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Balancing the Grind with Andrew Fergusson, Executive Creative Director at Leo Burnett

Andrew Fergusson is the Executive Creative Director at Leo Burnett Sydney. Prior to that he spent 10 years at Droga5, leading major accounts across the USA, Asia and Australia.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I’m Executive Creative Director of Leo Burnett Sydney, working with smart folks across brands like Suncorp, Diageo, Emirates and Craveable Brands.

Prior to that, I spent a decade at Droga5, leading major accounts across the USA, Asia and Australia. A couple of highlights include making a Super Bowl spot for ‘Game of Thrones’, a music video with Beyoncé for the United Nations and an anger-powered scooter to promote Angry Birds.

Before that, I spent six years at TBWA Sydney, making Flash games and websites to promote Hollywood movies and breakfast cereal.

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

I usually set my alarm to wake up at around 6:30am, but then hit snooze a number of times. Eventually I get up around 7am when my three year old daughter comes in and starts hitting me.

The next hour or so is a blur of breakfast-making, coffee-sipping and nappy-changing, in no particular order.

My work day starts somewhere between 8am and 9am with a second coffee. Then I might spend an hour or so answering emails and prioritising the day.

Following that, I’m usually in back-to-back creative reviews, planning sessions, and client meetings until about 6pm (give or take an hour or so).

At the end of my work day, I’ll try and have dinner with the family and play with the kids for a bit before their bedtime. And if I’m very motivated, I might go to the gym after dinner. Otherwise, I’ll watch Netflix with my wife.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

I’ve always considered Leo’s culture to be quite flexible. And Publicis actually announced a new flexible working framework several months before COVID-19 struck. So the systems were in place once we were all forced to work remotely, which made the transition easier.

After the initial teething problems, I’ve found a lot of positives about working from home more regularly. It’s nice to be able to eat dinner with my kids more often. As well as seeing them intermittently throughout the day. And I certainly don’t miss commuting every day.

It’s definitely still important to have face time with people. But when things return to some semblance of normality, I’m sure I’ll be embracing a more flexible way of working, instead of being in the office 50-plus hours a week.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

It’s very hard to switch off in advertising. You can always keep thinking of new ideas and ways to craft the work more. But the longer I’ve been in this industry, the more I realise you really do need mental breaks to do your job well.

An old colleague of mine once told me that they actually started making better work after having kids, which seemed counter intuitive. But after having kids of my own, I can see the truth in it.

Despite being a bit of a workaholic, having kids forced me to take more mental breaks from work throughout the day, to be a bit more organised and purposeful with the time I have, and set more boundaries on weekends.

While I certainly don’t get it right all the time, I think it’s forced a little more balance in my life. And, I’ve probably made the best work of my career over the past couple of years.

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5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

I started running regularly about 12 months ago. I’m not particularly good at it, but I now understand what all the fuss is about. I definitely have a lot more energy than I used to, and now I actually look forward to my runs. Sort of.

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I often listen to Conan O’Brien’s podcast when I run. I think he’s found the perfect medium to showcase his self-deprecating, quick-witted rambling conversations with interesting people.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

I rely a lot on ‘YouTube Kids’ and ‘Minecraft’ to keep the kids occupied. And I find I’m increasingly reliant on Amazon Alexa, which I’m not proud of.

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

I’m always interested in how film directors balance their lives, given that the production process is so long and intense. It’d be interesting to hear from a filmmaker who genuinely seems to enjoy life despite all the pressure, like Taika Watiti.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Try and surround yourself with like-minded people. At Leos, our leadership team all unapologetically make our families our main priorities.

Of course there are times when deadlines will make this a challenge, but overall if you are surrounded by people who are trying to achieve that same sense of balance then it’s a lot easier to do the same.

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About Author

Balance The Grind gives me a platform to talk to these people about how they're achieving their ideal lifestyle. I'm inspired by the passion, the work ethic, the hustle; and these conversations motivate me to live life the way I want to live it.