Directors / Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Karen James, Co-Founder & Director of Here Coworking

Karen James is the co-founder and director of Here Coworking, a purpose-built creative coworking space located on the Pyrmont waterfront.

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

My current role is as co-founder and Director of Here Coworking: a luxury coworking space for creative minds. Previous to this role I was a Director in Protein Studio, another coworking space in Sydney which had a successful seven year run before we sold the business.

I brought the learnings we absorbed over seven years in the coworking industry into our new business with the aim to see if we could create ‘a place where people would love to come to work every day’.

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

Well the new ’normal’ for a work day is far different during COVID-19. Typically my day ‘pre-Covid’ would be to open our waterfront space in Pyrmont and brief in the concierge team to set up for the day.

Our space is quite large, open and has waterfront views so it’s a lovely way to being each day. I get to socialise with our members and see how life is going for them and then I spend the majority of the morning strategising.

We are always looking for ways to better the work life balance of the space for our members so it keeps me busy. However, while we are working from home isolation I now run the business mostly remotely.

I check in with the concierge team in the morning via Zoom and we work out how best to collaborate with our community during the week. We set up a Discord account so that we can be on hand to talk with the members and let them know they still ‘belong’. I then break up the day trying to keep the kids occupied and take a long walk around the inner west.

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

Yes, we set out to develop the business as one that allowed us to take pride in what we do without overloading our schedules. During school terms I tend to leave to pick up our youngest and then work from home each afternoon.

The beautiful thing about curating such a wonderful community in our space is that I can trust the ship to stay on course while I am away. I’m supported by my incredible team on the front desk who keep me up-to-date with all enquiries.

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

This is the third business that I’ve been involved with and it’s important to learn from the mistakes of the past. Every new business has the tendency to act out of desperation to be busy, but the work will come.

After successfully building the previous business it occurred to me that if you truly believe in what you do and stick to your principles, the business will be just fine. It’s not worth working through the early hours chasing after the next nibble. Focus on you, your family and your work colleagues in equal measures.

Nothing should ever come between your own health and family. I’m lucky enough to have co-created a business that I enjoy going to every day, though it took experience to understand why and when to do this.

5) What do you think are some of the best habits or routines that you’ve developed over the years to help you achieve success in your life?

Sleep! I’ve always been a good sleeper and I often read articles on success quoting a lack of sleep as something that will impact negatively on your success. I’ve never had that problem so hopefully I can attribute that to staying sane while juggling kids, family, social and business.

Evenings are sacred to me as well. If you are working in the evening it either means you have taken on too much or you haven’t been productive/time-smart during the day.

I also ensure that I have a mix of family holidays and holidays with a close friend each year. To have some alone time with a good friend while the other half looks after the children has always served us both well.

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6) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

Running a business and bringing up children is tough. I really admire the book, He’ll be OK by Celia Lashlie which I’ve read a few times having had three sons.

I don’t really read any business books to be honest as I find that experience is so individual and unique that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’. I prefer to read fiction and switch off.

7) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

Am I allowed to say ’sleep’, again? If not then I would say ‘delegate’. It takes a long time to understand the value and benefits of truly letting go and trusting your team to take control of things that you don’t have time to do.

I’ve learned to delegate over the years and it is the one thing that allows me to make the most of the things that I need to complete the day.

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

Just that life is short and work should never consume your life. If you work for someone else, make sure you enjoy working for them.

If you work for yourself, make sure you enjoy who you are as a boss. Money, though important, should never be more of a focus than what you intend to get out of each day.

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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.