HR & Culture / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Lynnette Edmonds, People & Culture Director at Edelman

Lynnette Edmonds is the HR Director at global PR firm Edelman, where she heads up the People and Culture function for Edelman Australia including the Sydney and Melbourne offices.

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

I celebrate five years at Edelman this month. I started as Talent Director but after two years moved to HR Director, where I manage all people and culture needs for the Australian business.

My 30-year career has been a wonderful progression of roles and opportunities taking me from PR consultancy, to recruitment business owner, to HR Director.

The common thread has been human connection and to now be in an industry that is at the forefront of the employee experience is both humbling and defining.

This year’s unprecedented events, including the devastating fires, affected our people in profound and varied ways. As a seasoned HR professional, it would be hard for me to think of a more challenging environment than the one we are in right now.

But I would also say that supporting our people through this continuing period of extreme uncertainty and volatility has given new and deeper meaning to my role.

I’m so grateful that I work for a global family-run business that really ‘walks-the-talk’, with people and values at its core. That has helped with how we have had to navigate some challenging times.

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

It really is a case of no two days are the same when it comes to agency life, and I love that! COVID has obviously taken that even further and spun “normality” (such as it was) on its head.

My role over the past four months has changed quite dramatically – especially since we have been working from home since March and only just starting to bring employees back into the office.

A typical day now is getting up around 6.45am with a quick cup of tea, followed by a walk or possibly a yoga session, around getting kids off to school (my youngest are 16-year-old twin boys approaching HSC who leave the house around 7.30am) and having a healthy breakfast.

I try not to check emails until 8.00 and most days have a meeting at 9am (via teams or zoom) when I have my first coffee and settle into the home office.

The day is a series of calls/meetings and working on a number of different projects from refining policies and plans (e.g.: parental leave, flexible working policies, return to office plans) to sorting out resourcing challenges, designing training programs, employee engagement initiatives and loads of general admin.

I tend to take a break around 1ish when I grab the dog and walk to the local café to grab a coffee and maybe a wrap or salad if I don’t end up making something at home.

The afternoon flies by with more calls/meetings/admin and a peppermint tea break around 4pm. I try and get to the gym for either a 6pm or 6.45pm spin or HIIT class at least three nights a week plus Saturdays. I’ve also just taken up Zumba which I love.

I tend to do a bit of work catchup a few evenings a week, but that’s my choice and is because I choose to get exercise into my day in a way that works for me.

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

Pre lockdown I was already working from home one day a week which I’d been doing for some time.

I found it helped with balancing the week around a busy and demanding job but also a bustling family (three of my four children are at home) and the flexibility has been invaluable.

Now that I’m in month four of full-time working from home, my routine is pretty fixed, and work-life integration (my preferred term) is relatively seamless.

Some days are easier than others, but I work for a progressive business that understands that its leaders can manage their day and time accordingly within a flexible framework.

Microsoft Teams and Zoom have allowed us to stay in touch with colleagues locally as well as all over the world whether it’s a one on one call or a 5,000 strong employee Town Hall.

I live 400m from the beach, and nearby coastal walks are my sanity (the last regional call we had I logged on while doing a coast walk.

I also tend to take my laptop to the Coogee Pavilion (the Pav) one day a week for a few hours to break up the week and enjoy a more creative vibe. The Pav coffee and playlists are a reward in itself.

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

Work-life balance is a particularly relevant topic for me in my work as an HR leader.

Performance, engagement, retention and attraction of talent are all impacted by an organisation’s policies, processes and systems for optimising around employee work-life balance.

For this reason, I look through an ‘employee experience-centric’ lens and consider the work-life balance implications of everything we do.

Gartner research estimates that by 2023 fewer than one-third of digitally enabled workers will select the corporate office as their preferred place to work.

The shift away from the corporate office can be expected to become even more so post-COVID, and virtual may become the new normal for many of us. Suddenly, work-life balance is becoming an urgent and important priority for HR practitioners everywhere.

But there is another compelling reason for prioritising work-life balance. Our industry is primarily made up of Millennial talent, and work-life balance is a dominant factor in how these employees experience us as an employer.

Millennials, many of whom are digital natives, are forecast to make up 75% of the workforce by 2025, according to Gartner research. Interestingly, this population expects access to the same types of tools they are accustomed to in their personal lives at the workplace.

The implication being that we must all deepen our digital dexterity to keep pace with this Millennial-driven change and embrace those digital technologies and flexible work processes that enable optimal work-life balance.

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

In an interview on the podcast How I Work one of the interviewees had a great tip: finish each day having started the task that you know you will procrastinate on the next day, rather than get up without having started it at all.

Even if it’s just setting up the spreadsheet or writing the first paragraph or jotting down thought starters. It was a great tip, and it works well for me.

Another one is the awesome statement that someone delivered on another podcast interview (also on How I Work) around managing email chaos. We all know how quickly our inboxes fill up and can totally dominate our day.

This had always been a huge stress for me as I’m of the generation trained to dutifully and politely reply to all “correspondence”! Their comment was not to let your inbox become someone else’s “to-do list” and be aware that so many of the emails you receive are totally irrelevant to you and the result of people ticking off their own lists.

This was the most freeing thought and transformed the way I managed my inbox. If it’s an unsolicited email that bears no relevance to my role or business, I delete it instantly.

This has allowed me to focus more on the tasks at hand and be less distracted. To concentrate on my own “to do” list as opposed to other people’s.

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

I’m a member of AHRI (Australian Human Resource Institute), and their regular bulletins are fantastic to keep up to speed with trends, legal and regulatory developments, opinions – everything relating to people, culture and the overall employee experience.

Work-life integration has been a topic of keen interest for me for some time, and I have found the podcasts How I Work and This Working Life great fodder.

I have always had a keen interest in journalism to the extent that I once seriously considered it as a career direction. So that probably explains my penchant for all forms of journalistic expression, including podcasts.

I never tire of ABC’s Conversations podcast, which is enlightening and fills a need I have for enriching content on human growth.

A smorgasbord of interviews with people from literally everywhere and anywhere all under an hour. The subjects are endless, and I find my mental pencil is sharpened just listening to great interviewing and evolved storytelling. Perfect for that coastal walk or commute.

Reading (mostly fiction) is a passion, so I make time for it no matter what. I never finish the day without a few pages of a great book.

I belong to a book club with the most fabulous women and am thankful for the discipline this brings to my reading (as well as the fantastic book suggestions – the current one is Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell).

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

I try and keep this part of life uncomplicated as personal technology and social media can really take over if you let it.

In terms of staying organised Microsoft To Do is always open on my phone with folders managing everything from work, family and home to books to read, movies/shows to watch, recipes to cook, gifts to buy, etc.

When it comes to home necessities my coffee machine – one of the best investments I’ve made – and my soda stream (as I prefer sparkling water to still) are saviours, especially for working from home.

And definitely Spotify because music is a constant companion and inspiration and I’m always crafting playlists which is a form of creative expression for me. This includes Shazam – what a fabulous app and a necessary side tool for building playlists.

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

For me, I would be truly interested and inspired learning tips from women (particularly single parents) who have managed to raise a family, carve out a satisfying career, stay on top of their health and wellbeing, give back to society, know what’s happening in their own country and the world, read books and keep laughing. If they can also cook, then I’m in total awe!

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

A friend once said something that resonated with me: we all have the same time in our day to do what we choose. We all have 24 hours in every day – no more no less – yet how we choose to use our time is where the difference lies.

It fundamentally changed how I approached time and made me realise that I could manage it, as opposed to it managing me.

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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.