Balancing the Grind with Lucy Piper, Director at WorkForClimate

Lucy Piper is the Director at WorkForClimate, a platform equipping people with the information, tools and network to make meaningful climate change.

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

My career so far has been spent in creative industries – film production, advertising and brand creative – with a decade at Intrepid Travel as their Global Head of Creative where I got to travel the world while doing my dream job.

This was an extreme privilege, and I found that travelling regularly across every continent was forcing me to notice the similarities between people, environments, ideas and issues – that the land, the sea, the air and our humanity is all connected. 

Becoming a parent in 2018, I started to think much more urgently about the climate crisis, and what it would mean for my son and his generation. After watching the heart-stopping speech by Greta Thunberg at the UN Climate Action Summit, I was galvanised into action.

Despite the brutal impact of COVID19 on the travel industry, I was still working in my role at Intrepid. So it was with a heavy heart that I decided to leave the team and dedicate my career to working on climate action. 

I am now the Director of WorkForClimate, a non-profit start-up that helps individual professionals amplify their impact on climate, by helping them drive ambitious decarbonisation initiatives within their corporation – for example by getting their company to switch to 100% renewable energy.

The goal is to build a movement of climate influencers inside of the global corporate sector, to rapidly shift businesses away from fossil fuels and into the renewable energy economy.

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

Running a start-up has been a big shift for me; having been used to managing a big team where there were different specialists who made everything happen, to now being in a position where there’s only a few of us – I find you have to get used to shifting gears rapidly from strategy to execution, and I love it.

Our main functions at the moment cover product, marketing and cohort planning, so day-to-day can be anything from creating digital advertising campaigns, to onsite content development, to developing the curriculum for our cohort training programme.

At the same time, a big part of my role is establishing credibility and partnerships with other organisations in the climate movement and corporations who want to take action. So I am often on calls with people to establish partnerships or collaboration opportunities, or speaking on panels and events (via zoom!) about corporate climate action. 

In terms of my daily routine, I have to diarise everything a day before, or else it doesn’t happen. I was given a helpful hack by a colleague a few years ago, which is to start your day with your calendar, not your inbox. I loved that, and it has helped me design my days so that they are more productive.

I block out key days or hours for things that are non-negotiable in order for me to prioritise: family, health, focus work. So daycare drop-offs are blocked out, running at lunchtime is blocked out, etc. When I feel in control of my calendar and my time, I am much more productive.

As soon as I slip on this basic hygiene, I find that everything else begins to untangle. Although I’m a slave to my optimism bias, and I constantly over-schedule, which trips me up regularly. 

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

My role is fully flexible, and I work remotely four days a week, with one day in a coworking space. Although I live in Melbourne, and we are currently in lockdown 6.0 so it’s fully remote right now. I also have a toddler, which means a day-in-the-life means prioritising adaptability. 

I have only been doing this working mum thing for the past couple of years, and I am astonished that parents don’t talk about this more at work!

Back when we were still going into offices, I do remember getting in the elevator in the morning, and there would be another parent in the lift, and we would both have matching bags under our eyes and nod silently in recognition of the battleground we’ve somehow managed to progress through just to make it into that lift.

It’s like stepping through this portal into another world where you realise that half the people you have ever worked with in your entire career were actually totally physically and mentally broken by the sleep deprivation and tantrum management.

I have found that remote working has been the absolute best thing ever for flexibility for working parents, so I love how my role is now fully remote.

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

Since becoming a full-time working parent, I’ve realised how much work used to take over my life, and that I relied on additional pockets of free time in the evenings and weekends to follow-up and tie-up loose ends.

But I can’t do that anymore, and it has forced me to focus more within those blocked-out periods on my calendar. Previously, work would always win-out over ‘life’. But now the ‘life’ part of the time equation is far more precious to me. 

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

After the extended lockdowns of 2020, despite maintaining a high level of fitness and running everyday, I found that I was eating junk a bit too often, and having a couple of glasses of red more days during the week than not.

So I made a decision halfway through this year that I was going to prioritise my health. What that looked like for me was quitting drinking, adding regular strength and conditioning into my running training, and not buying chips for the house any more!

The diet and exercise changes have been good, but cutting out the alcohol has transformed my sleep and minimised anxiety. Not sure how long I will continue to abstain, but it’s working for me for now.

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

I’m obsessed with podcasts that help me think better, work better and live better. My most listened to are:

  • The Knowledge Project – Shane Parrish interviews business leaders and thought leaders for insights and lessons to help you think better
  • Inside Influence – Julie Masters interviews leading experts on influence, and teaches you how to become the authority in your space
  • The Rich Roll Podcast – Rich Roll interviews athletes and high-performers from a range of backgrounds, and distills their keys to performance (usually through the lens of a health-first, plant-based approach)
  • The Hamish and Andy Podcast – crypto-enthusiast comedians Hamish Blake and Andy Lee wrap up all their latest listener power moves and specialist skills in the best banter package on the internet

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

Apps that get me off my screen: Strava, Podcasts, Audible

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

I have the biggest girl-crush on Zoë Foster-Blake: she is an enormously successful business leader (having recently sold the majority stake in her business Go-To Skincare for a reported $89M), writer and author (I love her grown-up writing as well as her children’s books that I read to my toddler!), and is a working mum juggling parenthood with a career.

What a legend. What a role model. And after doing a quick search of Balance the Grind, I can see that I will have to join the back of the queue as there’s a bunch of other smart women who also want the intel from ZFB!

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

Probably that you should never underestimate the impact that you as an individual can have on other people, and the world around you.

Every conversation, every project, every meeting – without knowing it – you are planting a seed in the mind of the people around you, regardless of whether they are junior or senior to you. You are already changing the world every day. Keep going!

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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.