Interviews / PR & Communications

Balancing the Grind with Jackie Hanafie, Founder & Principal Consultant at Humankind Advisory

Jackie Hanafie is the founder & principal consultant at Humankind Advisory, a strategic communications and advocacy consultancy for NGOs.

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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 worked in the ‘for purpose’ space, mostly with humanitarian and human rights organisations – I actually got my first job at World Vision more than 10 years ago, while I was still at uni writing my honours thesis (on the journalistic challenges of reporting famines in Africa).

Since then, I’ve either worked ‘in house’ with organisations, within PR agencies, or as an independent consultant to various UN agencies and NGOs like UNICEF, the UN Refugee Agency, Oxfam, International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA), the End Child Detention Coalition, to name a few.

The two PR agencies that I’ve previously worked in also focused on social justice issues. One in particular (Essential) is where I cut my teeth in learning the ropes of campaigning, political polling and strong cause-related media relations.

Prior to launching Humankind Advisory, I was working for another PR agency and then COVID hit. The agency decided it needed to downsize and I lost 50% of my income (I was offered 2.5 days per week – down from 5).

I decided to look for my own clients on the side to balance my income and as soon as I put the feelers out, I got a couple of clients almost immediately. Within a couple of months, I had enough ‘side’ work that I realised I could actually establish my own consultancy without needing my job – something I had always wanted to do but never really had the push I needed (thanks COVID!).

So, I quit my job and founded Humankind Advisory which I now run from my home base of Canggu, Bali. We provide strategic communications and advocacy consulting for non-profits and NGOs working in all areas, but our specialty is the humanitarian aid and development sector.

I’m the principal consultant but I collaborate with a handpicked number of specialist advisers to help bring specific expertise and insights to the projects I work on, when required.

I’ve lived and worked in Brazil, Colombia and Indonesia and so I understand the importance of cross-cultural communication and sensitivities which is hugely important in the work that we do at Humankind Advisory since we’re often working with teams in the Global South across different continents, cultures and languages (and time zones!).

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

No two days are ever the same in consulting or in an agency! But usually I’ll start my day early around 6am and spend some time meditating, then I’ll take my dogs for a walk either at the beach or through the rice fields (these are at my doorstep – very lucky!).

Then I’ll have a pour over coffee while I read my emails and possibly have a couple of check-ins with clients and do some client work (strategy writing, op ed-writing, drafting media plans, etc.).

I might jump on my scooter and go to work in one of the many amazing cafes we have in Canggu and do some work there (there are so many ‘digital nomads’ and freelancers here so the wifi in cafes is fast and the coffee is excellent).

In the middle of the day to early afternoon, I’ll either go for a swim, a massage or a yoga class (or take a nap) – something to break up the day because from about 4pm is when my clients in Europe start to come online so I’m usually almost starting my day again – emails, client meetings etc until about 9pm.

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

I’ve been working remotely for seven years (since 2014) – long before the pandemic! So I felt very blessed when Covid hit that I was already set up and used to this way of working and naturally, Humankind Advisory was founded on flexible and remote working principles.

We’re a global consultancy and work with clients in the US, UK, Europe, Asia and Australia and so being remote is obviously the only way that can work effectively.

Being the boss makes it much easier too. When I was employed, although I was working remotely, there was this pressure to always be available, always be ‘online’ and responsive on Slack and the constant need to update the team where I was at all times (e.g. heading to lunch/ bathroom/ doctor/ whatever).

It’s been a huge relief to feel that pressure and just go about my day in my own way without anyone needing to know where I am or what I’m doing.

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

I really believe that your work should fit into your life, and not the other way around. To me, that’s the real definition of ‘work-life balance’. Running my own consultancy, this is quite easy to implement because I work on my time, to my schedule.

If I feel like going to a yoga class in the morning, I’ll go! If I don’t feel like working for the day (and I don’t have any deadlines), I’ll take it off! I’m really disciplined and work hard but I think it’s important to close the laptop and go do something else when you feel like it.

Especially in creative industries like PR – you can’t always force the work if you’re not feeling creative or productive. It’s better to work when the creativity is flowing.

I have to say, living in Bali it’s pretty easy to have work-life balance. There’s something about the year-round warmth, the beach, an abundance of wellness centres and affordable spas and massages.

Also, living in a small surf town means that everything is at your fingertips and just a 5-minute scooter ride away. But it’s not without its challenges! The time zone can sometimes mean I’m working super early (I was up working at 4am last week to hit the Australian media at 6am) and often I’m working late into the evening with my Europe and US clients.

I’ve set boundaries to mitigate such long days. For example, I only work late nights on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays so my clients in Europe know only to book meetings with me on those days.

I’m also in the process of hiring an assistant who can help me with the administrative, client onboarding and business development side of things so that I have more time for client work and myself. I’ve also leaned heavily on my accountant because I quickly realised that it’s just not possible to do everything and frankly, why not leave those things to the experts!

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

One of the things that really fell by the wayside during Covid (for one reason or another) was my meditation and yoga practice, which I’ve managed to get back into now.

I find meditating early in the morning really helps to ground me and start the day off in a positive way, so I’ve worked hard to make that a habit again. I’ve also started turning my phone completely off at night and that has somehow (subconsciously?) improved my sleep enormously!

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

One of my favourite books is Atomic Habits by James Clear, and The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss was my bible for years.

The best newsletter by far that comes into my inbox is Strands of Genius by GENIUS/STEALS. They’re a nomadic strategic and creative consultancy and their newsletters are full of new ideas, innovation and other bits and pieces.

Podcasts: there are too many to list, but one of my favourites is Stuff You Should Know. I always learn something new!

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

I can’t live without any of my Apple products (I have the MacBook Air M1, Watch, iPhone, and AirPods). I love how everything syncs and just makes life so much easier.

Other than that, I highly recommend accounting software Rounded, it has simply changed my life (I’m hopeless with numbers), LinkedIn for networking, Asana for client and project management and Calendly for scheduling meetings – it saves so much back-and-forth!

And WhatsApp of course! Living away from my family and friends in Melbourne, I don’t know what I’d do without it!

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

Melissa Fleming the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications is a phenomenal communicator and a formidable woman. She balances her career and motherhood and has also beaten breast cancer.

She recently posted this photo where she’s transformed her ironing board into her desk since the height is adjustable and she can escape with it to a different room away from her family while attending to serious UN business.

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

I think that while the pandemic has been devastating in so many ways, one of the things that has/will really come out of it positively is the openness to remote work. I feel like it’s opening so many doors in so many ways.

As I mentioned, I’ve been working remotely for 7 years now and there were instances where my boss was really reluctant, at times, to let clients know that I was working from Bali. I guess that conjures up images in people’s minds of holidays, beaches, coconuts and not a whole lot of work!

When I started my consultancy, I was also hesitant to tell people I’m based here, but the response has been overwhelmingly positive! And I think the pandemic has had a LOT to do with that.

Organisations have had to pivot and have their own staff working remotely and they’ve all come to realise that working remotely doesn’t mean ‘doing nothing’ or ‘holidaying’ and in fact, yes, work still gets done.

I had one client come to me and say, ‘we’ve never entertained the idea of working with a consultant before, but with all of our staff now working at home, Covid has shown us that perhaps we don’t always need someone in-house/ onsite’.

I’m excited that things are slowly changing for remote work which just does wonders for ‘work-life balance’. As long as you have your laptop and a wifi connection, there’s no reason why you can’t work from anywhere.

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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.