Interviews / Journalists

Balancing the Grind with Jessica Yun, Business Reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald & The Age

Jessica Yun is a journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers who covers business, economy, workplace/employment issues and everything in between. She was formerly production editor at Yahoo Finance Australia.

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

I’m a reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age’s Business team. Officially, I cover food, beverages and agribusiness, but I also do some occasional reporting on the aviation sector when needed.

I was a Workplace/Careers Correspondent in my previous role at Yahoo Finance, so I’ve carved out a little niche covering work and employment-related topics here too! As the topic du jour is the energy crisis, I’ve been covering a bit of that lately.

I started out at a trade publication covering the investment and financial services industries, a few months before the Banking Royal Commission was called, which was quite a learning curve.

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

At first glance, my routine looks very similar to others’: in the office 2-3 days a week and working from home 2-3 days a week. I say ‘from home’, but I use that term very loosely as I actually spend a lot of time working from local cafes (my bedroom desk is no longer a very productive environment for me).

I’ll work at the cafe from the morning through to lunch, after which I find I need a change of scenery. Which usually means I hop to a different cafe, or I’ll head back home if I need peace and quiet to interview sources.

On the days I head into the office, I like to have coffee meetings scheduled first thing as I find it’s a gentle but productive way to ease into the day. Then I’ll park myself at the desk, wrap my head around what I’m covering that day and get on with it until lunch time.

In the afternoons I get distracted and snacky again so it almost always involves another coffee run. The last hour of the work day can be quite stressful for journalists as that’s when the deadline rushes up, and I’ve come to expect last-minute requests or changes from editors.

The thing I love most about my job is that it’s unpredictable (both a blessing and a curse). I could be spending hours at a cafe one day, and then be at Qantas’ headquarters covering a press conference the next. Just the other day, I went from having nothing on my plate to juggling a lunch meeting and two separate stories at once. I never know what’s going to happen and I’ve given up trying to stick to a plan. And if a story breaks, I have to drop everything I’m doing (if I can) to cover it.

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

Oops, I covered most of this in the answer above! I guess reporters have always had to work flexibly/remotely to some degree.

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

It just means being able to have a routine that works for me. I really value having the freedom to work from a cafe being able to pick which days I’m in the office.

I feel very fortunate that the ‘where’ of my work isn’t a hill I need to die on: as long as I’m getting the work done, it’s not a massive issue where I get it done. I really do prefer coming into the office though, because that’s where ideas get teased out, problems are solved and collaboration happens.

I’ve also learnt to adapt to the weird hours my creativity decides to strike. So if I’ve hit an extended creative block in the afternoon, I often wind up making up for it in the evening (it’s not unheard of for me to finish a story at midnight).

I know some people like to have clear boundaries and to be properly clocked off when the working day is over, but I’ve come to accept that my personal productivity ‘rhythm’ doesn’t really follow business hours. So if I’m in the mood to write or fix up a story and it’s 9:30pm, I just roll with it! (I can’t be the only one who does this.)

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

I like tuning into ABC’s RadioNational when I’m getting ready for work in the morning to get my head around the news of the day. Other than that, a friend of mine started a little book club at the beginning of the year to encourage more regular reading. I’m still trying to make the habit stick…

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

I’m not really a podcast person, but I’ve been really getting into Liar Liar, the podcast by investigative journalists Kate McClymont and Tom Steinfort about missing con artist Melissa Caddick who defrauded millions out of her own friends and family. It’s a really engaging listen and makes commutes more interesting.

Books I think everyone should read at least once are Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis and The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy. They’re both novellas so don’t take long to get through!

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

I really loved this desktop app called Station, but sadly it doesn’t seem compatible with my work account (must be a security thing) so I haven’t been able to log in and make the most of it.

Other than that, I’m going to go old-school and offer a rather analog answer: to-do lists. Couldn’t get anything done without my daily planner.

Otherwise, as long as I have a fully-charged laptop, wifi, my headphones, and access to coffee, I’m golden.

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

Hmm, good question. No one specific really springs to mind. I’d love to learn more about the daily routines of other free-roaming writers who also like to work from cafes!

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

I still consider myself fairly young in my career and think quite a lot about impostor syndrome. I’m also learning to be better at detaching myself from identifying too much with my performance at work, which can become unhealthy! I think it’s also something that just takes time and experience.

Success and happiness is something everyone has to define for themselves. Work doesn’t have to have anything to do with that – and that’s totally fine.

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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.