Balancing the Grind with Peita Pacey, Head of Strategy at OMD Sydney

Peita Pacey is the Head of Strategy at OMD Sydney, one of Australia’s largest media and communications agency. On the side, she also works as a marriage celebrant.

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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 working in the media and marketing industry for 20+ years now, both in the Australian & UK markets. My time has predominantly been spent at media agencies, and my current role is Head of Strategy for the Sydney OMD office.

I’ve also been moonlighting as a marriage celebrant for the past 9 years, so with these two roles in tandem I’d argue I have the best professional career around!

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

Whilst every day looks different for me, there are some key landmarks that remain constant and I’ve found the best approach to balance this out over the course of a week, rather than day by day.

Typically, I wake early to walk my young puppy, Otis. Weirdly, my favourite mornings are when it’s pouring with rain and we get to stomp around the neighbourhood puddles. There’s something rewarding about knowing you’ve been out experiencing nature before the real day even starts.

Next, it’s either the morning pandemonium of getting the kids to school or listening to a podcast during the commute into work – my husband and I share the parenting and domestic load equally so we alternate.

Wherever I’m working, at home or in the office, the day often unfolds in a sea of emails, meetings, VCs and media strategy work, with hopefully some lively social chat peppered through. It’s busy, it’s varied, it can be stressful and I love it.

I always make sure I have a tasty lunch and it’s often eaten at my desk so that I can be home earlier. My productivity tends to wane around 5ish, so soon after I head home to reboot and to catch up with the family over dinner. My day ends with a TV date with my husband and some quality Otis cuddling.

Let me be clear about something though, I actively choose to constrain my work days like this and to stick to these hours as often as I can. I used to think that I had to be on call all the time and that I had to play rescuer when any problem flared, which affected not only my home life, naturally, but also the way I approached management of my teams.

By making the commitment to give myself the space I need, frees up any desire to micromanage. Having faith in the people you’ve employed and trained is so important if you want them to flourish.

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

OMD has always been a great supporter of offering as much autonomy as is feasible to its employees. They trust us to find a working pattern that allows us to be at our most productive, and to balance our whole lives.

I’ve worked in many other agencies, and no-one does genuine flexible working like OMD. Prior to the pandemic, I worked from home regularly and relished the flexibility and energy it gave me throughout the day.

In a role that requires me to concentrate deeply for long periods of time, being able to work to my own ultradian rhythm is critical. Since we’ve returned to the office, our flexibility policy has been expanded allowing me to work from home 40% of the week, and this has been supported with the equipment and technology to facilitate it.

For me, it’s a game changer removing an enormous amount of time-based stress that I used to experience balancing Sydney traffic, family life and my profession.

I had always reluctantly intended to step back from my career once my oldest child started high school, knowing that if I was in the office then I wasn’t home to catch those little moments when teenagers need you the most.

Flexible working now means that either my husband or myself are home every afternoon, so neither of us has to give up our hard-earned careers, nor sacrifice the wellbeing of our family. It’s a win/win.

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

Having been a working parent for close to 13 years now, work-life balance is critical. Raising a young family is a heavy load when trying to also build your career, and the balancing act can get wobbly.

In my younger years, I was so focused on work, I would be too tired to work on my own outside interests. We know that parents have hardly any time to themselves as it is, so combined with that focus – well, let’s just say it isn’t sustainable in the long run if you want a fulfilling life.

What I’ve learnt in the past few years is that if I don’t stay connected to the private Peita Pacey, then the public Peita Pacey doesn’t work either. Every person will achieve that differently based on their personality and personal situation, but it’s a daily thing and I try to ensure I have a weekly reset to keep me tethered.

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

I try to get an extra hour of sleep in the morning if I don’t have to commute, and I am totally committed to my exercise schedule. It’s only 3-4 days a week, but man it makes ALL the difference.

Also, I’ve just started exploring alcohol free wine and found a few great options, so I can indulge in a drink after work without any of the guilt or side effects.

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

I’m currently working my way through the Ken Follett medieval series, The Pillars of the Earth – it’s emotional and escapist and makes me grateful I wasn’t born in a time when long dresses and mud were the norm. I can’t go past a bit of Brene Brown (Unlocking Us or Dare to Lead) at the moment, Russell Brand too and Scott Galloway for all things advertising and business.

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

I’m sorry to say that my iPhone has everything I need.

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

Jacinda Ardern.

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

Two great pieces of advice that were given to me:

  1. If you can throw money at the issue to help relieve your stress, do it. So hire the nanny, get in the ready-made meals, employ cleaners – whatever your pressure point is, consider the spending of money an investment in your sanity and your future self.
  2. You can have everything, but not all at the same time.

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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.