Work-life balance means something different to everyone. Talk to 10 people and you might get 10 different answers. Some people don’t even call it work-life balance, preferring the terms work-life integration, work-life harmony or work-life blend.
For some people, it might mean being able to leave work every day at 3.30pm on the dot to pick up their kids from school. For others, it might mean able to work remotely a few times a week. And for another group of people, it might mean be able to take 3 months off the year to travel.
We spoke to 20 female leaders, startup founders, executives and entrepreneurs and asked them to define what work-life balance meant to them.
Anne-Laure Le Cunff // Founder of Ness Labs, an award-winning venture studio building products that focus on wellness, creativity, and culture
I don’t believe in work-life balance in the traditional way. I think that your work should fuel your life and your life should fuel your work. I don’t think blurred lines between the two are a bad thing. The energy from one can fuel the other. Personal and professional growth are deeply intertwined.
Mariam Mohammed // Co-Founder of MoneyGirl, a social enterprise focused on making financial education more fun and accessible for young Australian women
It is important to me that work is a part of my life as a whole – rather than a chunk that I have to cut out of my life. My little prioritization exercise is essentially designed to make sure I don’t sway too far away from that definition of work.
Niccii Kugler // Founder & Editor In Chief at NASH + BANKS, a curated marketplace for people to discover well designed ethical, sustainable and artisan products
For me, the most significant learning has been in recognising what is most important to me, understanding that life often serves up the unexpected and then permitting myself to juggle each day according to where my attention is required most.
Shifting my career to focus on a cause that I care about has undoubtedly helped to manage the juggle. My work now encompasses many of the qualities that I prioritise in life, and it puts me in regular contact with incredible and inspiring individuals who demonstrate the value of building a business that consciously aligns with your purpose.
Cortina McCurry // CEO & Co-Founder of Caia, Australia’s first online on demand health and wellness clinic for women and their families in the workplace
For me work-life balance is about meaning and purpose. Specifically, living life on purpose. The first rule to that is ensuring I am spending any time away from family on a worthwhile endeavor, one that gives me energy as opposed to taking it away. On the flip side, when I am spending time with my family I put the phone away.
Shannah Kennedy // Co-Founder of The Essentialists, where they work to engage, educate and empower individuals, teams and organisations with essential life and wellness skills
I don’t think there is such a thing as work-life balance. I think it is work-life blend with the arrival of incredible technology. So for me it means flowing with it all, taking responsibility to create space for myself when I need it, and feeling in control most of the time. Life is like a river, that flows, and it has bends and twists occasionally and we need to move with it.
Amelia Ward // Head of Digital, Sydney at media agency PHD, where she is responsible for managing and developing the company’s digital offering
To me, work-life balance means making sure I have quality time to spend with my family and on myself. Currently my goal is to continue protecting my Monday off and keep that time aside to dedicate to myself and my family.
I always take advantage of anything that PHD offers to us; like Tuesday night yoga in the office which means I can’t make excuses not to go, or Summer Fridays where we get to take the afternoon off and enjoy the awesome Aussie weather.
Alice Clark // Founder & Director of Oomf, a boutique creative consultancy based in Melbourne and Sydney, working within the design, branding, digital, advertising, retail, and fashion industries
It means a very happy medium of working hard but enjoying life by rewarding yourself too. I work hard to provide my children with a great life. I work hard to deliver strong professional outcomes and I love what I do. I also work hard to have a bloody good time. My children act as life-anchors, I often wonder how I would switch off, without them.
Katie Walmsley // Co-Founder & Chief Operations Officer at Australian start-up BenchOn, a business only sharing economy platform
I don’t believe a work life balance is something that can be achieved and sustained. I prefer the term work-life balancing act!
My goal regarding the work-life balancing act is to not focus so much on it and certainly not put added pressure on myself. I find many people I encounter put a lot of energy in trying to achieve this balance but like all things, to maintain a balance requires constant reassessment and adjustment.
Monica Watt // Chief Human Resources Officer at ELMO Software, which offers a suite of cloud HR, payroll and rostering, time & attendance software solutions.
In my opinion, the work-life juggle is unrealistic. There is a work and life synergy as one impacts the other: the more you give to work, the less you can give at home. My advice is to find a job that integrates into your life ― one that doesn’t feel like a chore and which adds value in support of your personal and professional goals.
