Lessons on Work-Life Balance

Insights from a career searching for the perfect work-life balance.
Written by Ashley Sole, Engineering Senior Director

Photo by Malte Helmhold on Unsplash

A LinkedIn message arrives, it’s a job opportunity. I skim over the pleasantries to see if there’s anything noteworthy from this outreach. It’s filled with the usual introductions, competitive salary, and an “exciting chance to join a company at the perfect time” rhetoric. Then something catches my eye…

“Good work-life balance”

Why do they always say that? What does it mean?

Does it mean, I don’t have to work late nights?

Does it mean, I’m allowed to work flexibly around childcare?

Does it mean, people only work 9–5?

It could mean a plethora of things, none of which I suspect this particular company adopts. It’s become a buzzword to throw around like confetti. I’d love to know what good balance means to each of the individuals who work there.

A good work-life balance means different things to us all. It will not be the same for a person with caring responsibilities, as someone without them. One person’s ideal balance may involve going out for cocktails 3 nights a week, while another involves the flexibility to turn up at 10.00am and leave at 2.00pm.

How can a company promote a good work-life balance, when the very definition of good differs from person to person?

Throughout my career, I’ve tried various things in pursuit of a good work-life balance.

I’ve tried working 4 days per week.

I’ve tried taking 1 week off every 6 weeks.

I’ve tried reduced working days.

During these experiments, I’ve learned three important lessons;

1. Your Ideal Work-Life Balance Changes

Your ideal work-life balance changes as you grow. My good work-life balance as I approach 40 years old, is not the same as it was when I was in my mid-20s. At this point in my life, I have young children, my life demands revolve around spending quality time with them.

It’s not just as you grow up your work-life balance changes. Your ideal balance can change from week to week, even day to day. Sometimes I want to take it easy and reset through deep focused work. Sometimes I want to have lots of social interactions in the office, and go out for dinner. There isn’t a perfect work-life balance that works for me every day, because I want a different balance every day. A good balance one day will not be a good balance another.

Good companies provide good work-life balance by providing the flexibility to decide what good is for you, day in, day out. They respect and trust you to make the right choice for your work and your life.

2. Your Ideal Work-Life Balance is Personal

You cannot and should not ever compare yourself to others. This advice holds true for everything in life, but it’s particularly true when it comes to work-life balance. Seeing your boss, colleagues, or teammates working long hours, does not mean you need to imitate to ‘keep up’. I’ve witnessed people burn out, and it’s awful.

Burnout happens when you’re overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to keep up with life’s incessant demands.

At FanDuel, we offer the Headspace benefit to help everyone take care of their mental health. Tools such as this are invaluable to help deal with the challenges we face every day.

The key is to find the balance of work and life that works for you such that you can maintain a sustained pace. A good work-life balance is personal to you and will not be the same as anyone else. Like running a marathon, finding a sustainable pace to maintain throughout the race is personal to you, don’t sprint off the starting line.

3. Your Ideal Work-Life Balance Doesn’t Matter When The Job is Great

There have been times in my career when I’ve been focused on trying to get more life in my work-life balance. Upon reflection, I’ve realised that the reason I was fixated on this is that I wasn’t enjoying the work aspect. The real goal here is to find work that is so engaging, so enjoyable, that it doesn’t feel like work. When this happens, work and life meld together to become fulfillment.

I’ve found that enjoyment of work is made up of two things;

  1. What you do
  2. Who you do it with

When you enjoy what you do, and who you do it with, it feels amazing. You no longer pursue more life in the work-life balance. You enjoy your work as much as your life. If either of these aspects is off though, then it’s hard to find harmony in work-life balance. Work will always feel like drudgery, and no amount of life will help compensate for the pain.

How does FanDuel approach work-life balance?

At FanDuel, we promote healthy work-life balance, but what does that mean?

Flexible Environment

We trust our teammates to do their work where best suits them — that’s why we operate a hybrid model for the majority of our roles. We have a great hub in Edinburgh where we can meet up for team days, workshops, and social occasions; whilst also providing budget to support working from home. We trust our teams to do their best work, and to enjoy their best life.

Flexible Hours

We don’t micromanage people on hours worked. We allow and encourage people to work flexibly around their lives and hold each other to account for our commitments. We push to deliver our commitments but we make sure we have downtime when we need it. We know that the ability to work flexibly means people can manage their work-life balance themselves. It’s a value built on trust.

Great Work, Great People

We have great projects, with a variety of different missions and skills required. But we also have great people. We act as one team, we’re egoless, respectful, and we enjoy working with each other. Challenging projects are immeasurably more enjoyable when you enjoy who you deliver them with.

In Closing

As I look back on a career of searching for a good work-life balance, I come to realise that a good work-life balance is not the goal. The real goal is to find a job you love, with a team you love, so that work is as fulfilling as life.

Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.
― Mark Twain

Lessons on Work-Life Balance was originally published in FanDuel Life on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.