Balancing the Grind with Hugh Lashbrooke, Head of Community Education at Automattic

Hugh Lashbrooke is the Head of Community Education at Automattic, the company behind behind, WooCommerce, Jetpack, Tumblr, and more.

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

I currently work as the Head of Community Education at Automattic (a fully remote company) where my focus is on managing an educational platform for the global, open-source WordPress project.

After initially studying theology and then working as a web developer for a number of years, I made my way into community work and have been building communities professionally since 2013.

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

Depending on the day of the week and how I’m feeling, I’ll start my day off with a 5km run before we get the kids ready for school. Once they’re off I’ll get down to work – either from my home office or I’ll cycle down to a nearby coffee shop.

Since my team is spread across the world and the start of my day is mid-afternoon for some of them, I’ll spend a little while catching up with where they’re at with things (we use Slack and P2 for internal communications). After that it depends on my schedule and priorities for the day – all of which I will have figured out the day before so I can hit the ground running.

I’ve recently been hiring a few new folks onto my team, so a recent workday involved reviewing trial projects for potential hires, drawing up onboarding plans, and working with new team members to make sure they’re on track with their work.

I generally wrap up my work day around 5pm and, while I try to avoid working in the evenings wherever possible, it is sometimes necessary in order to connect with team members on the other side of the world. As a Christian, my spiritual growth is an important part of my life so I try to spend part of every day reading the Bible and filling that cup.

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

My company is 100% remote and we’re flexible with working times, so I’m able to make my own hours. This is vital for me, not only to allow me the flexibility to work at hours that suit me and connect with my team more easily, but it also enables me to be with my family whenever I need to. I wouldn’t be able to work without this kind of flexibility.

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

For me, a good work-life balance is when I can have the time I need to focus on work and get things done while also having the time I need to connect with my family.

I love that I can take breaks from work in the day to go for a walk with my wife, take my kids to the park, do some carpentry, build Lego with my kids, and just generally do regular life things that a traditional office would prevent me from doing.

I make sure to always remain flexible and open to my schedule changing over the course of the day – I have meetings and work scheduled of course, but being willing to do something different at the last minute is critical to maintaining a good work-life balance.

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

My wife and I have been really focused on our health over the past year – this includes eating well and exercising regularly. The morning runs that I mentioned earlier weren’t a regular part of my life before that and now I struggle to go too long without proper exercise.

Eating well, exercising regularly and generally looking after my body has had a hugely positive effect on all aspects of my life – I can focus better at work, I get less tired in the afternoons, I can enjoy more outdoor activities with my kids, and my mood is just better all round. If you aren’t already exercising regularly, I can guarantee that getting into a good routine will improve your life immeasurably 

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

I read a lot of novels (currently enjoying all of Drew Hayes’ work and Dan WIllis’ Arcane Casebook series) as well as books related to my work – some recent reads that I can highly recommend are Lisa Cron’s Story or Die, Robin Dreeke’s Sizing People Up, and Charles Vogl’s Storytelling for Leadership. Another excellent read that has really shaped a lot about how my current team functions with our focus on social learning and open-source education is Learning to Make a Difference from the exceptionally insightful Beverly and Etienne Wenger-Trayner.

I try not to subscribe to too many newsletters for the sake of my inbox, but two that I love and always read all the way through are Community Club Weekly and Evan Hamilton’s Community Manager Breakfast.

I love a good podcast and have quite a broad range of interests there – if something provides practical, actionable information then that’s a win for me. One that I only recently discovered that has a treasure trove of wonderful content all about living a happier, healthier life is Feel Better, Live More from Dr. Rangan Chatterjee.

I have been listening to In Before the Lock for quite a while and really enjoy the deep community industry expertise that Erica Kuhl and Brian Oblinger bring to their conversations there. Finally, I gain a lot of value and wisdom from Timothy Keller’s Gospel in Life podcast.

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

My Kindle! I mentioned reading a lot of novels and all of that is on my Kindle. I prefer physical books for non-fiction, but for novels an e-reader is a device I would struggle to live without. My family knows it is always close at hand.

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

I don’t have any specific names in mind, but I’d love to hear from more people in education how they balance their work and their life – it’s the kind of industry that tends to be very tied up with your non-work life and I would love to learn more about that balancing act from people actively working as educators.

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

It really comes down to finding what works for you. You have to remain flexible to figure that out and there’s no need to rush or to set anything in stone – the balance will look different for different stages of your life and that’s OK. Always be iterating.

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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.