December 2018

10 Things We Learned About Managing Work/Life Blend

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10 Digital Ladies and our 2018 Portfolio Award winner Lidia Oshlyansky, Design Lead – Growth Opportunities at Spotify, hosted an event on November 22nd to discuss the perennial issue of work/life balance or blend with 10 Digital Ladies cofounder, entrepreneur and product consultant Nina Lovelace.

The session was fantastic namely because Lidia and her fellow panellists spoke openly and honestly about their own challenges regarding work/life, leading the audience to also share their own challenges as well as tips on how to try to manage. Lidia was joined on the stage by Melanie Yencken, Director of UX at Patsnap, leading product design teams across the UK and China. In her spare time, Melanie is also the founder and coordinator of LondonTechLadies, a women’s network with 2500+ members. Our third panellist was Amanda Jones Floyd, a digital product leader with over 15 years’ experience. From January 2019 she will be the Product Lead – Premium at Spotify.

Here are 10 of the major things we learnt on the night if you missed this important session:
  1. Work/life balance isn’t just important for women with children. Although the panel agreed that having children was a major life change which had a major impact on work/life as it stirred up strong emotions, everyone spoke about how they all had to manage important relationships such as with partners and also the one they had with themselves.
  1. There is no ‘one size fits all’ to work/life balance or blend. Each person has to work out what tasks or relationships they are trying to balance, why, and how to try to manage those. Melanie says, “Be mindful of what gives you energy, know your values and the balance you need.” She added that as an introvert, she often needed alone time to destress. Lidia said she didn’t do ‘balance’ but did ‘blend’ – sometimes her children attended her meetings due to necessity.
  1. It is helpful however to ruthlessly limit or prioritise what takes up your energy and time. A top tip from Melanie is to “List out your daily tasks and mark them as either depleting or nourishing and try to get a balance.”
  1. Having clear boundaries that you communicate to others can help. Due to time differences across countries Lidia sometimes works different hours on different days to be there for her teams. “I answer Slack messages at midnight. But set yourself some boundaries, you need to be disciplined.” Melanie adds that if you are doing ‘life’ things, protect that, and be fully present. She says, “I don’t think about work when I’m focusing on friends/family events.”
  1. However you need to be realistic. Amanda adds, “Be aware of the company you are entering. If it’s a global business, there may be a requirement for different working hours. You need to make a decision based on where you are in your life.” Travel away from home has become less important to her after having children, she says. “It’s important to know your values and beliefs and see if the job aligns to your motivations.”
  1. Work can also nurture you in ways home life can’t – for example by keeping you networked and enjoying colleagues company, as well as the challenges of the work itself. Amanda says “If I’m going to be away from the children I love, it’s important to go somewhere you enjoy working.” Lidia adds though, “Work is not going to give you a hug when you’re feeling down.”
  1. Technology can be a help and a hindrance, the panel agreed. A show of hands to the audience revealed that most people kept their mobile phone next to their bedside table as they struggled with being ‘always on’. However being able to stay connected and work from home/ be remote thanks to tools such as Slack and Google Hangouts was a blessing, they added. Few said they had got this cracked, but a useful hack mentioned was communicating to your team that you would only reply to emails or other alerts on weekdays and perhaps at set times of the day.
  1. Knowing your limits, and having people around you to help you stick to them and not burn out is crucial. A few audience members shared that their partners had called them out when their work/life balance was having an unhelpful impact, citing examples of overuse of phones and too much travel causing concern. Melanie suggests, “Find your support network of like-minded individuals who can help you find your limits and call you out when you’re blind to them.”
  1. Women can trailblaze for men around work/life, but men may find they face the same challenges women have when they try to set boundaries, the panel agreed. The panel and audience cited examples of men who had taken extended parental leave and been sidelined. It’s no longer helpful however for anyone to assume a woman should be the ‘primary parent’ they agreed when it came to having children.
  1. You can’t always have it all, so don’t compare yourself with someone who appears to. There has to be a trade-off with careers and children, Lidia says. “I think it’s really hard to pack it all in, so let go of perfection. No-one is perfect.” Melanie adds that she used to compare herself to others, but now realises “underneath everyone has imbalance and struggle.”

To that last point, I think everyone is the room was very clear by the end of the session that work/life is a constant conversation we have with ourselves and others, and that sharing their concerns in safe environments is the best way to help tackle them.

The event was kindly hosted at the amazing Spotify offices near Oxford Circus and supported by the brilliant people from Bright Innovation, our marketing partners. We’d like to thank the panelist and everyone who attended, and our sponsors Photobox who help us to resource running our events.

We can’t wait for the next event on 13th December which looks at ‘Why digital innovation needs your voice: How diversity builds kick-ass products’. Sign up now.

Remember, if you have any thoughts on work life blend and would like to share them with us please comment below or join us on Twitter or Instagram.

As always, we encourage our community to offer ideas for our next 10 Digital Ladies book! If you still haven’t got your copy of our first book, Career Hacks, you can register for a copy here: http://bit.ly/10DLbook.

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