You need a better work life balance

"I ask people to give a motivation score every 6 months, because motivation is a bellwether for other things"

Jess Tyrrell | Consultant | Grey Consulting

How would you explain what “you need a better work life balance” means?


I think it’s different for 2 types of people - those who ‘live to work’, and those who ‘work to live’. Agencies tend to attract more of the ‘live to work’ people - ambitious, high octane, problem solvers who enjoy the cut and thrust. 

For those people, I think it’s about avoiding burnout. It’s not really about doing less work. 
Often it’s about managing stress. And sometimes about being allowed to make time for personal things without feeling guilty they are letting the side down. Of course, this became a big issue as we moved to remote working because people sometimes felt they needed to be ‘seen’, and the blurring between home and work meant it was more difficult to turn off.

What do you think about this ‘advice’?


I read somewhere that “work-life balance is a term coined by confused people who hate their lives”.

While that’s a bit harsh, I do think you have to scratch beneath the surface when someone comes to you with this issue. It can be a number of things, and possibly things that are not to do with work.

On face value, it’s about how we all manage our workload, but it can also be about motivation and not enjoying your job. It can be about not feeling recognised or rewarded and a need to know you are valued. But as managers, we need to be conscious that we are giving people the right amount of work and challenge, and to help if people are feeling overwhelmed.

Would you give this advice to other people?


Again, I think it’s important to really try and find out what someone means when they say they want a better work life balance.

Do they want to reduce their workload, or do they want some help in learning how to manage it? There is a trade off at work, a value exchange - the agency needs its people to deliver their best, within quite demanding circumstances sometimes, in exchange for financial, vocational and emotional rewards. This exchange does need to be fair - and as good agency leaders we are managing that balance all the time.


If not, what alternative advice would you give to agency leaders?


It’s really about expectation setting and checking in. I ask people to give a motivation score every 6 months, because motivation is a bellwether for other things. When we are overwhelmed or overstretched for too long, motivation goes down. This score opens the door to conversations about what’s wrong and about what people may be finding difficult.

But we also need to encourage our people to manage their own stress and give them the tools. This is greatly helped by expectation setting and clear goals. And also recognition when people are doing a great job - that goes a long way.

What’s one thing Jess Tyrrell has done in previous companies she's lead to minimise the conflicts one has at work or at home?


When I was Managing Director at Beyond we did a lot...

Time sheeting was the baseline - we checked for people who were repeatedly overworking. We gave people wellness days and made it possible to take time off if needed, no questions asked. We had mental health first aiders who checked in peer-to-peer and hosted talks and conversations on ways to be healthy. We had a great people team who provided a good shoulder to lean on.

But I think the best thing we introduced as a result of remote working was NMF - 'No Meeting Fridays' - to enable people to get heads down work done, work from a different location to break things up a bit, and have time to deal with personal admin. It was revolutionary!

Jess Tyrrell's full bio

Jess Tyrrell is consultant at Grey Consulting.

Humble promo of Jess Tyrrell and Beyond


When I think of the perfect consultant, Jess Tyrrell comes to mind. Jess has this incredible way of putting as many of her biases aside and really look at a topic from all angles. Finding solutions that are inclusive and well considered. But the part that sets her apart is Jess' ability to communicate her ideas back in a concise manner with just the right amount of depth so that everyone can understand it. It's a real skill, that requires an incredible amount of empathy.

Daniel (Polymensa founder) 

Explore other perspectives

Dan Kelsall
Founder @ Offended Marketing

"I always think this is a load of bollocks"

Read more

Ben Amanna
Founder @ Boxraw

"Work life balance first of all is just bullshit"

Read more

Rebecca Brennan
COO @ Kyan

"It’s quite an annoying phrase"

Read more

Anant Sharma
Co-founder @ Matter Of Form

"It would be difficult to say that's bad advice - but start by making your work meaningful"

Read more

The Rabbit Hole: Photo-micrography

I've been fascinated this week by a series of photographs that include some of the smallest things on our planet.

Peak down the rabbit hole

Blindspot: Flicker Fusion Frequency

While I was busy looking at close ups of ants. I wondered whether animals like flies perceive time in a different way to us.

Read more