Work-life balance is becoming a very trendy topic at the moment and rightly so. In the work place we are all waking up to the importance of having a healthy balance between the time spent at work and time spent at home with our families, friends and doing the things we enjoy. Everyone is confronted by the challenge of time management. We all feel like we have too much to do and not enough time to do it, with so many people working overtime meaning less time to pursue hobbies and maximize general life happiness. How we juggle our commitments and manage our time is absolutely crucial to getting the most out of ourselves and our lives.
I’m Joss Lowden and I’m going to try and give you some insight into what is it like to work for itelligence UK and race for a professional women’s cycling team in the hope that it will make you think about your own work-life balance.
I started working for itelligence in 2011 on the analytics graduate scheme. At the time I was really into my running and would fit my training in and around getting in and out of the office and flexing it around travelling to client sites. When I worked on projects that required a train journey, I would get off the train a few stops earlier so as to run home, throwing in some hill reps along the way. It always required a lot of logistical planning in terms of clothes, a backpack and route finding, but it allowed me to train and work to the max. About 4 years ago I turned my focus more onto cycling and started racing for a semi-professional women’s team. As I got more serious and the level of racing went up, so did the demand on my time and I soon I came to the realization: if I want to continue at that level I would have to make some adjustments. itelligence was already then very supportive and helped me to take the opportunity of becoming a professional cyclist: I started to work part-time for itelligence, now as a project manager, so I could fit in the travel, training and racing with my Drops team in the UCI Women’s World Tour calendar.
How I Benefit from Having two Passions
Sometimes it’s easy to combine being a SAP project manager and a professional cyclist – and sometimes it’s a real juggling act, but it’s always worth it for me. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to work part-time alongside the cycling because I can’t just ride my bike and think about cycling all the time. I have to be able to switch off because it’s so intense; every thought from the second I wake in the morning until I go to bed at night all comes back to performance. I’m always aware of assessing everything, so asking how much sleep have I had? How did my training go? How much rest do I need? What have I eaten and have I drunk enough? What is my race schedule like? It’s so important to have something else to go into, something that takes your brain completely away from analyzing my own performance and allows me to use a different part of my brain. Something I am very keen to keep working, as I won’t ride my bike professionally forever!
I am so lucky that I am able to work and ride my bike and my two professionals can work in parallel. Being able to work flexibly, from home, or from a training camp, has been the biggest factor in allowing me to work in this way. There are weeks when I have 4 or 5 hours of training for a few consecutive days, which makes it interesting to juggle project activities. These weeks are hard! I have others though when I have plenty of time and can take my time and go to the office. It balances out and I’m very lucky that itelligence trusts me to work in this way.
Discovering Similarities of the Two Passions and Profiting from Them
Another thing that helps me having two passions is that they complete each other very well. There are many crossovers, such as that I have learned how to work in a team and how to lead it, that I am able to work with others in a high-pressured environment and achieve goals together. I love having new projects and customers to work with and to be given new challenges, it’s much the same with racing. One of the biggest crossovers is the use of analytics, both the use of data after a training session and then predictive modeling too, which of course features heavily within itelligence and the sporting world. I won’t go into too much detail now but over the next year will share some of the really incredible modelling we do to help prepare for a race and assist with our training. It’s quite amazing!
I also find that having an interest or a talking point when you go on site is such a good way to build relationships with customers. We develop long lasting partnerships by selling ourselves as well as our services. I find that it is a lot easier on a project if we as consultants have found a level of empathy which comes out of sharing something about yourself other than the work you are doing.
How My Passions Impact My Healthy Work-Life Balance
I strongly believe that I am a better cyclist because I work as well as a project manager and I am a better project manager because I also cycle. I strongly believe in a well-managed work-life balance and the importance of keeping both your brain and body healthy. If you follow a second passion, whether it’s a passion for sport, designing, art or music, you don’t have to be an expert, or let it take over your life, but being committed to something you enjoy and making sure it has a priority in your week is so important. Your work life will be a better place if you give yourself time to do something else.
Ultimately we should be trying to maximize what we get out of our lives and what we can do to be happy and make the people around us happy. It sounds simple and of course having to work around all the commitments in life is a challenge, but if you can include some activities, fresh air and time to switch off then you are guaranteed to feel less stressed and everything is just easier! If your body is fit and healthy, then your head will follow!
Of course there are a few compromises as well and although it’s important to have a balance I have accepted that I have to make those compromises too. I can’t see my friends as much as I would like and there is certainly very little consistency. To spend a whole week at home in my own bed would be an absolute dream but I always try and plan a couple of days every fortnight at home where I can see friends, get to the office and just enjoy being in London. Ensuring the little things that make you happy are included in your life are the key to getting a good balance both personally and professionally.
How DROPS and itelligence Empowered me, Especially as a Woman
DROPS is well known for a one-team mentality has a very strong ethos for promoting strong women. That aligns with itelligence mission to inspire people to grow, to support gender diversity and especially the focus on getting more women into the company and industry. I was very touched when itelligence suggested sponsoring my team, not just that they were so supportive of my career but that they saw what it means to sponsor a women’s team too – it shows how much they value women and equality. I knew it would be a good partnership as Drops and itelligence share the same values and have the same mindset regarding what they stand for and how they operate. itelligence is one of the companies who realizes that their employees are more motivated if they give them the opportunity to have a second focus in their lives and allow them to follow another passion.
We know that burnouts are common among both men and women but a study by Montreal University found out that women are more likely to suffer burnouts from work than men are. The reasons that lead to burnouts often are that women feel overwhelmed with frustration because they are less likely to get a position of power, having a low self-esteem and having difficulties in managing work and family life in a good way. The gab mentioned above in pay and opportunity adds to this as well. Considering the statistics it’s pretty important that we all pay attention to our work-life balances and make sure we work somewhere that supports this!
How to Initiate Change and Combine your Passions
Whatever hobby or passion you have, in order for you to be happier and get more out of your life you should start to develop it now. What does it need for that? First, it’s pretty important that you start being extremely organized! Secondly, you need for sure an environment that accepts and supports you if you follow two professions and being open about what you like to do and what your goals are. Changing your mindset is important too, so instead of thinking you don’t have time, you have to think how can you flex your schedule to make time! Think about your priorities and what can be dropped or reduced. My advice is you have to think about what makes you happy and what will fulfil your life, and then do your best to make it work. It might not always be easy but in the long run it will be worth it.
How to Convince your Boss
A recent study by Gallup found out that 23% out of 7,500 full-time employees feel always burned out at work and additionally 44% of them feel burned out sometimes. Employees with a burn out are 63% more likely to take a sick day and are 2.6 times as likely to leave their current employer.
Seeing this statistic, it should already be enough for you and your manager to find a solution that will ensure this does not happen to you. I’m aware that I’m sort of the extreme version of having two professions and even doing it professionally, but I can only recommend you to develop on your passion no matter what it is, be it music, sport or spending time with your family. If there is something, that makes you happy and you feel joy while doing it, stand up for yourself and think of how you can integrate this passion into your life. If you are stressed and feel over worked then I urge you to speak to your team lead to figure out a solution that will help them get more out of you as an employee. It’s your work-life balance and for that to be true there needs to be more than just work!