Fact or Fiction: Work-Life Balance? 3 Leaders Share Their Best Tips for Excelling in a Remote World

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Angell, Mann and Sweet

Photos courtesy of Gartner.

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Fairygodboss
June 25, 2024 at 11:39AM UTC

In today’s world, full of remote and hybrid roles, the line between personal and professional lives seems increasingly blurred. So, does balance even exist? Well, it depends on your point of view! 

The biggest misconception around work-life balance “is that there is balance,” says Elena Angell, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) at Gartner. “To me, it is always off-balance, and that is okay.” Overall, “it is not about balancing for me; it’s about an integration and understanding where I am at any given point,” she shares.

Gretchen Sweet, Sales Manager at Gartner, also believes that work-life balance doesn’t exist. “Balance to me means we can do it all, all the time,” notes Sweet. “The truth is that isn’t how it works. Some days, work and life will be out of balance. Rather, at the end of the week, if we look back at the time spent, and if work and life are about 50/50, I call that a win.”

However, this isn’t the only way to view balance. Bee Mann, Director of Sales Recruiting for the EMEA region at Gartner believes that we all can achieve balance, you just need to do the following three things:

  1. “Ask yourself how important is this task/meeting to my overall objectives? If it is not very important, learn to say no thank you.

  2. Have your schedule management locked down, and ensure that your stakeholders, team and other associates have access to your schedule and respect it. Have slots where you can provide drop in calls and other needs.

  3. Have a clear to-do list for the day/week/month and quarter, and share this with your manager, team and stakeholders so you can re-confirm that you are focusing on the mission-critical priorities. Once confirmed, stick to it!”

Regardless of your stance on balance, you can find ways to succeed and excel at work and at home. In this article, Angell, Mann and Sweet share their best advice for succeeding in the modern world of work. And, if you’d like to learn more about how Gartner is reimagining the future of work, head here

Tell us a bit about your job. What’s your current role, how long have you been in this role? 

Angell: In my current role, I lead a team that is focused on community engagement, environmental sustainability and ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) disclosures. I’ve been with Gartner for almost three years now, and I consider myself very lucky as I get to do what I am most passionate about — advancing community engagement and addressing environmental impact. 

We designed our CSR strategy with the goal to accelerate positive social change and contribute to a more sustainable world so that our associates, communities and clients can thrive — today and in the future. And I get to be at the heart of it with my team! 

Mann: I have been in my current role for three months; however, this is my second inning at Gartner. The main reasons for my return to Gartner are the culture and the people I work with. Simply put: they cannot be beat. Gartner rewards hard work, and you get an opportunity to make your own destiny, which really appeals to me. 

Sweet: I manage a sales team that sells to venture capital and private equity firms that invest in technology companies. I’ve been in this division for four-and-a-half years and have led the team for two-and-a-half years.

What kinds of boundaries have you established to separate work and family time?

Angell: I do not separate work and family life; these two things are integrated. I love my job, and I love my family. Working flexible hours helps a lot. The key for me is to strive to always focus on one thing at a time. I am fully present when I’m at work, and I am fully present at the dinner table with my family, even if I hop on a work call 30 minutes after dinner. 

Mann: This took some time to get used to because working from home was difficult at the beginning. I had to train myself to ensure that I was productive from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. I set clear guidelines of what I need to achieve each day and ensure that I am respecting my time. To find this balance, I:

  • Schedule 20-minute or 50-minute meetings instead of 30-minute or 60-minute meetings to give myself micro-breaks.

  • Set time aside for strategy sessions and brainstorming.

  • Ask myself if a call/meeting is critical to my success. If not, I decline, and I do not feel obliged to join every meeting.

  • Make time to connect with work friends (like through virtual coffee connects).

Sweet: I have two phones, one for work and one for personal life. When I am done with work, I leave my phone on the desk and close the door to my home office.  I have people on my team who have kids and start a bit later, break a bit earlier and come back and finish up when their kids are in bed. I let them know that I work a typical workday; however, if there is something urgent, they can always text me on my personal cell phone for support.

What are some things that you could never do before, but can now due to Gartner’s hybrid-first culture?

Angell: There are so many! One is field trips! I had to take a full day off before, and now I can log off for a few hours, join one of my daughters on a field trip and, once it is over, log back in. 

Mann: I can drop my kids off to school in the morning before I start my day. I never miss dinner, bathtime or bedtime now! I also get to put the washing on during my lunch break or vacuum. For someone like me who is obsessed with a clean house, this is life changing! #BoyMum

Sweet: I get to live the life of “business on top, sweats on the bottom”. I can be dressed professionally while also feeling relaxed in workout pants. I am also more productive when working from home. I know this isn’t the case for everyone, but I am able to close a door and focus on work and the team in a way I couldn’t with people walking up to my desk on a regular basis.

How do you manage to avoid burnout while working in a hybrid/remote environment?

Angell: When I feel that it is getting too much, I find a day to take a mental health break. Usually, it is after a major deliverable. A day is enough for me to reenergize and dive right back in. I also take responsibility for my work environment — it is my decision to be where I am, it is my decision to work in a space that I feel comfortable in (pro tip: home plants make a huge difference!) and it is my decision to have whatever reaction I have — I might as well have a positive one!

Mann: Set clear boundaries with my family so when I am working, I need to be in the zone. I have ensured that I have a workspace that allows me to focus and get the job done. I also make it clear to my stakeholders and team that when I am logged off, I am OFF and I will see you tomorrow or on Monday morning. You set expectations for yourself, but you need to ensure you follow your own rules. 

Sweet: I start the day with the top three things I need to accomplish that day. Then, I block time on my calendar that is time for me (lunch, take a walk, exercise), time to learn, time to focus on a project and time to return emails.  

Switching gears to remote working, could you describe your company’s hybrid/remote work policies? How do these policies positively impact employees?

Angell: It is empowering to have a freedom of choice on where to work from. I find myself going to the office a bit more often now because there is nothing better to me for establishing great relationships than spending time with coworkers in-person. At the same time, I am in control of what works for me best on a specific day or during a specific week. My priority at work is creating impactful outcomes, not making it into the office.

Mann: We have full flexibility to embrace a hybrid model, and we tend to come into the office for moments that matter. This means I am given autonomy to decide when I need to go into the office and when not to.

Sweet: Gartner and specifically the sales division that I am in support a remote-first culture.  

Overall, what are your top tips for those who are navigating the delicate balance of a hybrid/remote world?

Angell:

  1. Be present in the moment. I believe less and less in multitasking. 

  2. Be okay and open with blocking time on your calendar for personal commitments. Own your time, unapologetically.

  3. Do not try to do it all on your own. Family, friends and coworkers all play an important role.

  4. My life mantra is, “be focused but flexible”. Make plans but be flexible with them

Mann:

  1. Set clear guidelines for yourself.

  2. Have a daily/weekly/monthly to-do list that all focus on your role’s objectives and your company’s success.

  3. Carve out strategy time — zoom out.

  4. Don’t forget to have fun. Put in coffee connects with your office buds ?

Sweet

  1. Be in the moment. Focus on work at work and family/friends at home.  

  2. Get rid of clutter to help keep yourself in a good headspace. And, if you can, work near a window and have a plant near you. 

  3. Plan time for yourself each workday and treat that time like any other meeting you must keep.

  4. Ask for help if you need it, both at work and at home.  

  5. Set your goal each day. I start my day lighting a candle and setting an intention for the day. When the workday is done, I blow out the candle and spend time with my family.



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