In March this year, after six months of training, Nicholas Skapoulas travelled to Nepal to climb to Everest Base Camp.
He didn’t have a sparkling epiphany up Mount Everest, but what Skapoulas did get from the experience was the reiteration that making time for personal pursuits is paramount to running a successful life – and business.
“(Making time for personal pursuits) gives you time to think and reset and recalibrate,” he says.
“And then, when you bring that back to your work and personal life, you come back refreshed. You work harder and give that little bit of knowledge back into the team, fully enriched.
As director of Nicholas Scott Real Estate, Skapoulas understands it’s not enough to simply demonstrate balance to his team – he needs to enable them to pursue their own goals in life just as they do in business.
“Doing some things of interest is crucially important, and I instil that in all my people. I want them to have a couple of weeks off every quarter, because that helps,” he says.
Holidays have been proven to bolster productivity in staff. In 2006, Ernst & Young conducted an internal study of its staff and found that for each extra 10 hours of vacation that an employee took, year-end performance reviews were 8 per cent higher. Those who took regular holidays were also more likely to stay with the company.
But a boost in staff morale, productivity and retention is not as simple as just encouraging staff to take time off.
As a natural team worker – something that came in very handy while climbing Mount Everest in minus 26 degree weather – Skapoulas knows that helping his staff achieve their goals is pivotal to the success of the company.
“I think it’s paramount to success. No question,” he says.
In order to help employees reach their goals, employers need to understand these goals in the first place, which means building a strong rapport and trust with their team. Skapoulas strives to understand each of his team members as an individual and nourish this relationship.
“I don’t look at people as if they’re my employees, I look at them as part of my family. I think it makes a big difference if people respect you that way as well,” Skapoulas says.
He says balance in life is “something I had to learn, because it was definitely tipped to one side, being work, work, work, work”.
He believes people need to proactively seek a work-life balance, and that this balance is critical to running a successful business and keeping your team motivated.
“You’ve got to make a choice to have a balance,” he says. “You can never have 100 per cent balance, it’s impossible. But at least you can work towards it and try to get a happy medium both for home and work, as well as providing support for the people around you.”
If the idea of carving time out for you and your staff for the business’s greater good still makes you green with envy and grey with terror, Skapoulas suggests taking a straightforward approach.
“It’s like putting an appointment in a diary. You make a choice to say, ‘Okay, that’s it for today and these are the things that are my priorities’. And you can re-evaluate these daily or weekly, there is no time frame,” he explains.
“Everything has to happen yesterday – but it doesn’t. There are things that need to happen yesterday but there are things that can happen tomorrow as well. Prioritising is important, but I always put my people first.”
The views expressed are those of the authors and do not reflect the Westpac Group.
By Peter King
Acting Chief Executive Officer, Westpac