Menanté Du Plessis is the People & Culture Manager at Move With Us, an app that provides customised workout and meal guides for tens of thousands of women around the world.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
My career to date is probably best described as a mosaic done by an unsupervised four year old! I’ve worked in-house, as a consultant, in-house again, as a freelance consultant, and depending on when this interview is published will be going in-house again soon no doubt.
Luckily, while the environment I’m working in changes consistently I have always worked in roles aligned to my passion – working with teams to unlock their true performance potential. My background is in Organisational Psychology, which means I naturally gravitate to the ‘messy’ parts of what it means to work in a team.
My most recent role sees me head up the People & Culture function for a fitness technology scale up on the Gold Coast.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
At the moment I am commuting back and forth to the Gold Coast from Brisbane which means my days start early!
I use the drive down to our Burleigh Heads office to go through my mental list of priorities from the day before and listen to a podcast to get me in the right frame of mind to tackle whatever is going to get thrown my way that day.
I arrive at our office between 7:30am and 8:00am depending on how forgiving the traffic gods have been that day. I spend 8:00am to 9:00am reviewing my calendar, planning my day, and prioritising tasks. I tend to assign each task an estimated time frame so that I keep on track. My brain has some intense ADHD tendencies and I struggle to focus if I don’t set myself up with a framework for the day.
As I work in a People & Culture role, a big portion of my day is taken up by team sessions and 1:1 meetings with Managers or Leaders, I tend to schedule no more than 3 of these per day for two reasons 1) managing the energy drain of taking on the emotions, challenges, and attitudes of different groups 2) my voice, if I don’t space out my sessions I tend to lose my voice by about Thursday mornings.
During the breaks between sessions I’ll work on ‘deep-work’ or things that need my attention for more than 90 minutes of concentrated work. In my role currently that can be anything from writing policies, compiling presentations or pitches for new ideas, or reviewing performance data and formulating reports.
As I commute on a regular basis, I aim to leave the office around 4:30pm to 5:00pm in order to make it home at a reasonable time!
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
My role currently definitely allows for flexible working. The company is relatively young, and heavily digital which means we’re lucky to not have legacy challenges related to perceptions of productivity.
I am an extroverted introvert, which means I enjoy being around people but I get my energy from being by myself. In a role where I talk to and work alongside different people and teams everyday this means I use working from home days when I feel I need to replenish my empathy stocks, and need the freedom to get ‘in the zone’ with big chunks of work.
I have an ‘open door’ mentality when it comes to the team’s access to me and I fundamentally believe some communication is important to have face-to-face, so I always prefer to be physically with them.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
An interesting question! I think over time our perceptions of work-life balance change. When I was first starting out, I assumed it meant not responding to emails after 5pm.
I soon learned that it was worse for my mental health to avoid an email but think about it for the next two hours than it was to take the 5 minutes to respond to it at 6pm. This is by no means advice for others, but I had to learn what worked and what didn’t for myself.
Balance to me now means that there is a healthy, and sustainable balance of what takes up my mental energy and focus. This doesn’t always equate to a 50/50 split of hours in the week on work and non-work. For me it means that the things I find myself energised by, drained by, stressed about, happy about, and fulfilled by are split sustainably between life and work.
Some days I will work until 7pm in order to close off the loop that requires my focus, but that doesn’t mean I’ve neglected my ‘life’ it just means I know that those extra two hours will allow me to truly relax or unwind when I do eventually log off. The next day I may wrap up the day at 4pm in order to make good traffic home, and do so without feeling guilty.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I’m a chronic ‘to-do’ list maker, and that’s something that’s been optimised in my day to day habits. Where I used to create new notes on my phone, write physical lists down on scraps, and keep my ever growing mental list up to date I have now streamlined that to live in one place.
I recognised that the more out of control I felt, the more lists I would start and never revisit – all of these lists then became reminders of how unorganised I was becoming.
Now I keep a single to-do list with a maximum of 10 items on it, all requiring due dates.
Something else I’ve started doing is being a lot more conscious of making time to read. In my own way I’m attempting the ’75 Hard’ challenge where you commit to reading 10 pages each day.
There’s a lot more to that challenge but I’m applying it piece by piece. Reading to me is similar to meditation in that it provides an escape from intrusive thoughts, and gives me dedicated time away from a screen – something that’s harder and harder to come by!
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
With my commute at the moment I feel I’ve listened to about 80% of the podcasts that exist! My current favourites span from self-help, comedy, leadership, science, and just downright weird.
I’m a sucker for anything with a long-form story format, so I’m really enjoying the Chameleon series and the most recent season of Dr. Death. For any big literature fans, Book Cheat is a great podcast that breaks down literary classics in each episode. Chat 10 Looks 3 is also just a 10/10 recommendation if you prefer open conversation styles led by incredibly inspiring women.
Books I’m reading at the moment follow a similar unruly pattern. On my nightstand you’ll find half-read copies of The Untethered Soul, Shantaram, and Good to Great; all fantastic in their own way!
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
I am a huge advocate for the sustainable management of our mental health, so there are a few stellar apps that help me manage my thoughts, and keep my thinking patterns productive.
Thought Diary is a great tool for anyone who’s familiar with thought categorisation and management. Similarly, WorryTime serves a similar function for anyone who finds themselves distracted by their own brains.
I also employ the Time Limit feature on my phone and set time limits on certain apps to manage my screen time, you can set and forget these limits yourself and change them at any time. I’ve found it incredibly helpful to manage the control my little device has over my attention.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
I would love to know how Zoe-Foster Blake manages a skincare empire, career as an author, and maintains healthy relationships with her family.
Writing is such a challenging career and requires such focused attention it is a miracle to me that people are able to consistently produce exceptional writing work – never mind also running a multi-million dollar company on the side!
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
I think alongside the massive shift in our thinking about what it means to work productively, there is a shift happening around our thinking about work-life balance.
Instead of bookending your thinking about balance by imagining a set of scales in front of you, always teetering between one and the other – give yourself the permission to design your life based on what gets to have your energy.
Energy is not finite, but it is also regenerating. While something may take two hours longer to do at work, the calm or reassurance it may give you might allow you to fully relax when you get home and reap the benefits of that time more.
We’re in a very exciting time when it comes to the future of work, so it’s only right that we re-imagine what it means to have balance and what that looks like for us as unique individuals.
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