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




The Nightmare Before Christmas: Why Marketers and Retailers Need to Plan Ahead

Selfridges launching its winter wonderland on the first day of August was a shock to the system. Down came the swimming costumes and suntan lotion, and up went 50,000 Christmas decorations and fluttering faux snow.

From a customer perspective, it’s likely that Selfridges fired too soon. The campaign was instantly met with criticism. While some lamented the robbing of their final summer weeks, others decried the rise of rampant consumerism. Christmas is ruined.

Selfridges might be cleverly launching Christmas so early to scoop up trade from tourists, but many shopper marketers would agree with the outcry. Timing is everything in retail. By focusing on Christmas now, Selfridges is missing out on making the most of the summer season, and potentially even Halloween. Time and money could be better spent optimising these events and related purchase opportunities. Christmas could then be rolled out when the summer fun has cooled down and customers are in a wintrier mood.

That said, Selfridges has shone a twinkling light on the fact that, as Christmas seems to arrive earlier and earlier commercially, retail marketers really need to plan ahead.

Christmas has always been a competitive affair. Products and brands like sherry and Quality Street that are organically associated with the holiday become high-demand, while non-Christmas brands shake up their strategies to try to directly associate with it. Suddenly brands can find themselves competing against others not normally within their category for the most part of the year.

The latter has become much more sophisticated than just decorating packaging with Christmas trees. Innocent Smoothies’ Big Knit for instance, backed by Age UK, leverages people’s more charitable nature in the run-up to Christmas, raising money to keep older people warm.

In fact, Christmas in retail is becoming more sophisticated across the board as new technologies provide exciting and disruptive ways to engage consumers. There was a time when all brands needed was a well thought out TV advert to bring the nation to its knees. Coca-Cola’s ‘Holidays are coming’, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, is a great example of a timeless campaign that will never fail to get the family around the television set.

Brilliant Christmas TV adverts still have their place – who can forget Sainsbury’s ‘Christmas is for sharing’ 2014 epic to mark the centenary of World War One? – but businesses are increasingly embracing omnichannel activation to inspire their customers at every touchpoint.

John Lewis is really leading the way here. Both the Bear and the Hare (2013) and Monty the Penguin (2014) were launched via beautifully directed and emotionally charged TV ads, but were a central part of the brand’s entire Christmas activation, from online to in-store to the products people bought.

We’re told that Christmas is a time for giving and sharing – something that directly impacts the mindsets of shoppers at this time of year. Marketing agency, smp’s report, Beyond Demographics, identified seven mindsets that influence shopper decisions today much more than traditional demographics. These range from ‘secure’ and ‘conscious’ to ‘social’ and ‘creative’. At Christmas, people are much more open and looking for purchases that build connections and generate sociability. Brands need to follow the likes of John Lewis and offer solutions to suit these mindsets.

This is why planning ahead is vitally important in today’s retail landscape. Businesses need to assess the tools available to them and take a holistic view of how to engage with consumers. While Selfridges might have transformed itself into a summer Scrooge for some, stealing precious summertime from shoppers, the retailer has also taught the industry an interesting lesson in how to shake up its approach to the festive season.