The Work-Life Balancing Act

Setting up early in time for the daily 9am conference call, meetings with clients to discuss potential new projects, the agonising ordeal working out the monthly expenditure and – most importantly – the 6pm curfew to have dinner with the family or make a friend’s birthday party can certainly take its toll and prove challenging.

Managing a business and doing everything in your power to be involved in all aspects of your family’s and friends’ lives is overwhelming for anyone. Here, Penarth View speaks with Steve Morgan, a Caerphilly-based father-of-two and owner of Morgan Online Marketing to find out first-hand how he juggles the problematic task of separating his business and family lives.

1. What does a typical day look like for you?

I know it sounds cliché, but there’s no typical working day. I’m a freelance digital marketing consultant with a focus on search engine optimisation (SEO) so my usual day-to-day work mostly involves tasks and activities for clients based around that. I also juggle running the Cardiff SEO Meet via Meetup and promoting a book that I recently self-published called Anti-Sell (although I try to do those activities during evenings and weekends) to do billable client work during office hours, corresponding with my clients’ working patterns – mostly because I do my best work during mornings and afternoons.

Where and how I work varies, though. I have a home office but also work out of a co-working space (Welsh ICE in Caerphilly). This depends on whether I’m doing the school run that day, or whether my wife is going to her office or working away. I also try to work four days per week instead of five, so that I can spend more time with my two-year-old son.

2. What would you say is the hardest part of maintaining work-life balance?

Getting the balance right in terms of how many clients you work with at one time. I try and aim for four to six billable hours in an eight-hour day, but that doesn’t account for holidays, or sick days, or if I under-quote a project (and therefore it’s bigger/longer than I expected). Despite having been a freelancer for over six years now, I still under-quote projects: the last two took longer than expected. This meant I had to work more during the evenings and weekends to make it up, placing some strain on social and family commitments.

3. What challenges did you face with maintaining a social and family life at the start of your freelance career?

I’m very lucky in that I did a lot of my networking pre-freelance and I didn’t start a family until one or two years into freelancing. It’s a lot more of a challenge now that I have two children ages five and two. That said, I thankfully can still network with people via social media and also at my co-working space, so there’s still some social aspects even if I have less availability to attend networking events.

4. Now that you have children, are there any added pressures to maintaining work-life balance?

Absolutely! Things like the school run and doctors appointments can eat into my work day. There’s also the guilt that comes with thinking, “should I be taking more time off to spend with them?” despite mostly work four-day weeks. I’m already spending extra time with them than I might not have done otherwise. And if I take any time to myself (which is important to do) I feel guilty that I could be working or spending time with the family.

5. What advice would you give to other business owners that struggle with separating their personal and work lives?

Separate your home life and your work life as much as possible. Try and get yourself into an office or co-working space that’s separate to your home; that way, when you get home in the evening, you can try to ‘switch off’ from work. If having an office/co-working space is not possible, at the very least make sure you have a separate room in your home as a dedicated office. I made the mistake years ago of working a full-time job from my living room coffee table and I felt like I was there 24/7!

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South Wales is full of entrepreneurs! What advice do others have to maintain a good work-life balance?

“As a mum of five (and a self-confessed workaholic) I often find it hard to switch off from work, particularly as I work from home. I now have a schedule that I stick to religiously, to ensure I have the perfect work/life balance. Housework, children, work and ‘me time’ is all divided up into equal measures and it works wonderfully. My advice to anyone running their own business is to make sure you take time out for yourself and your family – children aren’t young forever, and it goes by in a flash!”

Claire Roach, CEO of Cardiff Web Services and Founder/Blogger of Daily Deals UK 

“You work to live, not live to work. So the work has to be enjoyable, but if it’s your own business it easily becomes your life, and all consuming. It’s important to set defined time for life outside of work. Technology means that you can work around the clock, but the same technology lets us leave a voice message saying, “I’m not available, but will get back to when I can”. The rule to balancing work and life is the use of technology and learning when to be, and not to be, available. Honestly, people will not mind!”

Peter Ibbetson, Co-Founder/ Director of JournoLink

As the owner of an HR consultancy, I advocate flexible working and work-life balance to our clients. I set up the business four years ago and I truly believe I have achieved what I set out to do. With the help of my team (who also work flexibly) I am now able to balance both worlds effectively. Sometimes I find the work has to take a priority, and other times childcare and home matters take over, but it is important to recognise that both exist and need to work in harmony. Over the past two summers, I was able to take off a large chunk of the school holidays and will be doing the same indefinitely during term time to make sure that I enjoy the best of both worlds.  

Caryl Thomas, Director of HR Dept Cardiff

Article originally published here




Hotelopia: “Employees Are No Longer Looking For Just A Salary – They Want A Unique Package”

Hotelopia isn’t just about accommodation – they provide a full range of travel services from transfers, sightseeing tours, activities and car hire to customers and workplaces in more than 185 countries worldwide. Here, we talk with Jon French, head of B2B2C Solutions, to discuss the company’s unique position in the employee benefits market, why employers need to think outside the box with their packages, and the company’s plans for further expansion.

