non-work time supports what I do in work. Looking after my health, fitness, well-being and happiness. It’s important to figure out what works for you, we’re all different. That can take time, experimentation, adjustment.
Because I work from home, in a sedentary role, I make sure that I make plans that involve being active and leaving the house! My routine is important, and most of what I do has become a habit. Having routines and habits means I spend less time thinking “what should I do now, what’s next”. Boundaries are important too. I aim to start and finish work at a similar time each day.
Once the laptop is closed, that’s it. I have a couple of work related apps on my phone but I make sure notifications are turned off so that work doesn’t disrupt my non-work time!
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?
As soon as I started working from home, I made a point of going outdoors and coming back home before I started work, so that I had that ‘arriving at work’ feeling.
We have a dog now so I take him for a walk every morning but even before we had him, I’d go out for about half an hour, listen to a podcast, go for a run, get some groceries or coffee, to me that felt like a ‘proper’ start to the day.
The other thing is my home work environment. It’s worth investing in the equipment you need, the furniture, arrangement, lighting, decor – make sure it all serves you in terms of ergonomics, comfort, aesthetics!
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
If you work with people, an old but kinda timeless book that is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
It had never appealed to me and I thought it sounded like a sort of creepy way to manipulate people. In fact it’s incredibly insightful and it almost serves as a toolkit for navigating tricky situations, especially when ego and emotion come into play!
I like the Reply All podcast, I love the curiosity of it and how they untangle these weird situations. I usually have a fiction book on the go, I’m currently reading Pachinko by Min Jin Lee.
My absolutely favourite book is The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North, I’ve probably read it 7 times! The story that absolutely blew my mind was The Three-Body Problem trilogy by Liu Cixin.
7) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?
Ahhh, it’s really tricky to pick one! I feel like I have so many habits that I’ve tried to set up to support my efforts to be productive. They’re all like ingredients to a cake, I can’t really pick one essential one as they all should be there!
I think if there’s one thing, I would say – it’s looking after my mental well-being. I make an effort to be in good shape mentally so that I can be happy, calm, focused and ready to tackle the challenges of the day.
Something a little more concrete would be having a way of measuring my productivity. An easy one is the number if customers I’ve worked with.
It’s a quick pulse-check metric that gives me a sense of the contribution my work is having to our customers and our team, although it’s not a target or goal – some conversations are tricky and take longer and I don’t aim to rush through them to see higher numbers. But having that sense of how productive I am helps me know if I need to make an adjustment, perhaps to step away to recharge and refocus and keep on track.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
I think I’d learn loads from some very different from me. Someone who’s faced challenges and adversity and come through that and achieved something incredible.
Malala Yousafzai would be great! She’s achieved so much. If it could be anyone from history, I’d love to learn from Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan environmental activist.
She died in 2011. I visited the Masaai Mara with my family last year and stayed in a lodge named after her, there was a plaque that detailed all her achievements. She was the first African woman to win the Nobel Prize. Her autobiography is on my reading list.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
I’m going to back to my cake analogy! I recommend trying new things. Experiment! Routine and habit are very important as foundations, I think we also need variety and challenge to really thrive!
Before you go…
If you’d like to sponsor or advertise with Balance the Grind, let’s talk here.
Join our community and never miss a conversation about work, life & balance – subscribe to our newsletter.