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Workplace Series: Resetting work practices with the opportunity of relocation

Over the recent weeks I have been relocating from London to Charlotte, North Carolina, managing a new team and gradually setting up a new home. I was under no assumption it would be a simple process but did not appreciate the size of the challenge, or opportunity, that comes with establishing a new international office. As I approach my third month here, and after the bulk of the relocation chaos has settled down, I’ve had some time to reflect on what I’d like to achieve from this move personally, beyond my professional ambitions, and how this will benefit the team. I first started working in recruitment in my 20s and at the time one of my ambitions was to spend a period of time working in New York City - no doubt influenced by 90s TV and my impression that it would be full of excitement and big opportunities all at an incredibly fast pace. As I established myself in London and built successful teams at Dartmouth, the need to move overseas completely slipped off the radar; I enjoy work, own a home that I love, have some incredible friendships, a wonderful boyfriend and my family is closer than ever. Yet here I am in my 40s, at a time when I am more settled than ever, taking a gamble on this opportunity and moving half-way across the world. Those who know me well would say that the last five or six years have been transformational: in figuring out the many connections between my physical health and mental wellbeing, both have improved exponentially as my decisions and behaviours have prioritised them. I’m stronger, more resilient and I laugh hard and often. I’ve written previously about my epilepsy, which is now managed more successfully than ever before. I’ve become a better friend, colleague, sister, and daughter. So when the opportunity of setting up a Dartmouth office from scratch came about, I felt like I’d learnt a lot of the skills that I’d need to establish myself somewhere new and it seemed right that this would be my next chapter of growth and development. Looking back to five weeks ago I thought I’d get off the plane and ‘Hey presto’, straight into the work-life I knew, but my favoured routines and ways of working established over many years in London suddenly don’t work with this completely different infrastructure and culture. Instead, the move to Charlotte has presented me an exciting opportunity for a re-set, both personally and professionally. What kind of life do I want here? How will I go about balancing my personal and professional goals? What will the team culture be? The below productivity tactics are work-in-progress as I establish myself and our Charlotte team, but they are part of the current debate around work/life balances and productivity, so I thought it would be helpful to share:

Relish the startup vibe

I find it motivating to feel that I’m part of something bigger than just myself – one team, all working towards a common purpose. I’m energised being around others and by the opportunities to solve problems. These starting months of setting-up the Charlotte office remind me of the early days of Dartmouth with everyone getting stuck in (they still do!). I joined in 2013 when the business was already approaching one year so missed some of the early startup excitement, but loved the electricity that came with each first achievement and working hard to put ourselves on the map. This time around I will bottle as much of that startup electricity as possible – there’s nothing else like it to power the team!

Separate the office from home

There are two reasons I loved my house in London so much – it was the first time I lived somewhere that truly felt like an extension of myself, and it was an oasis that allowed me to decompress, escape and recharge. The office has, by nature and necessity, a different role to play in my life. In the same way I train harder at the gym than in my living room, I work at a greater level of intensity in an office environment. Having re-trained myself to tune out water-cooler chat when necessary, it enabled me to rediscover the satisfaction of completing tasks on or ahead of time and feeling accomplished with my time in the office. It has meant I’ve been able to reduce the impact on my personal sanctuary by logging on from home too often (though lately I’ve been logging on at 5am whilst acclimatising to the time difference, hopefully not for too much longer!). Maintaining the separation between office and home helps me to stay in balance and be truly productive in all I do. Unless completely unavoidable, all high impact work activities happen in the office, at meetings and work events, and are not brought home. In a similar vein, my commute can be five minutes on the tram or 35 minutes walking so when I have the opportunity I’ll bookend the day and have time for reflection on the objections and achievements ahead.

Integrate work and play

A benefit of getting older is that you know what you’re doing and generally start to care less about what other people think of you, so feel freer to drop the work mask. My work and holiday personas have become closer to being one and the same over the last couple of years (some of the gap is bridged by my tennis court personality!). My experience is that this alignment lets others feel like they can be their real selves too. That being said, I’ve always struggled to completely share my vulnerabilities in a work setting and this new environment is a great opportunity to be more honest about challenges, to set the tone for a psychologically safe, high-accountability and high-performance environment. Letting go of the mask also helps find genuine common ground with colleagues, and in turn laugh harder and more often! In such a growing, booming and social city, it is inevitable that there will be an increase in the crossover between work and personal relationships. I’ve often tried to maintain quite strict boundaries between these two areas in the past, which I suspect has resulted in some missed opportunities. I am mindful of the need to embrace this opportunity in Charlotte to build a new network of clients, colleagues, tennis partners, candidates, co-working space sharers and fellow dog owners quite quickly. Acknowledging these learnings, and in being myself rather than trying to fit the requisite moulds I thought worked best for me, will certainly see me and my team thrive and build partnerships that last. If you’d like come and visit our newest office in Charlotte, North Carolina, or are interested in exploring the hiring opportunities available to you, email me kathryn.pride@dartmouthpartners.com.

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