Team Talk: Lisa O'Neill and Letizia Bozzolini
Leti and I have spent most of our career working in Europe but since meeting here in Sydney, we’re both fortunate enough to share similar views when it comes to work-life balance.
It’s something that we find as a creative team is so important to agree on, or work together on, as we spend so much time together (probably more than most married couples) and it can make the world of difference to your happiness and the work itself.
After spending almost 8 years working in London, I find my sense of work-life balance tends to be a bit warped.
When the weather’s so dreary, battling the London tube at peak hour not an attractive prospect, and the work culture so strongly intertwined with the after-work social scene, it makes for an almost Stockholm syndrome effect to working past the conventional hours.
I’ve been working in Sydney now for 5 years and I can certainly say from my experience Aussies work damn long hours too, however there’s a bigger appreciation placed on the after work lifestyle.
An old Creative Director once said to me ‘the answer is never going to be found on the Mac screen … it’s out there … in the real world. A new play you’ve watched, a new food you ate at a street market or a conversation you overheard on your commute’, and I always remember his words of creative wisdom.
We’re all programmed to feel guilty for not being at the desk looking productive from the outside, it’s what we’ve been taught, even from our early school days.
But, more often than not, like in a comic strip, the magic happens between the framing. It’s what happens outside the 9-5 hours. That’s why a work-life balance is so important in my mind.
As a creative team Leti and I have the incredible upside of being two, which really helps. Over the years it has been the thing that has allowed us to navigate this strange world and now we know pretty well what works best for our team.
We are both morning people and tend to concept better in the morning or early afternoon. Learning to work to our strengths has only made our team stronger, and coming up with ideas isn’t stressful – it’s really fun.
Agency-land is frantic, we aren’t saving lives but there is a pressure to deliver to tight deadlines, unexpected curve-ball projects and pitches. In these moments we of course all work longer, more unconventional hours. But this, in my best working experiences, has been compensated for, or at least balanced out with the planning of other projects around this moment in time.
Balance is always hard for a creative, your mind is always on in some way or another, so switching off can often be hard, but it’s exciting to feel that agencies are becoming more open to embracing less conventional ways of working, in favour of a happier and more productive creative department.
Lisa and I have been working in this industry, across different markets, for almost 13 years now. And, like everyone, work-life balance is something we care and talk about, but we’re still figuring out the ultimate recipe.
What we’ve learnt so far is that it doesn’t just fall into your lap, you’ve got to put effort into achieving it.
Supporting each other makes a big difference – on both a practical level (e.g. work or life emergencies) and, more importantly, a psychological one.
When one of us feels overwhelmed, the other becomes the positive, strong and lucid force that leads us out of the tunnel.
Being both creative partners and friends forces us to discuss pretty much everything. Which helps us make conscious decisions about what we want from our career and our life.
We’re lucky to choose a job we love, and that already takes a lot of pressure off. If you hate what you do, even a part-time job can feel like it's ruining your work-life balance.
Sometimes we try to remind ourselves all the terrible alternatives we could have ended up doing. Even the worst client feedback doesn't seem too bad when you compare it to heavy physical labour, or even just a job that is exactly the same every day. The latter would definitely kill Lisa.
To us, having a successful work-life balance means also being the best version of yourself at work. Bringing in good energy and enthusiasm. Being professional, sharp and proactive.
If it’s time to go home, and you aren’t being productive, get out. Sitting in front of your computer pretending to be busy is not helpful for your company and for your professional self-esteem. And, most importantly, it gives your colleagues the message that this is what they should do too.
Research is showing that work-life balance will reward businesses in the long run, so many agencies are working to improve this. We're seeing initiatives like better family policies for new parents, flexible hours, and occasional work from home – which is awesome. The problem is: people rarely take full advantage of these policies.
In our experience, whatever the policy, whatever the hemisphere, there’s still a stigma: if you’re looking for work-life balance, then you’re not ambitious about your career.
This might sound super old school, but it’s pretty meaningful that in Australia fathers are entitled to two weeks paternity leave, however 70% of dads don’t take it because of social stigma. It’s hard for everyone, men included.
Nobody says that it’s going to be easy, but it's possible to find a semblance of work-life balance if you take responsibility for it.
The first step is just talking about it, which is why we’re glad Gabberish are running a whole edition about work-life balance. So, if you feel too lazy or awkward to start a conversation about it with your colleagues, or your boss (!), just subtly start with sharing this month’s issue.
See some examples of Lisa and Leti’s creative work here.