Balancing the Grind with Sam Hunter, CEO of Occupational Therapy Australia

Today, we’re in conversation with Samantha Hunter, CEO of Occupational Therapy Australia. Samantha shares her career evolution from community relations to leading a major occupational therapy body.

She emphasises the importance of having a “for purpose” focus in her work and the fulfilment she gets from supporting a profession that impacts individuals and communities. Samantha also discusses her unique approach to work-life balance, including her “dark day” routine for strategic thinking, and her recent endeavours in ‘ruffling’ and yoga for personal well-being.

Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?

I started my career in community relations and then shifted to public relations and communications, followed by consultancy work. After consulting for a number of years I was asked to act as an interim CEO for a client.

As they say, the rest is history. I am deeply committed to the “for purpose” sector. It is important to me to lead workplaces that foster better outcomes for our community more broadly. I have been the CEO of Occupational Therapy Australia for 5 ½ years now.

It is really rewarding to lead a team that supports a profession that actively makes a difference to the individuals they work with but also to their families and the community more broadly. I have also served as a Director of various boards for over 15 years. I think sitting on a board as a director is an important part of a CEO’s toolkit. You gain a completely different perspective by sitting in a different seat at the table.

We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?

Today I am at my desk for much of the day – in the office, with my door open with the exception of when I am in meetings. Mondays and Tuesdays I like to be available for internal meetings and the day to day work that keeps the wheels in motion – and to be physically in the building to connect with staff. 

Wednesday is my “dark day” where I keep my diary free of meetings. I work on strategy, reviewing documents, reading and try to keep up to date with the bigger picture issues affecting our sector. I turn off email alerts and mute my phone. 

Thursdays and Fridays I am happy to be more fluid with my schedule. I do like a routine, although I am notoriously bad at sticking to one!

Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?

An important part of my work/life balance is my Wednesday routine. As an extroverted introvert I find it essential I have some time alone to recharge. It’s also critical for leaders to carve out the thinking time rather than the doing time so you can process and park some of the work issues allowing you to switch off and enjoy the life part of the balance.

It’s not only important that I am fully charged for my team but for my personal relationships too.  I also know that attaining the elusive work/life balance is much easier when you either don’t have children, or have grown children. The struggle is real when you are raising a young family.

Change is constant, and it’s essential for growth. Have you made any lifestyle changes in the past year to improve your work-life balance?

Last year I started “ruffling” – it is my unique combination of running and shuffling. It’s actually more shuffling! With the encouragement of my son, I completed 10kms as part of the Melbourne Marathon Festival and then the 2XU 10km Wellness Run for Beyond Blue with my niece. I played more golf and found a love of yoga.  I made a really conscious effort to be kinder to both my body and my mind.

We’re always on the lookout for new resources! Can you recommend any books, podcasts, or newsletters that have helped you in your journey towards balance?

I have been a subscriber to The Growth Faculty for the past few years. Not only do they send me a raft of interesting reads, they also have a great webinar library and host Masterclasses. It’s a great way to have access to lots of different ideas and inspiration in one place. For balance I am a true crime podcast fanatic. 

Before we wrap up, do you have any final words of wisdom or insights on work, life, or balance that you’d like to share with our readers? 

Sleep, eat, move – there’s a reason that we constantly hear this advice, it works. However, sometimes, wine, carbs and coffee take a front seat. If they do, make sure it is for fun, not for stress management.

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.