HR & Culture / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Emma Parrish, Head of People at Fanbytes

Emma Parrish is the Head of People at Fanbytes, one of the UK’s leading social media and influencer marketing agencies.

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

Of course! I guess you could say I’ve had an eclectic mix of experiences having started out studying Film & Theatre with dreams of becoming a film director. Cut to graduation and a long 6 months of simultaneously trying to run a local tutoring business and look for a full-time permanent position.

That time after university can be pretty soul destroying, you’re just unprepared for the real-world of work, particularly after studying the arts. I soldiered on and managed to land myself an account manager position at a travel tech start-up.

I found myself selling free trials on the phone to people across the globe from morning to night, a far cry from creating motion pictures! It was here that I became a team leader and realised that my passion wasn’t to be a superstar seller, but it was to nurture, train and grow others.

I then moved into the HR field, starting out at a private members’ club and this experience taught me a lot about HR – a lot goes on when there’s a restaurant, a soft play and a full Head Office.

I then spent just over a year at a fantastic education company, accountable for supporting schools and children across the world to achieve their learning outcomes, this was in the midst of the pandemic – and as Head of People it was incredibly strange that I didn’t meet my colleagues until I was around 6 months into the role! 

Fast forward to 2022, I am currently Head of People at Fanbytes – a fast growing digital marketing agency working with the most forward thinking brands to win the hearts of Gen Z via platforms such as TikTok, Insta, Snapchat, Twitch, etc. My role is to strategically lead on the PX (people experience) as a whole, from attraction & recruitment, engagement and performance management, all the way through to alumni. 

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

I was chatting with a colleague the other day about the fact that every day is truly different, and I know it sounds like the classic cliche to attract new recruits – but it’s 100% true.

Some days will be about strategically planning new initiatives, such as a new perks & benefits offering, or revising our recruitment strategy and others can be very hands-on, sleeves rolled up, implementing solutions and some days, all plans are just blown out of the water because a curve ball comes along (ahem, COVID-19) – that’s what makes it an exciting role to be in. 

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

If the pandemic gave us one positive thing, it’s that it pushed the agenda for working from home as a real positive. I cannot believe that I used to commute everyday on a packed sweaty tube to sit in an office 5 days a week without complaint (well sometimes).

At Fanbytes we know that we can operate really well with a hybrid approach, I currently go into the office 2 to 3 days a week and I try and focus that time on people time, catching up,  collaborating and spending time away from my laptop.

The rest of the week when I’m at home is for the “deep work” and executing on everything that has been spoken about in person. I’m really grateful for this hybrid approach, it’s meant that I’ve been able to get a dog (didn’t we all during the pandemic?) which is something I’ve always wanted, which also means walking during the day – and taking regular breaks.

This has been great for my mental health, I do struggle to leave my desk and take a walking break when I’m in the office, and having a dog keeps me honest!

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

To me there isn’t a difference between work and life, they are the same thing. Not in the sense that I live to work and that’s my whole life, in that I am a human being and I bring my experiences, emotions and thoughts with me wherever I go. We can try to create separate worlds for work and home, but ultimately, they’re going to mix at some point, and that’s okay. 

At Fanbytes I want to create an environment where our people feel free and comfortable to share everything about themselves, it brings so much more to our working lives, there should never need to be a hard, opaque line between those worlds – we’re human beings!

However, in saying this, it is important to set boundaries, I’m quite strict with myself with regards to not working evenings or weekends, that time is for resetting, recharging and spending time with my loved ones. 

To answer the question, how do I work to achieve this? I think it’s largely about being honest and open with your colleagues – it is good to set the expectation that, yes, I do have a life outside of work, but I also want to share that with the people that I work with.

I think it’s really important that we check in with our colleagues on a daily basis, and ask them how they’re doing – not just the generic how are you? But the genuine, how are you actually doing – it’s incredibly important that we’re creating that open space to enable people to bring their whole selves to work.

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

I don’t think I’ve picked up any habits that have changed my life as such, but I do really rate writing a to-do list at the end of each day ahead of the next, and also writing a weekly update to lay out achievements, challenges and items to pick up next week. It’s a good way of closing the week and knowing that the work will be waiting for me on Monday, meaning that I can enjoy the weekend. 

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

My favourite book at the moment is War on Women and the Braves Ones that Fought Back by the late Sue Lloyd Roberts. It’s a great choice particularly around the time of International Women’s Day, but boy, will it make you angry!

I’m a solid follower of the Harvard Business Review – all of their newsletters are helpful, I especially enjoy The Management Tip of the Day as it serves as a little reminder each day.

Contrary to my HR profession, I really enjoy the Always Sunny in Philadelphia podcast – we’ve got to have a bit of comic relief, right? I am also a lover of the A Beautiful Mess podcast – I think I’ve been following their blog since I was 17/18.

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

My latest discovery has been Tablerone – the Google Chrome extension which has changed my life. I’m terrible at leaving tabs open, ever-fearful that I’ll forget something important and thus just leave them open until the point where my computer crashes. My poor computer!

Then I discovered Tablerone, which saves all tabs into one tab, keeping them safe and on display, but not taking up the whole of the browser. It also means that at the end of the day, I can close off all tabs and know that they’ll be waiting for me in the morning.

It’s a little change that’s made a big difference. Another one I can’t live without is Otter which is another Chrome extension that transcribes meetings – having taken a LOT of formal notes by hand, or more recently needing to type notes out after a meeting, this has saved me SO much time – plus, it’s got a cute name – can’t go wrong with that!

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

I think it’d have to be British businesswoman and entrepreneur, Sara Davies. She’s incredibly busy, with a 34m turnover business, BBC’s Dragon’s Den, investment in many other businesses, lots of other TV appearances, plus a brilliant stint on Strictly Come Dancing and with two children at home. 

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

I think the biggest takeaway around work life balance, is that your job isn’t the be all and end all. Yes, we should absolutely enjoy what we do, but sometimes work is a means to an end, and that’s totally fine, as long as it’s not creeping into your personal time in a negative way.

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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.