H&E North spoke to Amy Cowan from Amy Cowan Events to see how working flexible hours can lead to a fulfilling work and personal life.
Amy Cowan has been in the event industry for over 20 years, opening her own event business, Amy Cowan Events in February of 2020. She recently led a talk at CHS Leeds to discuss work/ life balance, speaking about how going freelance proved to be the right step for her after a nine to five became a poor fit for her career and family driven lifestyle.
Hi Amy! Social media is such a fast- paced place for people to show how their life and work is going, do you think over exposure imposes on work/life balance?
It’s got to factor in. Whenever I see a LinkedIn feed of somebody always posting career highlights and milestones, I immediately think, who’s doing their housework? I think its commonplace for us all to think work/life balance is the same for everybody, but it’s just not true. All that fixation in the media about Molly Mae saying Beyonce has the same number of hours in a day as the rest of us, doesn’t help either. Yes, there are the same number of hours, but we also haven’t got an entire team to keep our day organised. What she achieves is amazing, but we’re not going to have that same work life balance.
How did going freelance and home working change how you work?
It felt so much better, but I also felt like I owed it more. I’d have had all the things that I wanted to do before work started, the time with my children, time doing some exercise, I’ve probably tidied up a little bit as well. After that there is only work because all those things have been done.
When I used to work in an office, every lunch break was spent running off on an errand. I’d be doing some online banking, getting my personal life in order, doing something crazy. It got to the stage where I never thought: ‘Oh, I’ll take a break from work.’ It was just cramming everything else into that hour. It wasn’t helpful and it didn’t make me feel that much more productive either.
Now I get so much more done working from home, controlling my hours, I can do those errands when I need to. I’m much more efficient freelancing and a lot of it is because I am such an honest person. All my billing is transparent because I can’t bear to think that I might be putting a markup where I shouldn’t and that’s a great motivator.
A tactic which really helps me is the Pomodoro technique, where you work for 25-minutes and then take a five-minute break, and then after you’ve done a few circuits you earn a longer break. When I was first freelancing, I lived and died by my little tomato timer.
Have your working habits been noticeably different since dropping going in to the office?
I like how, if I’m on a briefing where I have to listen, but I don’t have to do anything, I can do my washing up while I’m listening. And I’ll do that because it makes me fully absorbed at what’s going on. It’s all about knowing yourself. I know that I concentrate better when I’m doing something else, and I can do that for myself now without judgement. It drove some people potty that I’d be doing something while they’re talking but I am paying attention, that is how I pay attention. I mean, it’s literally my job to do 10 things at once and I was complimented on it in my own time, but when I used to do it in other areas like meetings, it was seen as a negative.
I think we’re also recognising that were not all 100% neurotypical and that everyone is on a spectrum. Just recognising that people’s brains work completely differently and trying to support them in that way is something I like having control over. I think that could still be done in a nine to five. I’ve created that environment for myself, because I couldn’t find it anywhere else, but I think you can find workplaces which are accommodating and there are little hacks you could put in place for yourself too.