HR & Culture / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Sarah Gatehouse, Head of People & Culture at Fujitsu General ANZ

Sarah Gatehouse is the Head of People & Culture at Fujitsu General ANZ, one of the leading suppliers of air conditioning to the residential and commercial markets.

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

I didn’t focus much at school, and I remember laughing with my girlfriend the night before an exam about how we weren’t studying for the HSC.

It was only when I got to the workforce, through boredom, that I needed to do something worthwhile and it was then that I embarked on seven years of part time study around an industry that suited my love of contact with people.

My HR career, which spans over more years than I want to admit, has not always been smooth sailing. In saying that I cannot speak highly enough of working under inspirational people who guide and support you and invest in your development.

It is good to work in a variety of industries to get broad HR experience. These industries have included blue collar warehouse roles with a big focus on industrial relations, employee relations, safety, performance, and more recently digital innovation.

I have been with Fujitsu General for more than six years and I am currently Head of People and Culture. Since I joined the business, we have been focusing on change management and driving a highly engaged culture, taking the business from disengaged to engaged.

I work closely with our amazing MD, a fantastic P&C team, and supportive colleagues. My MD has encouraged me to take on Board roles which has also helped me to grow and learn, contributing to worthwhile not for profits that fit within our values.

Every day is different, and I always look forward to what is ahead.

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

A strong advocate in exercise for wellbeing, I am up at 4.30am and on the go until I collapse hopefully around 9.30pm.

I spend a lot of my workday consulting others and I have more recently transitioned from the Senior Leadership Team to the Executive Team. My role is changing to engage strategically with our General Managers working together to facilitate general business growth and improvement.

We are building our agile workplace, cross mentoring team members and having all levels of our business contribute to projects. I have been heading up our COVID-19 response and we are planning to prepare our team for the future of our workplace.

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

Totally. As a people person, I do like being around our team, however we are establishing routines of at least one to two days per week remote with significant shifts coming in the business.

At times, these days are great for being able to catch up as you are generally interrupted less. We work around the hours that we need which is great as my husband and I both travel for work, with my husband more frequently away and like a lot of household’s those extra-curricular activities can be taxing.

When the children were younger, I could rock up at 9am or later. Now they are older it is more valuable to have me home at the other end of the day. Having support makes such a difference to stress levels and family balance which ultimately allows for higher productivity at work.

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

I did spend six years working part time when my children were little and I really enjoyed this time, however to be honest I did struggle during the maternity leave periods of full time mum life.

Rushing off to play group after packing up half the house and then back for nap time and housework for an hour was not my idea of fun. When I am going to that effort, I am out for the day.

Work-life balance allows both my husband and I to be around for the children, but helps me to have a growing career, contributing, and being fulfilled. It is a great balance and I look forward to working hopefully for several years to come.

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

Well I had given up chocolate but that has crept back in. Seriously, I love a green tea matcha in the morning with sugar free almond milk.

I have recently started listening to more podcasts. Weekly habits include a bath bomb soak with a face mask. I recommend a regular massage treatment, Bikram yoga or cupping therapy for wellbeing.

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

At the moment I am reading Stephen Hawking’s biography. I regularly read the Harvard Business Review and The Australian Financial Review. For podcasts, Everyday MBA, Crime Junkie and Australian True Crime. It is time out from dealing with the teenage years and really interesting.

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

Teams, Asana, Spotify and My F45 app. Lush bath bombs and Clear SkinCare facemask, and my mobile phone as my teenagers never let me forget about their existence particularly when they want money and I am in a meeting or quite simply when they have lost something in their room.

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

Probably Sheryl Sandberg after she suddenly lost her husband. It must have been such a difficult period for her juggling two children, a high profile, and a career.

Having nursed my husband through illness, it is a stressful situation. She would have felt the need to carry on for the sake of her children and her sanity. However, I also acknowledge the two parent working families like mine who also have to do their own chores in down time, it doesn’t allow much time for rest.

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

It’s important to avoid mother guilt – your kids will be fine! You are setting great examples for future generations. If you can, use a cleaner or get help to free up your spare time and enjoy your family.

Look after yourself; exercise, maybe a soak in the bath with a bath bomb, and treat your skin with facials, whether at home or in the salon.

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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.