Be More Podcast: Personal & Professional Wellbeing with Joe Burridge
Joe Burridge, a senior recruiter at Epic Games, shares his perspective on talent acquisition and explores ideas about both personal and professional wellbeing.
Joe Burridge, a senior recruiter at Epic Games, shares his perspective on talent acquisition and explores ideas about both personal and professional wellbeing.
Be More is a weekly one-on-one podcast about how everyone can thrive in the new world of work, hosted by Workday’s Patrick Cournoyer. This week we’re joined by Joe Burridge, a senior recruiter at Epic Games, to share his perspective on talent acquisition and explore ideas about both personal and professional wellbeing.
It’s often said that you should keep your personal and professional lives separate, but are the two more intrinsically linked than that? For Joe Burridge, senior recruiter at Epic Games, your general wellbeing directly informs your performance at work, and shouldn’t be ignored when talking about careers.
“Find something you can create a habit of for the wellbeing of your personal and professional life.”Joe Burridge
If you want to learn more about how your personal wellbeing can affect your professional life, then tune in, check out the key takeaways, or read the transcript below.
Patrick: I was recently poking around YouTube, and I came across some pretty creative thoughts, shared in a series of videos from my guest today, which caught my attention. These videos were made by Joe Burridge, who is a senior recruiter at Epic Games. Joe regularly shares his help and perspective on talent acquisition, among many other topics. However, there was a video that he posted about a year ago, about moving into the next chapter of his life and reflecting on the past decade of learnings. As we were preparing for this third season of the Be More podcast, focused on wellbeing, I thought that Joe would be an interesting guest to speak with about this topic.
Today we’re going to explore ideas about both personal and professional wellbeing, including how running 1,000 kilometers in 2020 had a significant positive impact on his life. Joe, thank you for joining the conversation.
Joe: Oh, Patrick, it’s a pleasure to be here, so thank you so much.
Patrick: I love your videos, and like most journeys of finding content, I found your blog, I found your Twitter. You’ve put out a lot of really amazing content. Obviously, you work in talent acquisition, and we’ll start out with a little bit of your journey, but today, we’re not going to focus so much around talent acquisition. I am really interested in you and this concept around wellbeing. As we chatted, we’ll talk about wellbeing today. To start out, just give our audience a quick one-to-two-minute view of your journey in your career and what you do now.
Joe: Sure. When I talk to people like this, I tend to start from university. I studied philosophy at university, in Cardiff. I chose that subject just because I think it’s just the most fascinating subject. I still do. There’s no right or wrong answer. It’s all about the basing, arguing, which is a lot of, but the most difficult question any philosophy graduate is ever going to be asked is, “What on earth do I do with this degree?” When I was looking to finish up university, I was just thinking about the core of what would make me happy in a job. That was speaking to people, and it’s in the tech industry. That’s what I went for.
I also knew I wanted to move to London, and I did that, and I achieved London, the people, the tech by joining a tech recruitment agency. Funnily enough, I had no idea what recruitment or recruiting even was. I just went through the criteria of the recruitment agency, and they told me all about it, and I was like, “That sounds great.” Progressing through quite a few agencies, and then managed to land in-house at a sports video analytics company called Hudl. I think a big turning point after that is that I knew, specifically, I wanted to get into the video games industry. That’s always been a passion of mine. I just love games. Ever since I was able to hold a controller, I think at the age of three, I’ve been playing video games.
From there, I moved on to Electronic Arts, and in January, I took on a new role with Epic Games. Yes, that’s where I’ve been the last few months, and I’m loving life. Of course, starting a new job in these current times has been interesting, and I know we’re going to talk a lot today about some of those strategies and habits you have to build to, I think, just be your best self, ultimately, whilst working from home. That’s where I am now.
Patrick: Perfect. As you said, we’re going to talk today about both personal and professional wellbeing, but let’s start on the personal side. This video that I am talking about, or that I talked about in the intro, was this reflective video about talking about your 20s, your life learnings in your 20s, and then moving into this next chapter of your life. It really struck me, some of the points that you were talking about, about really being focused on the important aspects of what makes you happy and what has provided you support and success through the first decade of your professional career.
As we were talking about well-being, I really thought it would be interesting to find out how the past year has been for you, because that video was about a year ago. In your blog, you talk about running and 1,000 kilometers, so let’s talk about personal wellbeing. Can you share some of your perspective and approach and, also, some of your habits around maintaining and really focusing on your personal wellbeing?
