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The Interim Land of Plenty: how much work-life balance do you really get?

By S&S 12/7/2018

 

“I love working and I love having time with my family/friends, so this balance is pretty crucial…” said S&S associate Chris Tomlinson, who has served as management consultant/programme director for the likes of CGI and KPMG.

The Independent reported last month that only one third of British employees are happy with their work-life balance. Half of the poll participants agreed that waking up in the morning and dreading the day ahead at work is a sign that it’s time to address your work-life balance (or lack thereof).

One of the juiciest attractions in transitioning from permanent to interim for CxOs and change agents is the healthier work-life balance that it can offer. They can cherry-pick the gigs, hours and time-off all to their heart’s content.

But the fact that interim CIOs do not have the safety net of a permanent, fixed position that offers holiday entitlement can dampen their enthusiasm to take time off at their leisure.

A recent discussion among S&S associates revealed a divide of opinion on work-life balance among the long-term interim CIOs.

“It is a difficult one, when you’re only paid for billing,” said Pat Lynes, CEO of S&S. “I know people who are disciplined with at least six weeks a year and others who won’t take a break unless they are on the bench - which is, ideally, never.”

Chris Davis revealed he only has one week off in the summer and another one off in Christmas. “Apart from that, I’m ideally working,” he said.

Chris is an associate change consultant at S&S and a long-standing interim professional for operations, programmes and transformation. He is currently undertaking a gig at ALD Automotive in the role of an interim operations/programme manager.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have Neil Woodhouse, programme delivery IT executive at Ministry of Justice, who said he takes eight weeks off a year: “No point dying rich! Got to enjoy it too.”

Another exec learnt from his mistake of only restricting himself to take minimal annual leave last year.  “Half of which I slept,” he admitted. “This year I am targeting six weeks and a week for ‘training.’”

The idea of a “jobbymoon” - taking time off in between jobs - has been floated about by the likes of The Evening Standard. Finishing a job on a Friday and starting a new job on a Monday is not uncommon but to what extent is such a hasty turnaround actually productive for stressed out workers?

Keith Graves opts for the happy medium of undertaking long gigs for 12-24 months, with odd weeks off in between, followed by a long stretch of few months off before re-engaging with the market. Keith, interim leader of IT and change, has been an independent consultant at RS Components since February.

A few other execs prioritised taking some downtime between each project to reset and prepare for the next challenge.

 

Live to work or work to live?

“Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”

This golden quote ironically came from Dolly Parton, the creator of the smash hit 1981 record “9 to 5” - a depressingly accurate depiction about the every-day office job and one which the interim evolution is trying to stamp on.

In 2015, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer came under fire for taking a measly two-week maternity leave, rather than the praise for being committed to her job that she had probably anticipated.

Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO, is open about taking six weeks of holiday a year “because it’s important for work-life balance.”

“It’s helpful. You often do your best thinking when you’re off hiking in some mountain or something,” said Hastings.

While the exact amount of time off that one should take off was still up for debate, the S&S discussion participants agreed that family time is paramount.

A minimum of four weeks off a year is the necessity for exec Rich Bernard. “It gives me time to recharge the mind, spend some time together as a family and to remember why the long hours and days are put in for in the first place.”

Gordon McMullan, who made the jump to interim in 2014 and is currently an associate COO/CIO at T-Tech, summarised the debate in a nutshell:

“The point of interim for me is that it offers the best route for balance and the flexibility to have time to spend on life matters, not just for work.”

More and more senior executives are leaving their stale permanent roles and gravitating towards the flexibility and autonomy of the interim market. To gain further insight and to potentially open the door to this career option, please feel free to continue this discussion by reaching out to one of our experts at Sullivan & Stanley.

 
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