Carolyn Homberger // Executive Vice President & Chief Risk Officer at ACI Worldwide, where she leads the company’s Global Enterprise Risk Management Program.
I don’t believe in evaluating work-life balance on a daily basis as there are often factors outside of my control. What’s important is making sure that you have that balance over a longer timeframe. I think that understanding priorities and actively planning around them makes this balance possible.
Talia Lapidus // Director, Content at Audioboom, a platform for hosting, distributing and monetizing podcasts, where she works on talent management and development within podcasting across the network
To me, work-life balance means making sure that you value both your work and your social life in the right measures, and not letting one override the other. Once you let your work stress you out, it’s hard to then fully enjoy your time spent away from work as you still have work on the brain.
Kelly Campino // Leadership & Wellbeing Coach helping mid-career professionals with leadership behaviours, corporate strategy, quality improvement and more.
It’s a constant process of reviewing and recalibrating, but I’ve learned to really listen to my mind and body and give it what it needs so that I can be efficient and happy at work, and a present and healthy coach, wife, and mum to my daughters (and dog!).
Unfortunately, I know what it’s like to let the balance slip too much and be on the brink of burnout, so I now take my work-life balance much more seriously.
Lorena Sumich // CEO and co-founder of KIXXFIT, a new health and fitness app that has recently just launched in Australia
Work-life balance to me means space – the space between work and the rest of what you do in your life, whether that’s mental or physical, both moments and longer periods of time. My goals for work-life balance are more related to how I feel, rather than a particular sum of hours.
Ngaire Moyes // Senior Director, Brand Marketing and Communications at LinkedIn, where she is responsible for building the brand and protecting its reputation across Europe, Middle East, Africa and Latin America
I try, and ring fence my weekends and ensure they are dedicated entirely to my family and friends. This doesn’t happen every time as I’m sure my children and husband would attest but in large part we make it work. Having boundaries and trying to stick to them 80%-90% of the time works for me – but also not being too hard on myself if, on the odd occasion, I can’t.
Venessa Hunt // Digital Strategy & Investment Officer at GroupM, a media investment company responsible for more than $113B in annual media investment through agencies
I’ve worked hard to develop more of a healthy work life blend, meaning having a harmony between different aspects of my life, where there are benefits gained in each area. My work makes me stronger and independent at home, my home life gives me compassion and understanding in the work place. They are not mutually exclusive.
Jaclyn Majarich // Employer Brand Manager at Optus, where she manages the national employer brand strategy to attract top talent to the company
I know that I’ll be able to give 100% at work if I’ve taken the time to switch off. I know I need that down-time to recharge my batteries. I’ve experienced burnout before, and it’s not fun. I know when I’m reaching my peak and I need to take a step back and re-assess my priorities.
Melita Augerinos // Owner & Head Coach at The Lean Lab, a personal training and coaching studio based in Melbourne, founded by herself and Olivia Orchowski
Work life balance, for me personally I think of balancing as a forever shifting pendulum. At different stages you are focusing more towards your career or your personal life which means the pendulum its constantly shifting back and forth but never stopping or being stagnant in one position for too long.
Phoebe Netto // Founder & Managing Director at Pure Public Relations, a boutique firm specialising in PR for small and medium-sized businesses, charities and not-for-profits
I don’t want work life balance, because work shouldn’t have equal importance and weight compared to other aspects of my life. It’s not a realistic expectation, because even at work, life is never far from your mind and vice versa.
Instead, I juggle many balls in the air. I know that while it is a (sometimes anxious) juggle, some of those balls are made of glass and need to be treated differently, while others can be dropped. Being able to understand which is which is, for me, a good work life combination.
Sara Tweedly // Group Executive, Digital & Marketing at financial comparison site CANSTAR, where she is responsible for developing and leading the implementation of the company’s digital and marketing strategy
I don’t feel that a work-life balance for me is about limiting myself to working the usual set working hours. I’m not a 9-5 worker and I’m okay with that, and so is my employer.
The balance for me is about getting the job done at the most opportune time for me and my family. I remind myself that where it gets done in the day is not an issue as long as there’s a balance.
Kate Pollard // Co-Founder of Circle In, an Australian company committed to supporting working parents as they move through the parental leave journey
I would recommend deciding what is important in your life, prioritising those things, and working towards them, adapting and adjusting as you go to stay on track with what’s right for you and your family. It means that you can’t necessarily do everything all the time, but you make choices and you stay focused on the things that are most important.
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