Achieving work-life balance and harmony
Rebecca Kingsford always knew she wanted to start her own business. She knew it while she was at university, pursuing her Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) degree at ACU in Melbourne. She knew it when she entered the workforce, landing a role as a digital recruitment consultant with a global agency — a job she loved.
“Even at the very beginning, when I interviewed for that role, deep down, I knew I eventually wanted to work for myself,” says Rebecca, CEO of Australian recruitment consultancy Create Careers.
“One of the beautiful things about working for someone else is that you get the opportunity to learn certain skills and traits from some fantastic people. You can also learn from others how not to be.
“For me personally, even as a young professional, I knew there were certain areas where I could facilitate positive change within the recruitment industry.”
At the time, conversations with her father, Compton Harry, tended to shift towards the pursuit of better harmony between the personal and the professional.
“Before we opened our business, we discussed the importance of values and how they influence who you are, and how it’s important to align those deeply held values with your career,” she says.
“It kept coming back to this idea of integration — that the way you are in your personal life really should really be integrated and in harmony with your working life.”
Buoyed by their desire to fully bring their ethos into being, Rebecca and her father put their heads together to set up a business that reflects their core values as people, and how they’d like to do business with others.
“For us, in our personal lives, we strive to be honest, transparent, trustworthy, reliable, ethical and respectful in all our interactions with people, and that essentially lays the foundation of how we like to do business and connect with others,” says Rebecca, who co-founded Create Careers with Mr Harry in 2017.
“At the end of the day, if you’re working for an organisation where the values aren’t in harmony with your personal values – the way you like to live in your day-to-day life – it can create a certain imbalance that affects you in the long run.”
Achieving integration and harmony
Building a new business from the ground-up wasn’t easy.
In the early days, Rebecca’s focus on creating an innovative recruitment consultancy meant that other parts of her life – things she also deemed to be important – were not prioritised.
“In terms of work-life balance and harmony at that time, I would say it wasn’t really there at all,” she says.
“My father, who is my business partner, would say to me, ‘It’s really important that your work works for you, not you for it.’ It took a while before I grasped the meaning of it. Once I understood it, I was able to achieve a balance and really integrate my work with my daily life, putting everything into alignment.”
So, what is work-life balance? And how does it differ to work-life integration?
Well, the first of those two terms (work-life balance) has been around for decades and is simply described as “the equilibrium between personal life and career work”.
In recent years, some critics of the term have argued it creates an unhelpful sense of competition between the two elements. Many experts prefer the term work-life integration, an approach that “creates more synergies between all areas that define ‘life’: work, home/family, community, personal wellbeing, and health”.
Rebecca believes the criticism of work-life balance stems from people’s different understandings of the term; however, she tends to lean towards the concept of work-life integration.
“I like the word ‘integration’ because there are many facets of life that are important, and for most people, ‘success’ (which is subjective) will come from prioritising those areas and integrating them,” she says.
Individuals who achieve work-life integration have the flexibility to focus on the aspects of life that need prioritising.
In practice, this might simply mean having the freedom to start work late to spend some time at the gym, or to take a long lunch to meet with friends or family, and perhaps catching up on work later by answering some emails after dinner.
It’s essentially about bringing the professional and the personal closer together, so the two can co-exist in harmony.
“You have to ask yourself, what actually makes you happy? I truly believe that work is important, but it’s not the be all and end all,” Rebecca says. “Your work does not define you as a person, you define yourself. I believe it is important to reflect on other areas that contribute to your happiness in your life, including things like family and relationships, your health, fitness and wellbeing, your passion and interests and your spirituality and religion.”
In pursuing work-life integration, one of the most important things, Rebecca adds, is to not be afraid of making mistakes.
“To get to the point of work-life integration, it’s a learning process and something that we’re always striving towards, and you’ll find that, at times, there’ll be things that are out of alignment,” she says.
“It’s about being able to identify that, and to make choices and take action to get you back to where you need to be. So, for me, if I see things slipping, I might devote some extra time to exercise or meditation to help me get in the right frame of mind before starting my work-day, because if I am not at my best within myself, how can I be my best with others and in my role?”
How to make it work
There’s no one way to achieve work-life integration, Rebecca says. It’s about finding what works best for you. But she has three pointers which she sees as important.
1) Prioritise health and wellbeing
“You can have the world’s most successful business, but if your health goes by the wayside, then down the track it may become an urgent priority. For me, regular exercise is essential, not only for my physical health; it also helps me to stay in a positive frame of mind mentally and emotionally, and that in turn helps me to be more effective while I’m working, and a better communicator with my team, our clients and candidates. Meditation is another thing that I find helps me to stay focused and in tune with myself.”
2) Make time for friends and family
“One of the most important things in my life is spending time with my husband, with my family and friends, and making sure I give those relationships the love they need. Being fully present (again, this is something to work towards) in these relationships allows me to give the most out of my time. When you consciously schedule that time and think of it as something that needs to happen, it makes life in general much smoother and happier because you are sharing it with people you care about.”
3) Monitor your progress
“At least once a day, I'll check in and give myself time to reflect. In the morning, I'll do a gratitude exercise, as well as some physical exercise. Then, later in the day, after I’ve done most of my work, I’ll check in and ask myself some questions: Where are things at with work? How am I feeling? How are my relationships? I’ll make sure I allocate time within my week to ensure that I'm checking in with all those areas. And I’ll also note some lessons that I’ve learnt, which gives me a greater appreciation of how far I’ve come over a period of time. It’s important to continually see the growth that you make each day, but also to enjoy the present moment as well, because that’s the only thing we have.”
Keen to pursue a career in marketing, advertising, recruitment or finance through a Bachelor of Commerce/Bachelor of Arts at ACU? Explore your study options at ACU.