Joe: Sure. I think, first of all, I try to build habits because habits are just something you do without thinking. You don’t have all of that process power that goes into it. I was thinking about the habits that I had when I was working in an office five days a week, and how I set those up to just try and have the most energy, try and be healthy both in body and mind. That was things like listening to podcasts and audiobooks in the car, on the commute, using that car-time as well to call family and friends. I was really lucky in that in my previous role, they had a gym in the building that I worked at, so I could go to the gym, exercise, and then just go straight upstairs to work. There were all those endorphins flowing from there, and I did other little things, like making sure to go down to the cafe, walk around the town, all of these things. Now, everything I just mentioned had all gone when the pandemic happened and we all shifted to home.
I also think, quite importantly, two weeks into the lockdown in the UK, I had my second child. Her name is Rose, and she’s amazing. That meant I then had two children under the age of two and navigated working from home together. I really had to think about new habits. I’m not going to go out to work, the same way I was before, and what’s going to be the solution now? I also try to cover multiple things in one activity. That naturally led to, I’m thinking, “I just need to be out of the house for at least 30 minutes a day, and I love listening to podcasts and audiobooks, so I will go outside and walk and listen to that. Rain or shine or snow, whatever it is, I would just do that.”
Naturally, I started walking and thinking, “I could probably run. I could probably do this.” By the way, my base fitness is average. I’d like to say, “I went to the gym. I used to play a lot of sports like football and that sort of thing.” At a healthiest level, but nothing too extreme, so the run was just really minimal targets, like 5Ks or less than that, or just like 10K total a week. The goal was always for 30 minutes outside every day, for the purpose of my mind, really, with the byproduct being my physical health as well. That mentality is actually what I tell people when I try and encourage my friends or family colleagues. I’m now at the point where I’ve run that a lot more than that, that I mentioned.
When I talk to people, I say that it’s still that goal, that the running is the end in itself. It’s not a means to, “Oh, I need to run this amount by this time or something,” because when you hit that goal, the goal is gone and your motivation leaves. To give you an idea, I’ve gone from just thinking that 10K was a really, really long distance to, in February, I ran 300 kilometers in one month, which meant a 15K before work every day, and now I’m training for a marathon. If you told me this a year ago, my mind would be absolutely blown. I’m just amazed that my body can do this, and there are a lot of people that are doing that.
You’d see ultra runners, marathon runners, you’d see them online on the TV, and you’re like, “Oh yes, that’s good for them. Well done. That’s not for me,” but it’s just incredible how it’s just over time, slowly improved, and that’s great. Just thinking about running, consistently doing that before work every day, for a year or more now, I’ve learned that I need motivation to come at me from multiple angles. If the motivation is purely, “Okay, I want to get outside for 30 minutes every day,” I’m not a perfect person. I could very often wake up and think, “I can’t be bothered to do that.” Just in that moment, “I can’t be bothered,” but I know that I will pay for that by having less energy in the day or just a few days down the line. If I keep skipping it, I’m just going to not feel as good as if I did do it.
I think the life hack there is that I’ve built all these other systems around me to give me this one source of motivation. I’d give you some examples. I use Strava a lot to compete with myself, which I think is the most important thing, but also compete with others. I’m really competitive. If there’s a leaderboard, I need to be at the top. I think if anyone from Epic is listening, there’s a running Slack channel that we have, and I’m constantly trying to be at the top of that. Same with my friends as well. There’s one thing, tracking the data, seeing your improvement over time, with others too, making it a social activity. The other thing is with the audiobooks. If I have a book that I really, really like, I will actually want to go outside and run and listen to it because that’s the time that I actually listen to audiobooks, I don’t do it any other time of day, so if I don’t run, I’m not listening to books.
With books as well, in my previous role, I started a book club, just again, motivation. If this is the book I need to read by the last Friday of the month, then again, I need to get out of the house and listen to it. I’ve stopped reading real books, at least recently, because I get into bed, start reading, get two pages, and fall asleep, so I had to think of another way of doing that. Audiobooks are great.
Goal-setting as well. Just consistent weekly and monthly goals. Not– Well, I do. I guess I have a big overarching goal in 2021, and that’s running 2000 kilometers in the year, but I don’t think about that too often. I just think about the weekly, the monthly, and just break it down into small steps. That is all of my running and where that came from.
