Balancing the Grind with Renee Hyde, Managing Director at Howatson+Company

Renee Hyde is the Managing Director at Howatson+Company, an independent, fully integrated advertising and media agency.

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

After doing a business degree at UTS, I started my career at M&C Saatchi in Sydney working on brands like Optus and Commonwealth Bank, then went on to 5 years in New York working first at Anomaly then at Co:collective. I loved the energy of the city and the industry there, the changes and challenges were never ending which kept me constantly on my feet. 

My eldest daughter Anaia was born there and I wanted to come home to be near my family. I was lucky to land at CHE Proximity with Chris Howatson. I was there for 3 years, including a break to have my second daughter, Maya. 

When Chris started Howatson+Company, it was a bit of a no-brainer to follow him so after a break I joined the team this year. Howatson+Company is an independent, fully integrated advertising and media agency with clients like Allianz, Belong, Charter Hall, Maurice Blackburn lawyers, Noshu and more. 

At 48 people, we’re still a start-up so as MD I can be doing anything from unpacking the groceries, to chatting to CMOs and CEOs about how to grow their brands. 

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

My 2 year old has only just started sleeping past 5am so recently I’ve had the pleasure of waking up before her at 5:30am and getting a little bit of time to myself. My day starts with some pilates at home, then downstairs to make a quick coffee and get the kids some breakfast. 

I’m usually in the car by about 8am where I do calls – either work or personal related. It’s a bit of a running joke amongst my friends and family that you can expect a wakeup call on the way to work from me. 

Once I get to the office, I start by writing a list. Classic pen to paper in my notebook. It’s a habit I’ve had since I started my career and despite trying to go digital using tools like Evernote, I’ve never managed to replace my notebook.

I’m most productive in the morning, so anything I need to write or ideate around happens then. We have an all agency meeting on a Monday at 9 where we share all of the things happening across our Sydney and Melbourne offices. Today, we’re getting a tour of our new office in Melbourne that will open in a few weeks. 

Next I’m a few straight hours of meetings – a creative review, a meeting to share a production approach to the CEO of one of our clients, a quick bite to eat at my desk and then I’m onto a review for one of the new products we’re building and taking to market early next year, finally a meeting about a start-up we’re investing in and how they might position themselves.

I rush out the door at about 5:15pm ready to get home to the girls. We play for a little bit then bath, books and bed! I log back on and do some email triage, but tend not to do any deep thinking at night. Have dinner, debrief on the day with my husband and do any life admin and watch some tv before heading to bed around 9:30-10pm.

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

Absolutely, at H+Co we have a completely flexible policy and ask that our team work wherever works for them whilst being considerate of their colleagues and clients.

Personally, returning to the office has been huge for me as I thrive on human connection and also relish the time to be with our people. I also appreciate the distinction between work and home and the physical break of the commute helps me reset before I walk in the front door.

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

I am constantly striving to achieve it! In my 20’s, I worked pretty endlessly. And to be fair, it created some unhealthy patterns in terms of work-life balance. I have high standards and can be hard on myself. 

The breaking point came around the arrival of my daughter Anaia when we were living in New York and I was traveling to LA most weeks for work.

My boss at the time, the incredible Rosemarie Ryan, CEO of Co:collective and former CEO of JWT North America sat me down and told me to stop. She taught me that being a mother meant I would be a better leader, not a worse one as I feared, to know the power of my impact and to set boundaries. 

Now I know to keep a close watch on my energy levels, and to dedicate time for the things that are important to me (exercise, quality time with my family) especially in busy periods. 

I’d love to say I have it nailed, but there are still moments where I can feel myself going too hard and need to reign it in. Having some ‘rules’, being aware of my energy and keeping myself accountable to them means I can regularly check in and change things if they are no longer working. 

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

Trying to keep my drive home sacred from work calls and as a moment to reset before walking in the door is a new challenge for me I’ve been trying recently upon the advice of someone I trust. 

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

If you haven’t cried reading A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara then I highly recommend you do. There’s nothing more therapeutic than a good cry! And it’s based in New York so it’s nostalgic for me. 

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

Being connected to devices for most of the week, I actually crave offline time. I’m a sucker for a good book (physical) and I love fluidform at home pilates for a quick workout whenever I can fit it in! Oh and I totally got sucked into the Airfryer trend through covid and rely on it for last minute kids dinners. 

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

Jacinda Ardern is pretty remarkable – I’d love to hear how she’s managed motherhood and leadership during a pandemic.

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

  • Don’t be so hard on yourself, what works one week might not work the next. 
  • Keep trying to create the right boundaries that work for you.
  • Build the support network you need to be your best self.

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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.