Finding Your Work/Play Balance

We hope that everyone can agree on the importance of making time for yourself — time to relax & unwind. But how in the heck do you reconcile this vital need with the never-ending call of your professional life? Well, one of the wonderful things about being a part of Gather is that we have so many great coworkers from all walks of life working out of three different locations (soon to be five!).

With such an incredible resource at our fingertips, we’d be remiss to not tap into their collective wisdom. So let’s hear what our coworkers have to say!

Let’s get the ball rolling with Lauren, who works out of our Scott’s Addition location…

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Lauren West, Baleen Design

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Hey, Lauren! We’re kicking it off with you. Who are you, what do you do?
Lauren West [Founder of Baleen Design, Illustrator, Optimist, Adventurer]

Any exciting summer plans?
Not just exciting summer plans, EPIC summer plans! I am about to embark on a National Park road trip tour and will be living and working out of my car in between bouts of wilderness exploration.

How do you balance your work life with the need to relax and unwind? Especially if you’re planning on relaxing and unwinding for an extended period of time?
I am incredibly fortunate to have the ability to work from anywhere and I also absolutely LOVE what I do. Dreamy? Yes. Perfect? No.

As with most things, balance is key. My creativity is the driving force behind my business as well as a fundamental component of my personality so trying to keep the boundary between work and play from becoming too blurry is wildly important for me. Setting hard rules like “No emails or calls before coffee and sketchbook time” and “Only personal artwork on my Instagram account” help me separate the two.
As is evident by my frequently vacant desk at Gather, I don’t keep “regular” hours. Some days I work for 2 hours, some days for 12 or more. Some weeks I work for 10 hours, others for 60 or more, it’s all about working hard when I am most productive. That being said, there are certainly times when I have to power through a creative brick wall or to try to drown out the call of the woods in order to meet a deadline!

While illustration certainly helps me relax and unwind, spending time in the wilderness is where I feel most free and where so much of my creative energy comes from… hence the epic summer plans!

Any interesting stories about this balance working out really well, or, heaven forbid, any horror stories about looming deadlines + an upcoming vacation?
So far my unique style of balancing work and play has worked out quite well for me. In fact, it’s probably the main reason my business has been so successful- I’m true to ME and that comes out in my brand, my work.

Of course, balancing working in a digital age with the need to backpack through deep forests clearly out of range of cell phone reception or take spur of the moment trips to the beach isn’t without its challenges!

Thanks, Lauren. Next up we have Rick who works out of our Short Pump location.


 

Rick Whittington, Whittington Consulting


Hey, Rick! Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m Rick Whittington, and I own and lead a digital marketing agency.

Any exciting summer plans?
I’m taking a few vacations — an off-grid kayak fishing trip in June, Topsail in July and a family getaway with some friends in August.

How do you balance your work life with the need to relax and unwind? Especially if you’re planning on relaxing and unwinding for an extended period of time?
Balancing work and life is a constant struggle. My wife and I stay in constant communication and make it a point to connect daily. My immediate family means more to me than work, so I have to make it a point to connect with them. I coach my son’s baseball team and take my daughter to breakfast periodically, and that gets my mind off work. On weekends, I almost always disconnect. I almost never look at my phone and turn the computer off. I spend a lot of time doing family activities or kayak fishing. I volunteer a lot of time at my church as a musician, and having hobbies like that help me to recharge.

I’ve struggled to take time off work completely and “get away” for long periods of time. This year, I’ll take off more time than I ever have to help me refocus and recharge. I will still need to check in on work, but everyone at the office is capable of making decisions in my absence.

Any interesting stories about this balance working out really well, or, heaven forbid, any horror stories about looming deadlines + an upcoming vacation?
I’ve done the occasional video conference from the deck of a beach house or conference call from a kayak. I guess the point is that you can’t separate work and life anymore. We live in a connected world, and though I’m on vacation, I still will take a phone call if it’s important.

Thanks so much, Rick. Now on to Rachel, who works out of our Downtown location!


 

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Rachel Smucker, Secure Futures Solar

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Thanks for joining us, Rachel. Tell us about yourself!
My name is Rachel Smucker, and I am the Policy Analyst for Secure Futures, a solar developer based out Staunton, VA. In this role, I analyze key policy issues within the Virginia solar market and coordinate the company’s outreach to state government officials and other key stakeholders.

Any exciting summer plans?
I just traveled to Aruba with my best friend for a week. It was a week filled with beautiful sandy beaches, turquoise blue waters, and lots of sunny happy hours

Later this summer, I’ll head to Colorado for a week with my family to hike Pikes Peak. I’m excited to take on this portion of the Rocky Mountains for the first time.  

How do you balance your work life with the need to relax and unwind? Especially if you’re planning on relaxing and unwinding for an extended period of time
Work/life balance is extremely important to me. While a large part of my identity comes from my profession and career, I prioritize time outside of work for “creative time,” exercising, enjoying the outdoors and spending time with my loved ones.

Prioritizing hobbies and relaxation outside of work is crucial for me to be able to show up to work and give 110%. Without that time to step back and unwind, I notice my productivity and creativity in my job decrease.

Any interesting stories about this balance working out really well, or, heaven forbid, any horror stories about looming deadlines + an upcoming vacation?
In a former job position of mine, there was one instance where I had a series of important work events scheduled on the same weekend as my cousin’s wedding. Because I was an integral player in planning and executing these work events, I was not able to make my cousin’s wedding. I was so disappointed to miss this big moment, and it was the first time in my career where I realized it’s not always possible to balance work/life.

Some things are out of our control, but I vowed from that day forward, of the things I can control I’m going to make sure I show up to my work life and personal life as equally as I can.

Since then, I’ve noticed that staying dedicated to that mission leads to higher productivity and personal happiness!

Great advice, Rachel! Let’s finish things up with Mark, who works out of our Short Pump location.


 

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Mark Goad, Coach House Realty

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Hey, Mark! Tell us about yourself!
I’m Mark Goad with Coach House Realty, and I’ve been helping people buy and sell homes in the metro Richmond area for 22 years.

Any exciting summer plans?
Yes! I have plans to travel to England and southern California!

How do you balance your work life with the need to relax and unwind? Especially if you’re planning on relaxing and unwinding for an extended period of time?
I have established business hours (and, therefore, non-business hours); this allows me to work really hard for a period of time, knowing that the finish line is in sight, and to take my time away from work without feeling guilty about it. It also makes me better at negotiations and other aspects of my job, because I’ve usually had more rest and recovery time than the agent I’m negotiating with. Preparing for an extended vacation is always exciting and a little trying – everyone wants you when they know you’re leaving town! – but I am fortunate to have awesome colleagues I trust to help out as needed when I’m away.

Any interesting stories about this balance working out really well, or, heaven forbid, any horror stories about looming deadlines + an upcoming vacation?
I’ve had a couple of prospects over the years who have told me right up front that they expect me to be at their beck and call, and it’s been really good to know right from the start that we’re not a good fit for working together.

 

Awesome, Mark! Thanks so much to all of our coworkers for participating in this wonderful survey,  and thanks so much, as always, to our readers! 

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