Pippa Garland, Russell-Cooke
Pippa Garland, Russell-Cooke

At the start of 2022, I adopted a New Year’s resolution to “Leave Loudly”. The idea behind leaving loudly is to show by example that it is not just acceptable, but important, to set boundaries. By leading (or leaving) from the front, you can empower more junior members in the team to create a sustainable work-life balance, with time to enjoy both.

Before I started to leave loudly, I found myself quietly sneaking out of the door at 6pm, to make it back home for bath and bedtime. As we moved to online working, I blocked time out in my calendar with cryptic notes. “N”, for example, marked an hour in December to attend a much-Covid-delayed nativity.

Although I was managing to find a balance that worked for me, I realised that this behaviour was part of the problem. I was treating my non-work commitments like they were something that I needed to hide. What message would that send to others in the team, particularly junior colleagues, who were trying to find their own balance?

Furthermore, I realised that whenever I did openly confess to needing to leave at a particular time for personal reasons, it would only be when the need was childcare related. For example, having to make the nursery pick up, or coming in late because of school drop off. By doing so, was I suggesting that children-related deadlines are the only valid reason to set boundaries?

I believe that the quality of the work our team does is more important than the length of time we sit at our desks doing it. Clients do not always need us to complete our work during traditional “working hours” – which have stretched far beyond the 9 to 5. Increasingly, our clients are also working in more flexible ways as well.

I am also conscious of my position as a younger female partner, and a working parent. There is no point in law firms doing great work to promote people who do not fit the more “traditional” mould, if those people then feel they have to hide their differences as soon as they are promoted.

So, my resolution. No more sneaking out at 6pm, apologising as I go, to try and make bedtime. I will be open about my commitments outside of work. They are important to me and do not make me worse at my job. As we continue to work from home, I will make a conscious effort to block out time in my diary with honest descriptions (well, maybe not too honest – ‘Bath and Bedtime’ will suffice over ‘Convincing child that hair wash isn’t torture and reading The Gruffalo for the umpteenth time’).

Finally, I will be mindful that it is not only working parents that need to have respected boundaries. Leaving work on time for a sports fixture, a date, or theatre show, must be considered similarly important. And if I am lucky enough to sort a babysitter and enjoy those things once again, I will certainly not try and hide it from my colleagues.

I would encourage everyone, but particularly those who hold more senior positions, to start leaving loudly too. No more “private appointments” during school runs and bedtime. Or tiptoeing to the door while you leave your jacket on your chair. Life and work should not be mutually exclusive. Normalising this, and making sure junior team members feel enabled to do so too, will be key to retaining talent and building a strong team.

Pippa Garland is a Partner at Russell-Cooke, in the charity and social business team.