Balancing the Grind with Lauren Faulkner, General Manager at Sabio

Lauren Faulkner is the General Manager at Sabio, an industry leading and agile creative marketing agency.

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

It’s been a wild ride! After spending 2.5 years at university thinking I wanted to be a journalist, one (very brief) stint in a newsroom changed my trajectory and left me floundering for my next move. Thankfully for me, I was able to secure an internship at Red PR (now The Red Republic), which turned into a graduate job that kick started my career as a publicist.

I stayed at the agency for five years, before a six-month stint in New Zealand, working for a fashion and importing brand that was stocked in some of the country’s biggest retailers. This is where things took a turn.

I moved to New Zealand to be with my partner at the time, who worked over there, however what I didn’t realise until I had settled in was that I was unconsciously committing to sacrificing my ambition to better his. Thankfully, I was able to recognise this very quickly and, after six months, decided to get back in the driver’s seat – which is when I found Sabio (formerly P4 Group).

I started my journey at Sabio as an Account Manager, working across an exciting portfolio of clients – from Supercars through to Government campaigns and everything in between! I was also lucky enough to work with an insanely talented group of women, who remain my closest friends today.

As a result of my penny drop moment in New Zealand and my passion for the craft of communications, my career trajectory became more and more clear as I worked in varying roles at Sabio but, ultimately, the thing that set my heart alight was People and Culture.

Thankfully for me, Sabio’s Leadership Team, and particularly our CEO, believed in my capabilities and trusted me to take our approach to People and Culture and run with it.

Fast forward seven and a half years from my days as an Account Manager and I am the General Manager at Sabio, where I have a particular focus on attracting and retaining talent. Our team is the heartbeat of the agency and I am proud to work with the fleet of powerful creatives they are.

Over the last six months, we have implemented several great initiatives, including an enhanced Work-life Balance policy, which includes:

  • 9-day working fortnight for all FTEs when full time hours are condensed within nine working days
  • Enhanced work from home offering 
  • Flexible working hours spanning eight working hours either side of core operating hours of 9:30am – 3:30pm
  • Paid birthday leave
  • Women’s Health, and Paid Maternity and Parental entitlements to provide the team with the support they need when planning for and raising a family. This also includes enhanced compassionate leave and reduced working days while undergoing fertility treatment, menopause or other circumstances.

We also have an EAP program that provides our team the opportunity to access hour-long confidential sessions with a psychosocial therapist and workplace wellbeing expert, to support them to be their best selves in and out of the office.

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

Like many people working in an agency environment, it’s very hard to define an average day, as most of my days are far from average!

Today, my day went a little something like this:

4:32am – my alarm goes off and I race out of bed to get ready for the gym without waking up the household

5:10am – 50-minute cardio class, joined by our Creative Director at Sabio (she can’t get enough of me!)

6:15am – on my way to the office, I always stop off at my favourite coffee shop and pick up an iced long black, regardless of the temperature outside. This ritual is important to me because it’s a small, daily treat that kicks the day off on a positive (and the smile from my barista helps!)

6:30am – arrive at the office to shower, but always make sure the music is on to set the tone for the day

7:00am – my workday begins, and I kick it off with a ‘to do’ list for the day, followed by jumping straight into client deliverables

10:00am – team meeting

11:00am – an exciting client briefing, followed by a team brainstorm to get the creative juices flowing

12:00pm – filmed a fun content piece for the agency, showcasing how our integrated offering can support businesses

1:00pm – a lunchtime stroll with our Communications Director and one of our Senior Account Managers. We may or may not have returned with treats

2:00pm onwards – client and internal meetings

4:00pm – arrived home, changed into my activewear and got in the car with my fiancé for some afternoon movement

4:30pm – a sunset walk by the water, taking in some fresh air and listening to my favourite podcast

5:30pm – home to cook a roast dinner, feed puppies and do some life admin

7:00pm – settle in on the couch to unwind for the night

9:00pm – my bedtime routine begins, and I get ready to do it all again tomorrow!

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

Put simply, to me work-life balance means maintaining a healthy relationship with work that doesn’t detract from your ability to experience in life.

A lot of this is to do with setting boundaries, but it’s also knowing yourself and being empowered to make decisions in your day that enable a healthy work-life balance. What might be considered okay for one person, isn’t always okay for another, and it’s up to each of us to know when we’re starting to feel burnout creep or an imbalance between work and life.

I am personally still a work in progress when it comes to work-life balance. Some days I get it right and other days I stumble, but on the days that I nail it, it’s because I set a clear plan for the day and set realistic turnaround times for anything else that falls outside of this. I’ve also become very good at staying accountable to myself and something that helps to drive this is knowing that my actions influence others, particularly our team at Sabio.

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

The biggest change I have made in my life has come as a result of our Work-life Balance policy at Sabio and it has been life changing (I’m not joking!)

I personally take advantage of the opportunity to start work at 7am and finish at 3:30pm everyday, which allows me to spend my afternoon doing things I love – cooking, spending time with my partner, planning my upcoming wedding and, most importantly, I disconnect from the day and reconnect with myself, which is an activity I underrated for too long!!

I also recently invested in a Fitbit and love checking in on my steps throughout the day, to ensure I’m being accountable to myself and my movement. It was so alarming when I first started wearing it and realised how stagnant I was throughout the day!

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

I’m not a big reader, however I am an avid podcast listener and can’t go past ‘The Diary Of A CEO,’ hosted by Steven Bartlett. It’s a constant source of learning, inspiration and ‘ah ha’ moments and his guests are captivating.

My guilty pleasure is my best friend’s podcast – Confessions of a Trainwreck.

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

Off the back of my ‘Diary of a CEO’ recommendation, I can’t go past Mo Gawdat, whose mission is to help one billion people become happier through the #OneBillionHappy mission. He has such an incredible perspective on life and has experienced pressure, stress and sadness at some of the highest levels.

What I love about Mo’s outlook on life is that he approaches everything with a positive mindset. An example of this was the catalyst for his #OneBillionHappy mission, which was the passing of his young son Ali, who inspired him to be happy in every moment.

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

Speaking as someone who has glorified being ‘busy’ in the past, I can tell you that the days of long hours defining your success, work ethic or intelligence are gone. In fact, I don’t know if they ever were really a thing, or if someone just decided that the two were related – regardless, that’s just not it.

Achieving a healthy relationship with work is like baking a cake – you need the perfect amount of everything and need to avoid the temptation of adding more or less than what the recipe asks of you. In the case of my own life, these are the ingredients that make the perfect cake –

The cake:

  • At least 45 minutes of movement per day
  • A supportive, successful and FUN work environment
  • A happy, healthy team that are engaged in the workplace
  • My own professional ‘wins’
  • Leaving the office on time
  • Healthy, nourishing food – no restrictions
  • Disconnected weekends
  • A supportive circle of friends and family, especially my Mum, Dad and brother who are so important to me
  • A patient, loving partner who accepts every piece of me
  • Laughter

The icing:

  • Regular holidays
  • Taking advantage of our 9-day fortnight at Sabio
  • Reality TV – sorry, not sorry
  • Margaritas (both in pizza and cocktail form!)
  • The right balance of alone time and socialising on the weekend  

The sprinkles:

  • Spending time with two of my little cousins (aged 3 and 6), who are just the best! A day with them puts everything in perspective and I feel so lucky to be able to be a part of their lives from such a young age.

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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.