Patrick: It’s interesting you’re combining interests for success. To your point, you like audiobooks, you like podcasts, but you only associate those, being able to do that or giving yourself the time to do that, with running. You’re combining two meaningful interests that bring you positive outcomes in your wellbeing but combining them together in a way, I would assume, motivate you to do it because not only are you running, but you’re able to also satisfy this other passion or this other like in your life, which is around audiobooks and running. I think that there’s something there, and that’s a good suggestion about combining two interests or passions to motivate both of them at the same time. Does that make sense?
Joe: It definitely does. That is exactly what I’m doing, and I’m doing that on purpose. Another prime example, away from running, is just video games. I’m obviously biased. I work in the games industry, and I love video games. If I want to catch up with my brothers, instead of just calling them, I would much prefer to say, “Okay, we’re going to get online and play a game, then we talk at the same time. I do this with my friends as well. I have friends that I’d never speak to on the phone, I just speak to them over a headset whilst sharing people or whatever it is we’re playing. [chuckles] Digital people, by the way.
I think it’s about the multiple sources of motivation because going back to the running thing, if it was purely just like, “I need to be healthy,” that just isn’t motivation enough for me, and I’m going to assume, for a lot of people because once you become healthy, you think, “Okay, I’m here. What next?” Also, now it’s habitual. I also think my wife, my kids, know that in the morning, at around 7:00 AM, I’d go out for my run, and that’s just known and expected. Perhaps, when they get older, and there’s the school run, or whatever it is, maybe that time might be sacrificed and I’ll have to find another time, but for now, that’s working for me.
Our expectations, saying motivation from multiple angles, and that’s just applying to running. I think it’s free and easy to do, and it was just the obvious choice for me, but I think, for whatever reason, not everyone might not want to adopt it. I think finding something that you can apply the same methodology to, for the benefit of your health– I’m so glad I’ve got other friends running too, just because they comment on just how they feel after that, how they are set up for a good day ahead because you’re starting your day with an achievement, ultimately, and that’s always going to be a good feeling, especially if it’s raining and it’s cold and you still forced yourself to go outside. When you come back, you think, “Yes. I’ve really achieved something quite difficult already, and it’s not even 9:00 AM,” so that’s awesome.
Patrick: Along those lines– That is a good way to start any day, is by having a sense of accomplishment. You knew you had this in your personal life, where this is affecting your personal wellbeing, as you said, especially during this time when our lives are just this big mix of everything all at, in one location, and for the foreseeable future will be that in some combination of that, as we look to the future of work. How does the personal aspect of success, and a focus on wellbeing, how does that directly impact your work life? You have this accomplishment by nine o’clock, and I’m assuming your workday starts around that time, so how have you seen a direct impact from focusing on this area, focusing on this personal wellbeing, in the past year? How has it directly impacted your work?
Joe: That’s a great question. At one point, I did want to make– Before I get into this though, it’s a constant iteration on these habits and ideas. I also think you have to really know yourself and listen to your mind and your body. For example, I have a friend who’s a real night owl, most productive in the evening. Research has shown that it’s a genetic disposition about whether we’re a morning person. I know you’re very much a morning person, Patrick, way more than me, and I thought I was a morning person, so there you go. Some people are very much way more productive at night, almost nocturnal, and then most people are just in between.
I had friends saying, “Oh, I keep watching all this stuff about people waking up really early and exercising and all that, but if I’m being honest, my preference would be after work finishes, that’s when I feel way more motivated.” I’m like, “Great. Do that then. Don’t just copy what I’m doing. Adapt for your own feelings and what makes you productive.”
I also think, tying it back to the workplace, that you should structure your work life like that. Things like, I have all of Wednesday blocked, just blocked to try and reduce meetings. I still meet with people on Wednesdays.
I just happened to be– I was like, that day, right in the middle of the week, is a good day for me to focus and reduce the number of meetings. Or, it’s a case of when you start and finish your day, how you communicate that to your team, and just really being aware of Zoom fatigue and all of these aspects. That last year just really has to be a learning curve. I’m very much an extrovert. I typically get all of my energy, or I used to. That’s what I believed at least. I would get all my energy from speaking to people and interacting with people and just being around them.
Like I did a Myers-Briggs test recently, and I was like 92% extroverted. I know that I’m extroverted, and so how can I try and get more people interaction in my workday without necessarily fatiguing everyone else? That has led to things like team game sessions, or just stand-ups with the team, daily, to just chat. Also, as I’ve become more aware of what makes me productive, I’m also thinking about my team and what makes them productive too. Perhaps, knowing those on the team who, not necessarily more introverted, just, I know that at a particular time of day or too many video meetings, that would really tie them out, and just to be respectful of that. Not just my team, just anyone in the company really.
