Balancing the Grind with Helen Graham, Head of People at Home Made

Helen Graham is the Head of People at Home Made, a company on a mission to develop the trusted rental ecosystem that works for both landlords and renters.

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

I have over 10 years’ experience within the world of Talent Management, starting off my career in agency recruitment (as many do). The main focus of my career to date has been to ensure that I am building a well-rounded skill set in the HR field, as knowing the ins and outs of each area is always a great starting point for a leader.

Following the recruitment agency I then spent about 8 years in strategy consulting firms (Bain & Co, ZS Associates) as well as some time in Investment Management and a tech scale up. 

For the last couple of years I’ve been looking for a role where I can use my experience to build a new HR function from the ground up, but for one reason or another I haven’t found the right business or the right timing. 

Then in March I joined Home Made, a Property Technology scale up, as their Head of People. My role is an exciting one, creating and executing on a new people strategy, working in partnership with the CEO and leadership team together to build a successful business.

Home Made came at a time when I wasn’t actually looking (such is the analogy of waiting for a bus) but had always had a place in my mind when thinking about opportunities in the future. My connection with the founder of Home Made goes back a few years, and in fact Asaf Navot was my first hire into Bain & Company 8 years ago.

We kept in touch over the years and with Home Made’s growth as well as my own personal growth, we reconnected at a perfect point! (A great example of the importance of building connections, and keeping them!)

When I think about my career background and how it’s landed me where I am now, my plan to build skill sets across the board have been key to hitting the ground running in a scale up that needs a little bit of everything. My team and I are building out across Talent Acquisition, L&D, Performance Management, Generalist HR, Employee Relations, and Culture and Values.

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

Hard one to pin down! As many other leaders note, every day is different and that’s what I love about my job. If I could pin down a day from this week though it looked a little something like this:

Wake up around 6.20am and feed my cat before I leave. She’s weirdly gotten into the routine of sitting outside our bedroom door waiting for my arrival!

Health and wellbeing is really important to me so I head to the gym near the office for a class – I like to get this in early to get a fresh start feeling to the day (spinning, reshape).

After the gym I grab a coffee and then head to the office

I kick off each day meeting with the Talent acquisition side of my team to understand the previous days achievements/misses and their goals for the day

Next is a weekly senior leadership team meeting where we connect on strategy and priorities in the business. This meeting is often joined by one of the office dogs – which I have to say always gives a nice fluffy addition to the day

The rest of the day tends to mix between working on projects (performance management, learning & Development), to some senior hire interviews, to ad hoc employee situations to manage, to meetings with line managers/my team on their needs. I keep a to do list so that whilst I’m turned in multiple directions all day, I tick off key priorities between these meetings

Lunch is always a nice time for teams to head out and catch up – there are lots of market options near us in Waterloo, so I’ll often go for lunch with one of the team to catch up on none work life

The day also normally consists of a coffee run from one of the senior leadership team (we tend to take this in turns, coffee varies based on individual preferences and most importantly reward schemes!)

Teams leave around 6pm, after which is a great quiet time for me and some of the leadership team to focus on some key aspects from the day

I leave the office around 7pm, and most days its back home for dinner and chill time with my other half

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

As a scale up it’s really important for us to be present in order to understand how things are working and make quick fixes when we need to. We default to being in the office and can definitely see the positive impact of that. It’s refreshing to be back around culture and people on a day to day basis. 

There is however an element of flexibility, i.e if needed I may work at home to focus on a project that needs close attention or perhaps something that is sensitive and needs a private place to work on. 

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

Work-life balance is always such an interesting area and one that has been a hot topic for a long time. My personal feeling is that your work and your life should complement each other – you spend most of your life working, and so you should enjoy what you do. I have tended to find that when I don’t feel like I have work life balance it’s because I’m not enjoying my job. 

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

My prioritisation of health and wellbeing has changed and as a result I’ve reassessed the gym, now making sure that this is a priority of my week. The gym gives me energy, and a great endorphin boost before tackling the day.

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

I really enjoy listening to podcasts on route to work – a couple of work vs personal suggestions:

Work: The XpertHR Podcast, Disruptive HR podcast, PiXL Leadership Bookclub

Personal: Whilst I don’t have children, I’m a huge fan of Parenting Hell with Rob Beckett and Josh Widdicombe and then a nod to my childhood I was a big scrubs fan and so weekly listen to Fake Doctors Real Friends with Zach Braff and Donald Faison 

Book wise a couple key books that I always recommend to leaders:

  • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – Patrick Lencioni
  • Getting Naked – Patrick Lencioni
  • Bet on Talent – Dee Ann Turner
  • How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In – Jim Collins
  • Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike – Phil Knight

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

  • Wireless headphones
  • Citymapper app
  • Our automatic cat feeder at home – Game Changer for weekend travels!
  • Pawshake – again pet related but allows us to book in a cat sitter for when we’re on longer vacations

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

My old colleague from my time at ZS (we’ve both since left) Nicole Francis Mason. Nicole is an awesome friend and HR professional.

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

My last thoughts are, make sure it works for you. One person’s work/ life balance may work for them but it doesn’t need to work for you. Everyone is wired differently and prioritises things in their own personal way.

Build in what’s important for you and most importantly, enjoy it. Live life to the full – if you’re not happy then change the situation. You write your own narrative so go own it! 

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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.