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Balancing the Grind with Cathy Jones, Workplace Experience Site Lead at Electronic Arts

Cathy Jones is the Workplace Experience Site Lead at Electronic Arts for the Melbourne and Sydney offices where she works on creating an environment for teams to thrive.

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

Reflecting on my time at high school, I never had a clear vision or future career path in mind.

After deciding University was not for me, I joined my family’s business working as a Personal Assistant for one of the Directors before moving into Facilities Management.

This kick-started my career and provided the stepping stone for me join a large cellular provider within their IT department, again working as a Personal Assistant.

It was throughout these roles I quickly discovered my keen interest in business operations and a knack for working with people and relationship building. A few years on, I was feeling like it was time for my next challenge, when a friend in New Zealand said: “come over here” to which I thought, well why not.

While in NZ I did further study in Business Management, working in roles with a strong focus on business operations; providing information and support to the board and technical staff as well as tactical, strategic administration.

Fast forward to 2016 when I joined Arup Melbourne as their Office Services Manager, again in a heavily people-centric role and managing the daily operations.

It was through working in all these different roles that I was able to build a skillset that caught the eye of my current employer, Electronic Arts, where I was offered a role taking care of their Workplace Experience for their offices in Australia.

This dream role allows me to do everything I love, drawing on my passion for people, wellbeing and tasking myself, and my team, with creating an environment and culture where teams can thrive.

Working in multiple facets of the business with many stakeholders across numerous divisions, it’s my job to ensure individual differences are encouraged, staff feel valuable and valued and that they have a workplace environment that holistically supports them in doing what they are good at.

It’s a role where I honestly feel like my personality and skills work in perfect harmony.

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

My day usually starts with some form of training, then coffee before it’s time to get the day started.

Each day is very much centred around people and their experience; creating an environment that supports us in doing what we do best while most importantly, having fun – I mean we can’t work for one of the largest gaming companies globally without fun.

Much of being able to do my role effectively relies on face-to-face interactions and engaging with team members, meaning we have definitely had to up our game in the new working from home landscape.

To maintain connection, my ‘new normal’ for working days means a lot of zoom calls, with a priority focus on the wellbeing and safety of our teams, while managing all the other operational responsibilities of my role.

As we are a global firm, no day is complete without touching base with my wider global counterparts.

This network has become invaluable as we use our collective smarts to keep striving for excellence, fostering consistent methods and roll out of processes across all EA sites across the globe, continuing our one team approach.

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

My role absolutely allows for working flexibly. Being a global team we are often working with colleagues in other offices across various time zones, so even before COVID we were already working flexibly – making our days work best for us.

It’s important to have this balance, effectively managing your time to do the things you need to, or that energise you, while still meeting work obligations.

For myself, this means finding time to work out every day and if I do have an appointment I’ll manage my diary to fit it in.

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

Work-life balance to me means being able to do my work while also prioritising time for the things that I enjoy, that energise me and make me feel good.

A good work-life balance strengthens physical & mental wellbeing, allowing me to think clearer and be more effective in my role.

Through being in a good head space day-to-day, I am better at tackling challenges and more able to offer help and support to those that might need it.

For me, this important balance is a crucial aspect of a healthy environment and actively maintaining this helps balance and reduce my stress, preventing burnout.

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

Since COVID lockdown (or lock-in’s rather), a lot more coffee and movies!

My friend and I started a list when lockdown first commenced not thinking it was going to be too long; we started watching movies from 1990-2020, every night picking a random movie from a different year.

Needless to say, we got through a 30yr catalogue of Hollywood’s best offerings pretty quickly!

While coffee and movies in excess may not be a recipe for success long term, it was often this daily dose of fresh air on the walk to our favourite café, or taking a temporary cinematic relief from our new reality that was at times our saving grace during lockdown.

COVID also impacted one of my favourite hobbies and after a strong start to home workouts, my training took a bit of a hit after the 3 week mark.

Being someone who is normally in the gym 6 days a week, trying to find the motivation at home was a real challenge for me. I’ve got my second wind now and am back training, currently on week 8 of a 20-week challenge – stay tuned for the results.

Because of this challenge I have started interval running and am probably more cardio fit now than I was before. I’ve also been enjoying podcasts and audiobooks when walking or doing something that doesn’t require too much attention.

Finally, I have been trialling meditation at night before going to sleep. I’ve found this a good way to chill out and centre myself especially after a really busy day, helping me fall asleep faster instead of lying in bed spiralling into the vortex of my own thoughts.

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

As I’m not a massive reader, I definitely lean more towards podcasts or newsletters as short, sharp ways for me to digest information. Majority of the podcasts I listen to are from Harvard Business Review – Woman at work.

These are powerful conversations about things that happen every day, challenging all of us to think about how we can shift behaviours, successfully navigate challenges and respectfully deal with obstacles, making ourselves heard and treated equally. One of my favourite episodes to recommend would be, ‘How We Take Care of Ourselves’.

I also enjoy listening to Ted Talks which relate to the workplace, wellbeing, and anything that helps improve the things we do.

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

My fitness apps! I use an app called, Strong, to track my strength workouts, so I can easily see what I did the last time and when I’m recording a new personal best. Of course, the apple watch health app is also a must for me so I can track all the other bits and bobs too!

One more great app that I didn’t think I would get as much out of is an app called, Mantra. Every day, at a set time, it sends a notification with a motivational message for the day.

Today’s motivational message was extremely topical as I write this, ‘The passion I have for my work enables me to create real value’.

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

Hmmm, perhaps Michelle Obama or Richard Branson. They both seem to have a good approach to work-life balance. I’m also a big fan of Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming.

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

Actively prioritise time for the things, and people, you enjoy and that energise you. These are the things that are going to help you be at your best. Be kind to others, remembering the iceberg effect – you never know what others have going on under the surface.

Lastly, we can do things on our own, but together, we can achieve great things!

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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.