Habits, like, “Do you want to go off video and just chat on audio today? Is this meeting even needed? Can we cover things on Slack or Email? These little habits that you bring in, only because I think I have that self-awareness, and I’m not saying that all entirely stems from running, but more from that mindset, that stamina that caused me to run and caused me to be self-conscious, is actually now exuding into my workplace habits, which I think when officers do open up, I will want to have some time back in the office, in the hybrid model. I will still keep these habits, moving forward, I think. That’s really how it’s impacted my work life.
Patrick: That’s a very thoughtful perspective about self-awareness and how a focus on personal well-being can absolutely tie into a better sense of self-awareness in the work environment. I believe and feel the same. I feel that being able to focus, and not even just being able to, but in a way, being forced to focus on ourselves over the past year with mental wellbeing, obviously, like you said, physical wellbeing, I believe there is a direct impact on our thoughtfulness and awareness of our coworkers and the needs of others. I think that’s actually a really positive outcome of this past year.
I believe, actually, there’s a lot of very positive outcomes from a social perspective, going through a pandemic. We clearly have never gone through this in our lives, but I’ve noticed that people are more thoughtful with each other, they’re a bit more patient with each other, and I believe that is because they are also a bit more patient and thoughtful with themselves, which is exactly what you’re talking about. Thank you for sharing that because I think there’s success in that.
Joe: One huge change. Talking about positives, then, I feel I have to make sure the audience that I’m talking to, whether it’s a one-on-one conversation or a group of people, when I talk about the positives of the last year, because there’s obviously a lot of negatives too, but for me, I do feel there have been a lot of positives. For a start, I moved house recently, as in two weeks ago, to be closer to family and friends. I’ve also been very lucky, in that I’ve moved to a lower cost of living area, meaning that I’ve been able to get a bigger place to live, meaning that I can have a room for an office space.
Up until two weeks ago, since March 13th when the lockdown came into the UK, I was working from the corner of my bedroom, which also was where my one-year-old daughter was sleeping and had her naps. That makes an interesting workday. Now, I’m in my own space, surrounded by family and friends, which I’m increasingly able to see. Also, my wife and children have that support network too. This is all incredibly beneficial to my work, to be honest, how I feel just day-to-day, and how productive I am. If you just want to look at it from a purely operational perspective, it’s like, “Yes, I’m more productive,” but from an employee engagement perspective, I’m happy that my laws at Epic have allowed me to do this. For that, it’s just you know that you are working at a company that has your best interest in mind. That is arguably priceless, but I’m sure it’s quantified in some way. [chuckles]
Patrick: Let’s talk about that, about professionals. I’d love to get your perspective on, what do you think businesses can do to help boost the well-being of their people. What’s your perspective on how companies can truly focus and make some difference in this area?
Joe: Yes. When I’ve spoken to people about this before, I think there are two key things to think about. You can have, I guess, the hard strategies, as in practices and policies, things that you can just implement, but I think that’s all for nothing if you don’t have the culture behind it. Giving an example, you can throw cash at employees to say, “Hey, buy yourself a new desk,” but if your culture is very much like you have a tracking software on every employee’s laptop, you have a manager that’s constantly checking in micromanagement, or just a culture of mistrust that isn’t meritocratic, all of this stuff is really heightened when we’re working from home.
When you are remote-working from home, your day and your work is much more transactional. You’re getting in touch with people because you want something or vice versa. I think there’s that. Yes, the policies and the practices– benefits that you implement are really important for sure, but you really have to think about the message and the management of the company to ensure that the culture of employees feeling like they’re looked after, they’re trusted. You’ve got to have that half as well; in fact, more so. You could have very limited benefits, but if your company culture is right, is [unintelligible 00:23:02] is needed, then you’re going to have, arguably, happy employees.
I do have some ideas on what you can implement as well, and throw some money at, or just do stuff for free. I would tell you some cool things that Epic has been doing. I joined up to four months ago. I’ve experienced this from a new employee who’s joined from home. I’m experiencing this firsthand as well as being in the people team and seeing how we choose to deploy these. It’s been amazing.
