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Balancing the Grind with Marina Carbone, Head of Brand & Marketing at Sanctus

Marina Carbone is the Head of Brand & Marketing at Sanctus, a purpose-driven mental health organisation, focused on providing support in the workplace.

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

I’ve been in marketing, brand & product throughout my career, usually in roles that are quite broad and have combined elements of all three.

Over the last 14 years or so I’ve worked for a mix of startups and larger organisations before breaking out on my own to set up a small marketing & brand studio. I’ve worked on some really diverse brands and products across a range of industries, usually always in the B2B or SaaS space. 

Right now I head up Brand & Marketing at Sanctus. Here I work with a phenomenal team to shift outdated narratives around mental health & wellbeing at work. Through Sanctus Coaching (our unique 1-2-1 workplace coaching) we support and empower thousands of people to work on their mental health & wellbeing with a Sanctus Coach at work. 

I’m really passionate about our mission and challenging the status quo around it. It’s amazing to see the shift and emphasis when it comes to our collective understanding of mental health and “workplace wellbeing”.

It’s really encouraging to see more and more companies shift focus from “perks” like free fruit, yoga & bean bags and start to address more meaningful elements that truly impact people’s wellbeing and happiness at work.

Things like addressing operational & structural issues (work load for example, or catering for more flexible working patterns), alongside culture and making sure the right support is in place to ensure people can balance and thrive across all areas of their lives. 

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

What I do with my work days and how I organise them is guided by two work modes: “maker” vs “manager” (you can read more about this here). Working in a startup with a small team means that I am both a “maker” and a “manager” and I try as much as possible to arrange my days around these two work modes. 

What this means is that I try to cluster meetings together on specific days, and then have days where I have the full day or at the very least half a day of uninterrupted time to “do” and “make”. I will literally block out my diary and go offline on slack. This also minimises context switching and forces me to be ruthless with the meetings that I accept – and what I expect to achieve in them. 

Other things I try to keep consistent in my work days, regardless of whether I’m in Maker or Manager mode on that specific day are:

  • Checking in with my team to make sure we are all pulling in the same direction and clear on what we need to do. 
  • Getting outside. Even if it’s a 15 walk round the block to pick up a coffee. 

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

We’re remote-first, which means all of us at Sanctus work primarily remotely, though we have a flexible workspace where we can each go to work individually or as a team if we want to. We also come together and make sure that we meet more informally too in person (covid regulations allowing!). 

Making sure we accommodate flexible ways of working and give people the opportunity and autonomy to build their workday around individual life circumstances and priorities is a really important part of the Sanctus ethos. 

Whether it’s childcare, fitness, personal development, volunteering or something else – we want to make sure that people can fit work around other parts of their lives.

For me for example, this means I can make time to attend off-peak fitness classes and build my work schedule around this, rather than having to wake up at the break of dawn to cram a class in before the official working day starts.

I’m not a morning person and exercise has a huge impact on my mood and resilience throughout the rest of the day, so being able to fit exercise in, in a way that works for me is a game changer. For other members of the team, it might mean finishing earlier every day to pick up the kids or having a more irregular working pattern to accommodate for part time learning on certain days. 

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

A healthy work-life balance to me means three things:

  • Being able to mentally switch off when I shut my laptop. 
  • Having enough energy to be able to fully enjoy and be present for things outside of work: friends, family, hobbies and new experiences. 
  • Not consistently or regularly working beyond the 8/9 hour work day. 

How I manage to achieve a “healthy work life balance” will depend on the time and the season. My Sanctus Coach Sarah calls it a “recipe”. Some elements of my “recipe” I know I need to have as a constant year-round, like exercise.

But other parts of the recipe can change, based on my mood, seasons or what I’m craving. Sometimes it means I make time for more social stuff and see friends more regularly or take up a class & learn something new. Other times it might mean I’m able to spend more time with family or attend to less joyful things that happen in life that need taking care of outside of work.

The “recipe” can change or will need to be adjusted over time, but those three factors are my barometer. 

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

I’ve made an effort to reintegrate regular exercise back into my weekly routine. And I’m quite strict with myself about switching off the laptop after a certain hour as it’s so easy to get carried away and keep working when you’re “in flow” but the reality is you’ll feel it the next day and throughout the rest of the week. 

I also now always have something arty as part of my “recipe” and routine. Last year it was a drawing & painting class on the weekends.

Now I’m about to start a 12 week pottery course. I need to be doing stuff that is not screen based. And I find that art allows me to totally switch off by learning or focusing on something new. Also being away from a screen whilst doing this is just the best and I’m so lucky to have found some studios locally offering these classes in person. 

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

I mainly read fiction outside of work as it’s proper escapism and I feel like we are constantly absorbing and exposed to information all throughout the day so it’s nice to take a break and step into another world.

I love anything by Anita Brookner – she writes about the mundane, and often about characters with quite bleak and unfulfilled lives which might not sound so appealing but there is always so much wit and dark humour in her writing. 

Non-fiction wise, I’m about to start reading Lost in Work by Amelia Horgan. 

Newsletters: I love my friend David Mattin’s newsletter New World Same Humans which I read weekly. Also Ben Thompson’s Stratechery is next level. 

Two amazing books that the team at Sanctus recommended to be when I first joined are:

  • The Body Keeps The Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, exploring trauma and the link between mind & body.
  • Lost Connections by Johann Hari, which looks at a radical new way of thinking about depression and anxiety. 

Podcast wise – I love the Guardian’s Today In Focus as a daily listen or the Slow News Podcast by Tortoise media.

Also dip into the amazing interview archive from Shane Parrish’s Knowledge Project from time to time. And when I need an empathy shot in my arm, my go to is the incredible Strangers podcast by Lea Thau – incredible, incredible storytelling. 

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

No – just coffee and my phone. Both things I am working on reducing/limiting. 

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

Any single parent working part time or full time. 

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

The guiding mantra for me as a “life-check” is this wonderful quote by Annie Dillard below and the stat that I hold in my head around the fact that us humans on average have 30,000 days in our lives.

I check in with myself every now and again and ask myself whether I am happy with how I am “living my days”, knowing how precious those 30,0000 are, and then make changes accordingly. 

 “How you live your day, is of course how you live your life”.

Annie Dillard

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About Author

Balance the Grind is a work-life balance publication on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.