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Balancing the Grind with Elaine Higgins, Chief People Officer at POWWR

Elaine Higgins is the Chief People Officer at POWWR, a company creating solutions for a sustainable energy marketplace.

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

I graduated with a degree in HR from the University of Stirling but with no clear plan of what next. It’s an almost impossible profession to access without experience.

I landed on my feet, securing a graduate role at NCC Group as a Junior Consultant in their fee earning division – originally this meant tea making but fairly quickly it evolved into assisting our amazing Technical Consultants with recruitment, staffing and planning.

One random day, the CEO landed next to my desk to say, you know a bit about HR? Please go run the function. It was an awesome journey and I feel grateful for the opportunity every day.

On the arrival of my second child, as difficult as it was, it was time for a change of pace – the growth of the Company was inspiring and phenomenal but I was needed elsewhere. I took on some part-time and temporary contract work for a few years while the kids were young.

I then spent two years learning manufacturing and managing union relationships. Then I landed on my feet again as HR Manager in a small but fast growing software company called UD Group.

That small but fast-growing company is where you will find me today as Chief People Officer and we’re now called POWWR. I run a full gambit of strategic and operational HR activities and I love it. My favourite part of the job is my people. 

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

A day at POWWR is never the same. Recently, we have been consulting on how best to reopen our offices, dealing with the fall out of an increasingly competitive IT market, reimagining employee engagement, handling pay review and recruiting furiously.

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

I work fully remotely and have done for 2 years when we shut our offices. For most people I think this is a massive benefit but for me, it’s just too easy to think I’ll just sort one more thing. I find my days longer and my effectiveness less.

I think I must be crazy because I miss commuting and the ability to think through the day quietly and switch gears from work to life.

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

For me work-life balance is about trust and outcomes. I can say to my boss, I need to be at school or take an hour for something and there is no question. He trusts me to manage my balance and knows whatever flexibility I’m afforded is paid back in loyalty and deliverables. I’m very lucky to work for a supportive CEO.

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

I have stopped a habit which I developed at the outset of the pandemic and it has been to my detriment. I realised quickly that I missed my commute time so I started going a 5k walk every morning instead. Strangely it takes slightly less time than walking to the office. 

When winter set in last year I got out of the habit, but now that the weather is picking up again I think it’s time to get back to the great outdoors.

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

I am an avid reader. I read 2-3 books per week. If something gets big in the cinema or on TV I automatically seek out the book version.

My favourite fiction books are The Time Traveler’s Wife, How To Stop Time, The Godfather and Jaws. Varied I know.

My favourite factual books are The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, Escape the Build Trap and The Dichotomy of Leadership. I also love Michelle Obama’s autobiography Becoming.

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

The gadget I cannot be found without is my kindle. The app that I love most in the world is ScrabbleGo.

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

Ryan Reynolds. But that is only because I have a massive crush on him and love how many business and charity ventures he seems involved in.

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

For me, work-life balance has always been changeable. Sometimes your work needs focus and sometimes your life needs focus. I think any reasonable employer knows that and supports you to achieve your goals whether they are personal or professional. Getting the best from people is helping them to achieve happiness.

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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.