I put that aside for my move. I’ve been giving out my office to make sure it’s that app’s optimal setup. That’s been incredible and incredibly generous. I’m really not aware of any other companies being so generous. I’m feeling very lucky. Other things as well. When you add up all of that time-off throughout the year, that’s a lot, but going back to the culture, again, you could give people time off. You could even have the unlimited vacation policy, but unless there’s leadership saying, “Please, take that off. Manage your work as you see fit. It’s a very meritocratic culture. You’re judged on your output and not your hours, so focus on that and be rewarded with time off and truly switch off.”
In fact, that was the reason why Epic implemented these summer and winter breaks because even those people who say they’re on vacation but still check Slack and still– If the entire company is off, then there’s zero point doing any work because no one else is around. That’s why they implemented a company-wide break. We also have morality. The morality is as it says. Its goal is to keep the morale of the company high, which is so cool.
On a practical level, that means helping with swag and merchandise. We have an online platform for that. There are a lot of freebies we get. All new employees get a lot of welcome packs. They also host virtual events which– I think when I’d say virtual events to some people, there’s sometimes a bit of a groan, but I’ve seen them implemented really well here, and these third parties who specialize in this area. I think about a Happy Hour that we had recently with a DJ. We had this DJ performing, which was awesome, but he was also doing shoutouts which you could request beforehand. Shouting out to specific teams or products or things like that, like successes that they’d had last year. [chuckles]
It was very positive, just to sit there and listen to it, even if you’re just doing some work and listening to that. They also do personal requests for big occasions and handle all catering, all in-person events when that was open. We have ELGs which is not uncommon, but again, I see a lot of engagement there. We have seven Epic. In the pandemic, where those can meet up in person, they are driving educational events, just to Slack channels, to be part of a community is amazing. It’s very much for allies as well. If you look at the seven different categories, I don’t fall into any of them, but I definitely partake and ally with all of them. It’s just a lot of fun, if anything, just to be engaged in those.
All of that is streaming from leadership, just the transparency of, and trying to bring everyone together. I guess, lastly, I would say, about that transparency, I think if everyone is clear of the mission and the goal and the values, that really helps that everyone knows why we’re here, regardless of role. That helps with that one-team mentality. I think if your mission and values are loose, you feel just like a big cog in a machine, not really sure what you’re doing. It’s hard to engage with others at a company and it’s hard to find that common ground. I feel that, yes, that is one of the few reasons I joined Epic, to be honest, because we do have that. We’re trying to democratize the art form, really disrupt our industry, and bring all of these incredible technologies into the hands of anyone and everyone. Whether you’re a recruiter, software engineer, product manager, finance, people to [unintelligible 00:27:35] whatever it is, we’re all working towards that. That’s a great feeling. It’s very motivating.
Patrick: Well, just hearing you talk about it, Joe, clearly there’s a lot of passion around it, which is amazing. Also, really amazing work by Epic Games. These are significant programs, and definitely, because you said industry [unintelligible 00:27:55] and also, as you said, you have to have a culture that is supportive of these programs and these policies. It has to be underpinned by promoting a culture that’s going to make all of this work, and it really does sound like you’re having a lot of success with that at Epic.
Thank you, first off, for sharing with the audience and with me all the great aspects of focusing on helping employees be able to focus on their well-being through the work environment, but also, around your personal journey with well-being, particularly this past year, and some really tangible specifics on how you’ve had success with it. I know the audience listening are going to think a little bit about how they can, as you said, create habits and also to– I really like this idea of combining moments of success or moments of interest together to stay motivated in certain areas.
We are, Joe, unfortunately, coming to the end of the time, but I am excited to see this next year– well, about half a year left to get this 2,000 kilometers in by the end of 2021. We will have to chat again in early 2022 and see if you accomplished that. Joe, how can people find you? As I said, how I found you was all of your awesome content. Just to say, we didn’t talk about talent acquisition today because the conversation is around well-being, but you have so many great thoughts and perspectives on the recruitment process. How can our listeners find all of your, first, really cool videos, number one, and number two, just your thoughts and your blogs? Where can we find you?
Joe: On YouTube, it’s just Joe Burridge, so youtube.com/joeburridge. On Twitter and Instagram, I’m @joefindstalent, and just put my name into LinkedIn as well. [chuckles] Worst case scenario, put my name into Google and I’m sure some of those links will come up as well.
Patrick: That’s good. We’ll link your information in the blog post on this as well. Joe, thank you so much for spending some time with me today. I really enjoyed the conversation. Thank you for being inspirational. You’ve been an inspiration for me as well, so thank you for that. I look forward to many more conversations with you. As of today, thank you for spending some time with me.
Joe: Thank you so much, Patrick. Been a pleasure.