Irina Belsky is a Digital Producer at Microsoft, where she is responsible for creating all local commercial marketing websites for the business.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I’m the digital producer for Microsoft Australia and I am responsible for creating all local commercial marketing websites for the business.
I act as a digital consultant to the business and help define the digital strategy, user experience, website design and content for each new website we create for the Australian market.
My background is in communications, PR and content writing. I also spent three years in the UK, working at Google’s creative partner agency called Toaster.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
Because of the COVID situation I am working from home full-time. In this new world, my typical day starts with coffee, a dose of the news and a home workout. I also try to squeeze in a quick walk around the block before jumping on my laptop at 8.30am.
Every morning my team does a daily ‘chat and chill’ video call. This is a time for us to chat and have a laugh so we can begin the day with a warm human interaction.
I try to spend the first couple of hours of my day on deep focus tasks like developing digital project plans, designing website layouts or writing briefs for the creative and development teams.
Later on meetings take over! I might get briefed on a new landing page, provide feedback on web designs created by an external web agency or run a training session on best web practices.
I usually have lunch and go for a walk somewhere between 2pm-4pm depending on how crazy my schedule gets.
The day winds down at about 6pm. Whenever possible I’ll try to go for one final stroll to help me switch from work to rest mode.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Microsoft is perfectly set up for remote working. We use BYO devices, run meetings using Microsoft Teams and work with colleagues located all over the world.
COVID has obviously changed things but before it happened, I definitely found this flexibility useful. For example, when I had early meetings with a team based in the US, I preferred to work from home.
On days with back-to-back meetings I also found it more productive to work from home. I could start work earlier to get some focus time, avoid all distractions and simply dial in to meetings instead of spending time moving between different rooms.
On the other hand, my office days helped to keep me connected with my colleagues and I was able to be there in person for important presentations, workshops and meetings.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
Above everything else, work-life balance means having a healthy emotional relationship with your work. The way you perceive work will impact the way you feel during your workday and also during your down time.
It’s important not to let work consume you, especially if you feel compelled to work more hours out of a sense of inadequacy or anxiety. Work should not take priority over your health or other things that matter to you.
Equally, having pride in your work and striving to do better each day can help you enjoy your rest, which will feel well-deserved.
I am definitely a work in progress when it comes to life-work balance! I try to maintain a healthy relationship with work by focusing on the value I can provide to my stakeholders, integrating fitness into my daily routine and by building warm, positive relationships with my team.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
The COVID situation definitely prompted me to rethink some of my routines and habits. After about two months of working from home full-time, I actually found myself close to burnout.
This was surprising to me – I wasn’t working more hours than usual and I didn’t feel overly stressed. I was exercising regularly and making time to connect with friends and family.
Still, I began to feel anxious, overwhelmed, flat and struggled to focus.
After two weeks feeling this way, I did something that made me feel very uncomfortable and guilty. I decided to take two days off to do absolutely nothing and rethink my strategy for work and daily routine.
I had always thought that time off was reserved for sick leave and annual leave. Anything else could and would be construed as poor work ethic.
But this short pause helped me to truly rest, regain my productivity and also to understand the changes I needed to make to do my best while keeping well.
Practicing self-awareness and choosing to slow down have been instrumental in helping me manage work and life during this time.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
- The Untethered Soul and the Untethered Soul at Work by Michael A. Singer
- The Obstacle is the Way (the timeless art of turning trials into triumphs) by Ryan Holiday
- Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It (negotiating as if your life depended on it) by Chris Voss
- Presence (bringing your boldest self to your biggest challenges) by Amy Cuddy
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
- Instagram for home workout routines posted by these amazing ladies:
- Get abstract
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
- Ita Buttrose
- Amy Purdy
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Work-life balance is a very individual thing and you have to remember not to compare yourself with others in this regard.
Some people thrive on a relentless work schedule and to them, balance is the integration of life into work. Other people need a lot of space, both at work and in their personal lives to achieve a consistent state of well-being.
The key is to understand what you need, based on who you are and your life circumstances.
Start with small incremental changes such as meditating, doing a stretch before work or whatever you think might help you feel more grounded.
Apply these changes consistently over a period of time and see how you feel. Keep the practices that make a positive difference and build on them gradually.
Try not to change too much too quickly, so your mind and body have time to get used to each change you make.
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