There is no such thing as work life balance

DDB Group Melbourne MD, David Brown
By DDB Group Melbourne MD, David Brown | 1 December 2015
David Brown

There is no such thing as work life balance as you need to be 100% committed to both. The moment you aren’t one falters and that isn’t good for people, families or employees.

I believe passionately in integrating your work with your life. And this month at DDB is a great one to demonstrate just that. Two of our superstars return back to work having spent the best part of 12 months bonding with their firstborns. Whilst this is a success for the policies that we have worked so hard for at DDB, the greatest success is that two young mums get to extend the time they spend with their children and at the same time continue on with their careers. The job share arrangement is also a success for their client who will get two great people working on their business – one from Monday to Wednesday and the other from Wednesday to Friday.

Part-time is a misnomer to an extent because as much as we try to support the boundaries of the part-timers, the creative industry is a relentless one that will inevitably weave into many a “day-off”. The biggest challenge is the ability to switch on and off and on and off as required and the key traits to successfully manage this are flexibility combined with a regard for fairness and respect for boundaries. And this goes for the employer too.

No doubt the traditional work-life balance exists for some shift workers, call centre operators, those working in the shop fronts of retail and those in a transactional working relationship, for example, as they have the ability to switch off when they clock off. In our organic business by contrast, a business that changes by the hour, a business built on creativity and inspiration, you’re always on, or at least on standby. But there are still many women that want to remain in the industry despite its all-encompassing nature because of the dynamic and exciting nature of the work. Creating flexibility at DDB is important because I don’t want to lose good female talent. As the brilliant Bill Bernbach quoted “it’s that creative spark that I’m so jealous of in our agency and that I’m so desperately fearful of losing … I want people who do inspiring things.”

It’s not just working mums who need flexibility which is why during the summer, everyone within the DDB Group are encouraged to take “summer hours”. An early finish on Fridays. Do what you need to do, dry cleaning, pay the bills, organize the tradies, shopping, catching up with mates, going to the beach, gym or going home to sleep. Whatever it is, we appreciate that you need your own admin time, this initiative we’re keen to extend well beyond summer.

Work can consume you, and it’s up to you to find ways for that not to happen. It’s up to us as employees and leaders to encourage that.

So what I’m aiming to do once a week is to drop off or pick up my daughter at school. A small thing to commit to, but an incredibly difficult one to maintain. I try my best for Thursdays and I try my best for it to be weekly. Again, flexibility is the key here, maybe shifting a Thursday for a Wednesday, to afford me that special time each week with my daughter.

Other people may have different priorities and there will always be people at different stages of their life and at different stages of their career and priorities throughout change. Approaching the challenges of life and work need to be demonstrated from the top and adopted throughout the business to suit the individual.

It’s a demanding industry and it isn’t getting easier but it’s the industry I love and it’s definitely the industry for me. We have to try as leaders to find ways to encourage a more positive and productive workplace and I hope that giving people a degree of flexibility to better manage their lives or pursue their passions will be a win-win for everyone. With “summer days” just around the corner I know that I will get more opportunity to turn up at school and maybe even participate in a class, or two.

By DDB Group Melbourne managing director, David Brown.

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