Balancing the Grind with Genevieve Murphy, Head of Wellbeing at WPP AUNZ

Genevieve Murphy, is the Head of Wellbeing at creative transformation agency WPP AUNZ, where she is responsible for the company’s learning and wellbeing initiatives.

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

I’ve always had a passion for learning and quite honestly, if I could, I’d be signing up for another university degree, so it’s no surprise that my roles have typically had a professional development focus. 

I have been with WPP AUNZ for almost three years now – it started as a short contract in the People Development team and grew from there! My role has changed quite a bit in that time as we’ve evolved our training offering and continued to strengthen our wellbeing focus for the business.

I work really closely with our Head of People Development to craft content that serves the learning needs of our 3500+ people across Australia, New Zealand and SEA markets.

I am responsible for the programs and initiatives that support the wellbeing of our people, and for me that’s all about helping them to be, and perform, at their best.

Prior to this, I was with The Communications Council (the peak industry body for advertising in Australia) in a role that supported a national membership base of more than 100 creative agencies.

I had the opportunity to work with creatives, strategists, account management teams, CEOs, producers and tech specialists to champion the power of commercial creativity. It was a great way to learn about the people that make this industry inspiring.

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

My workday now looks a little different to pre-Covid but regardless, I am a creature of habit so whilst my routine has changed, my need for structure remains strong!

I am an early riser which gives me time for a morning walk, accompanied by a podcast. On my return, if I’m feeling virtuous, I’ll squeeze in a YouTube yoga or pilates session, in my private studio (which doubles as the living room). 

And from there, I’ll set up my priorities for the day, identifying the non-negotiables and what time I need to allocate to meetings or calls.

One of the programs we deliver at WPP AUNZ is all about working smarter principles, so I try to practice what we preach and find it’s a chance for me to experiment with different ways of managing my day.

Since Covid, I’ve been hosting twice weekly morning meditations sessions on Zoom for anyone in the company who wants to join. I really look forward to these, it’s such a pleasure to offer something so simple to help people feel a little more in control, at a time when life just feels overwhelming. 

A typical day will see me spending time researching wellbeing and performance topics for the workplace, building content for our wellbeing workshops and connecting with our HR Leaders to understand their learning and wellbeing needs.

One of the most significant changes we have experienced this year is moving all our learning programs online, which means we get to see people from all our markets in the virtual training room. It’s been great to connect in this way and understand what’s going on for people, no matter where they are.

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

I am lucky to work in a team that has always supported a flexible approach to working and the key ingredients that make it work for us are trust, open communication and clear expectations. So, when we moved to a fully remote working environment earlier this year, whilst it was a big change, the transition has been relatively smooth.

Flexible working takes effort, discipline and the ability to self-motivate – and some days those things are harder to harness than others. The current situation we are all operating in is not optimal for a truly successful flexible working rhythm – and I think it’s important to remember this.

I have read this a few times, and it strikes a chord every time – ‘we are not working from home, we are working through a pandemic, stuck at home.’ 

Right now, flexible working for me means being smart about how I manage my energy and focus throughout the day so I can deliver my best. Having a morning routine is really important to set me up for the day ahead, and once that’s done, I feel better equipped to deal with what comes next.

Working remotely during COVID has made me realise how much I took for granted – regular movement, interaction with strangers, with colleagues, social norms and boundaries. I’m at home alone during the day so it’s been important to create a routine that builds in some of these elements.

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

Balance is elusive. I like to think of it as work-life integration, where I try to be really aware of how I spend my time and how this impacts other aspects of my life.

This year has been a test and finding a way to be my best at work and at home, in equal measure, is very much a work in progress. I enjoy what I do so it’s easy to get lost in my work world but I am getting better at recognising when this comes at a cost.

I see this time as an opportunity to truly ‘get smart’ about mental, physical and emotional health. It doesn’t need to be big steps towards change, just small, consistent habits that move me forward.

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

Yes, I feel like this year will be the year when we all stopped, started, adjusted and experimented with new routines. 

I try to incorporate the brilliant ‘third space’ concept from Dr Adam Fraser into my day. It’s all about the moment of transition between tasks, and it has been fundamental to shifting from work mode to home mode. A winning strategy for anyone who struggles to switch off.

After years of rejecting yoga on the basis I had decided ‘I just couldn’t do it’, I have discovered yoga at home and I’m hooked. It has been a perfect balance to my regular pilates practice. I am still very much a beginner but I am enjoying discovering new ways to move my weary muscles.

Meditation has been a total game changer for me this year. I just opt for a simple breathing practice a couple of times a week and I like to try out different practitioners. I have learned not to persevere when you just don’t connect with the style of a practitioner, so that has meant a few failed attempts but I can honestly say that for me, when it works, it really works. 

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



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

Spotify is essential! I read that Headspace has appointed John Legend as Chief Music Officer, what a brilliant idea. Music can switch moods, create focus, ease our anxiety, it’s magic for our mental health.

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

I just finished Sophie McNeill’s book; We Can’t Say We Didn’t Know – a heartbreaking account of the human stories from war zones in the Middle East.

I would love to know how Sophie – and other journalists and writers, artists, front line workers and humanitarians working in crises – step away from work and live life when they have seen the unspeakable. It must lend a pretty powerful perspective.

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

Something I try to subscribe to – do what matters, and the rest will follow.

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This conversation is brought to you by Think Bespoke, providing LinkedIn training for individuals and organisations in Melbourne and Sydney.

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.