As part of my ongoing mentoring, I’ve been exploring my motivations around work and how I achieve a healthy work/life balance.  It can be easy to take for granted what we have at work, or to become complacent when maybe you aren’t being stretched enough or are over exerting elements of your life.  Having good friends across a range of different industries, from government, to healthcare to retail, I found myself reflecting on my personal motivations for work.  Below is my top 10 list – shared for your curiosity.  Have a read, expand each bullet to understand why this is important to me, and then feel free to share your own perspectives and top motivations via the comments.

1. A vocation

“If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life”

Marc Anthony

Work I love and subject matter I’m passionate about means I don’t see work as separate to home life, it just becomes an extension.  I enjoy working for a brand that I’m proud to tell people I work for.  I need to buy into their vision and relate to their values. I’ve found my niche in life since working on tangible end user and digital products.  These are products that are used by a mass audience, people see and interact with, and that my user experience strengths mean I can make a noticeable different to the lives of others.

2. Autonomy

I like to be empowered to deliver, and to inspire those around me to deliver their best, constantly learn and to work out loud to foster a collaborative working environment. I’m not a fan of hierarchical companies where decisions can only be made at the top.

3. Commute

It feels like this should be higher.  Having deliberately moved to Limehouse due to its proximity to the City and Canary Wharf, I’ve been lucky to never have a commute longer than 30 minutes.  I say luck, but it is by design. I like to use my spare time for me, and not for commuting on overcrowded public transport. I wouldn’t enjoy a role with lots of daily commuting within the UK. That said I’m excited about the idea of more short term European/international travel as part of a role. Call me a princess if you like, but for me, a role is a show stopper if the regular commute is over 40 minutes.

4. Work life balance

Any employer I work with should encourage flexible working times/location for reasonable asks that don’t disrupt ones own delivery or those of people who depend on you.

5. Talented, collaborative people

You spend so much time working with colleagues that it’s important for me to find shared values and interests to foster a productive working environment. I love to work with bright and motivated people from all backgrounds – and to learn from their experiences whilst openly sharing my own. Working in diverse teams where people complement each other’s core skills and have a desire to learn helps spark my creativity and deliver the best products.

6. Accessible gyms

This may seem niche – but it complements the work life balance point. As someone who intrinsically finds himself putting overs first, I’ve found I have to make a special effort to keep fit. I know keeping fit is key to a healthy work life balance, but I’m not particularly motivated by the gym floor. Instead I get excited by indoor group exercise classes where the energy from the room helps to push you to complete the full 30-60 minutes. I’ve been doing Les Mills classes (primarily Combat and Pump) weekly since I was 17. I’ve been at my happiest and most creative at work when I’ve been able to build in 2-3 classes a week after work.

7. Financial reward

To be only number 7 may surprise some. But for me no amount of money will overcome the above factors.  I don’t want to sell out and burn out just for work – life is too short.  Clearly there is a minimum number I need to support my cats and keep a roof over my head, but beyond this it’s a bonus.

8. Dress according to my diary

I perform best when I feel smart but comfortable.  Ideally smart casual allows me to wear jeans/chinos and a casual shirt with smart boots. Wearing a tie I get neck irritation and constantly feel uncomfortable – so prefer to keep the suit for special occasions.

9. Choose my own vacation

Ability to choose my own vacation and good benefits package (including number of vacation days). This may sound silly, but it is a luxury my doctor and nurse friends don’t get. Naturally I wouldn’t look to take leave that has a negative impact on my delivery – but at the same time I don’t want to be told which weeks I’m allowed off.

10. Support as a Diversity & Inclusion champion

My contributions to my organisations Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) agenda have not only been good for the business, but have helped inspire and give back to others and I believe have accelerated my career.  Any company I work for should recognise the value of promoting D&I activities. Any role that doesn’t have an open and inclusive environment (ideally with diverse role models) is an immediate no.  Number 10 on the list and another show stopper?  Unfortunately I have many friends who feel uncomfortable sharing personal aspects of their lives with colleagues. If I can’t bring my best self to work without worrying or hiding then I don’t get the most out of myself – nor does the business.  Ultimately its the companies loss.

So there’s my starter for 10.  I remember an estate agent once saying to me I should think of 5 things I want in a house I want to buy.  If I see 2 apparently I should consider it, and if I see 3 consider I should put an offer in.  Well I had 5 things on my house purchase list, and I wouldn’t settle for anything less than 4.5.  4 years later I got my 5 out of 5 home.

As I reflect on my current role I feel fortunate that I’ve moulded a role that ticks all 10.  Sure some of them could always have improvement – but it is a great foundation for a happy and healthy mind.

How about yourself?  Do any of these motivations resonate, or would you have a totally different list? I’m curious to read how different personal experiences and intersectionality affect motivations around work.


Darren is an experienced product manager currently working in the Real Estate industry. He is passionate about using data, listening to people and focusing on user experience to identify and solve real problems and in doing so to make a lasting impact for our communities.


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