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Finding my work-life balance

I’m Emma, a working mum. My daughter has just turned 6 and I’m a Senior Agile Delivery Manager at DWP Digital. Balancing work and life is incredibly important to me.

Emma Murphy and her daughter
Emma and her daughter

Having a child really is another full-time job; it requires planning, lots of learning and plenty of failing fast! Just like work, there are times when everything is going well, and times when your whole week is turned upside down.

Why is balance important?

As a Delivery Manager I’m helping teams be empowered, autonomous and self-organising. It is so important to build the right culture so that individuals can thrive.

At the recent AgileManchester conference, John Clapham ran a fantastic tutorial ‘Kaizen to Karoshi – sustainable pace and performance in teams’. It really brought home the impact that work can have on an individual’s health and the risk of burnout. Caring for our mental health is so important and finding a balance between the different aspects of your life such as friends, family, time for yourself, work, exercise and learning is essential to happiness.

My current team is working to an aggressive deadline for GDPR. As a team we are aware of the potential for burnout and the need to look after ourselves and each other. We talked through the messages from John’s session together and conversations like these really highlight the ability empowered teams have to make life better.

What DWP Digital offers

In DWP Digital there’s a real understanding that people need flexibility. This has been fantastic for me. My family life changed last year and I now share care of my daughter with her dad. It’s an arrangement that provides a routine and allows us to be flexible and support each other.

Being able to attend award ceremonies or work from home to make it to dancing lessons ensures that I’m giving my daughter an amazing childhood. Feeling trusted and supported at work gives me the space to be the best I can. I’m able to build up time during the school term to ensure I have some ‘in the bank’ to cover childcare disasters or sick days. Knowing I’m contributing my full share to the team also relieves pressure in difficult times.

My tips on how to find the balance

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by all the pulls on your time. Most working parents feel this pressure, especially when a few sleepless nights are thrown in!

  • Be clear on your personal balance

Everyone’s balance is different. When the pressure is on, I find it easier to manage my time by having something on which to base decisions - knowing what can give and what is absolutely necessary. I also try to arrange work travel for the latter half of the week so that Monday to Wednesday I’m around for school drop-offs and out of school activities.

  • Take it to the team

If something comes up or there’s a conflict then I take it to the team. They will always let me know what they think is the best approach and we work together on a solution.

  • Don’t overcommit

I’ve always been a list person. It worked well when it was just me, but add a small person and the list becomes enormous! Borrowing a few concepts from Kanban and Scrum, I’ve become more realistic about what I can achieve and I’ve reduced the number of things I’m thinking about. Such a simple but powerful change.

  • Empower the team and individuals

This doesn’t work unless everyone around you also works in this way. Teams cannot be empowered if they have to ask for permission. Building an environment where people can trust and support each other through life’s events is essential.

  • Be kind to yourself and others

When talking about this blog post, a colleague joked that I should call myself a multi-tasking super woman. This neatly sums up most working parents in the modern world.

Sometimes though it’s good to just stop. Have breakfast with a friend. Leave the ironing and go to the park. Sit down in a peaceful house and be thankful for all the good things in life. Connect with real people in person.

Then go and find your cape!

We’re recruiting!

If you’re interested in working for an organisation where we take work-life balance seriously, take a look at our current vacancies. We’re adding new roles all the time, so if there’s nothing there that suits you right now, be sure to keep checking back.

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  1. Comment by Laura Graham posted on

    I love this Emma. I also have a 6 year old and work part time at DWP Digital. I think you've hit the nail on the head that flexible working gives you the chance to have a stimulating and rewarding job while doing the little things that give your child an amazing childhood. I'm working at home today and I'll log off and have a late lunch to watch school sports day then catch up this evening. Living the dream - unless I get pressured into running the mum's race in which case I might have an urgent meeting...

    • Replies to Laura Graham>

      Comment by Emma Murphy posted on

      Thanks Laura. Working from home is definitely a great way to balance work and home life. What a lovely week for sports day. Hope you had fun!