1. Evidently, Hotelopia is quite a unique concept. What would you say makes you stand out from your competitors?

I would say the main factor that makes us stand out is, rather than give cashback where you pay full price and store credit for future purchases, we believe it is better to offer that discount upfront from the first booking. For the employer partners we work with, we are able to provide significant discounts from our normal public price.

Of course, we don´t sell the kitchen sink; therefore, we like to focus on fewer key hotels to provide better discounts to pass on to our customers. It’s only natural from being in business for 15 years that we’ve managed to developed great relationships with our hotels as well as due to our beneficial position forming part of Hotelbeds Group, the business-to-business provider of services to the travel industry globally.

2. Should more UK organisations provide this benefit, or something similar, to their employees?

Definitely! Not only does it create value, it’s also a powerful internal marketing tool to motivate your employees by offering unique benefits in travel shopping. Travel is considered a non-negotiable ‘right’ by many people, and this has proved to be a no-risk benefit at no cost to the employer other than advertising it. 

These days, people look for more than just cash-remuneration – this employee benefit is a way to stand out from other employers. Employees are no longer looking for just a salary – they want a unique package.

3. Could you talk a bit more in-depth about the White Label offering?

Hotelopia White Label is designed to generate value for your employees, as well as customers, by offering either corporate or loyalty discounts. A customised web page is created with a company’s logo and corporate information, and if they wish, they can choose between offering a discount only to their staff members or a mixture of discount and commission.

Fortunately, we don´t charge for the White Label service – creation is completely free, quick and easy process and an assigned, dedicated key account manager will be on hand to give support to each client every step of the way. In terms of commercial models, we can offer: a discount directly to employees; a mixture of a discount of employees; and also commission to the employer so it can be developed as a revenue stream to the company.

4. Why did Hotelopia decide to expand and target the employee benefits industry?

There is a huge potential in the corporate benefits field, since the audience is substantial, varied and worldwide. The potential growth is very interesting for us to explore as we are truly global, and the market is turning more and more competitive with customers becoming experts in their search for the very best deals. To succeed, it’s fundamental to be able to offer the best price, and Hotelopia can offer very competitive discounts across our entire portfolio. 

Also, we have looked at the cost of acquiring new customers, and have found this to be a cost-effective business model and a win-win situation for all involved: the business, our partners, and the customer. 

5. How much traction is Hotelopia receiving from UK businesses as an employee benefit?

The UK is one of our key markets. We cooperate with some of the largest companies offering employee benefits, including market-leading airlines, high street and food retailers such as John Lewis. But we feel that there is still a lot of room left for us to grow and approach other sectors.

6. What would your advice be to employers who would like to introduce an employee benefit such as Hotelopia, but are intimidated by the costs involved?

The good thing is that we do not charge any implementation, maintenance or development costs. Once both parties agree to go ahead, it is free for the employer. It is a quick and simple process and you will be supported by your key account manager throughout the process.

The only thing we do ask from companies is to have us as a link via their websites, or even a newsletter they send out, which encourages staff members to take full advantage of the benefits we can offer to them. Obviously, those companies making an effort in communication of the White Label are experiencing the best results.

To get the word out there, it is crucial to establish a communication strategy for employees to be aware of the benefits, and we can fully support this by supplying marketing material, prize draws and exclusive offers. 

7. What challenges do you face in persuading new and potential clients to go ahead with Hotelopia as an incentive, and how do you combat these challenges?

The biggest challenge we face is acquiring enough internal traction within the companies and getting clients focused on what they can achieve by implementing Hotelopia.

Our key success stories are normally with companies that have a specific focus on benefits and communicate it accordingly; we can work with our partners to showcase how it all works, as well as provide a revenue stream for them depending on the commercial offer involved.

Recent industry discussion has shown that it’s not just about money for employees – engagement is paramount for staff retention. Especially when budgets are tight, if you can give employees perks, then that in itself can make a huge difference.

8. Are there any new developments that Hotelopia as a company is working on at the moment?

Yes, we are constantly looking at ways we can improve our customer experience, and adding new and exciting product to sell to our customers. We get great feedback from our partners and customers for ways to improve, and we always take that on board!

Hotelopia has seen quite a bit of traction in the employee benefits industry within the last three to four years, and actively targeting the sector within the last year or two. We’re expecting more and more people to offer this kind of benefit as, clearly, there’s a high demand for it.

Hutt: “Employers Are Far Too Quick To Make Judgements On The Wrong Information”

Search Party is on a quest to redefine how companies around the world are hiring their employees. Its recruitment marketplace has attracted millions of professionals represented by over 1,500 recruiters and, together, they are making the hiring process faster, easier and more profitable for everyone involved. Here, we caught up with Search Party’s CEO, Ben Hutt to discuss the company’s continuing success, plans for the New Year, and why diversity should remain high on the HR agenda…

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