46 – Work-life Balance – high intensity jobs, how to get performance right vs the “other stuff”, including your own physical and mental health

Is work-life balance attainable or is it a “mythical creature”? What can one do to extract top professional performance while not endangering one’s personal life and hers/his/theirs physical and mental health? We will discuss how much is too much, the big axes of “life”, whether work-life balance is possible, differences between geographies and will, as always, share our own “hacks” and key “systems”.

Navigation:

  • Intro (01:34)
  • How much is too much? (01:59)
  • The big axis: family (21:35)
  • The other axis: friends, hobbies, spirituality, etc (30:27)
  • Is work-life balance possible? (39:05)
  • Differences between geographies (56:24)
  • Bring it all together (61:57)
  • Conclusion (63:43)
Our co-hosts:
Our show:
 
Tech DECIPHERED brings you the Entrepreneur and Investor views on Big Tech, VC and Start-up news, opinion pieces and research. We decipher their meaning, and add inside knowledge and context. Being nerds, we also discuss the latest gadgets and pop culture news

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Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Welcome to Episode 46 of Tech DECIPHERED. In this episode, we will discuss the lifelong exercise of work-life balance and whether it is possible. We will discuss mental health, physical health, how much is too much, whether it’s actually possible to attain work-life balance, and as always, we will share some of our own hacks and principles. Bertrand, how much is too much?


Bertrand Schmitt

That’s the question. I’m a serious believer that it depends also of which stage are you in your life. Which period in your life are you? Are you still quite young with a lot of energy? Are you a single parent with kids? I think depending on the stage in life, you won’t physically have the same time available to devote to work. That will have an impact on your ability to work and how much you can execute and that can put pressure, obviously, to your capacity to endure.


Bertrand Schmitt

At the same time, obviously, if you’re in your 20s, you should probably have way more time to do a lot, to learn a lot, to try to achieve a lot. You might be able to endure it much more easily than if you were in your 40s, for instance.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Maybe we start with a disclaimer. Obviously, all opinions we’re going to share today—we’re not psychologists, we’re not trained psychiatrists, we’re not MDs—it’s our views and based on experience we’ve had from managing people, our own lives, interacting with many different players at various different levels of seniority. Hopefully, it is not just anecdotal, but again, we are not trained physicians, MDs, et cetera, so take this obviously with a grain of salt.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

To your point, I fully agree. There is a stage of life, and it’s a bit more granular, I believe, than that. It might be that once you’re joining a specific company, specific organisation at a specific time, you’re going very aggressively to fit into the organisation, to understand how everything works, to balance yourself and how you interact with other people and learn a new set of skills. It might be two years in that your role and job might be a bit different if you’re more in corporate life.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

In startup life, as you know, it doesn’t seem to go away, certainly in the first four or five years of the company. Venture capital is also an activity that classically, I think, if done properly, if done with love and with gusto and with passion, it’s an activity that is very encompassing. I always make the joke, I don’t suffer from ADHD, I enjoy every minute of it, which probably makes sense.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

I fully agree with you. How much is too much? How do you know? There’s the obvious warning signs, and normally the obvious warning signs are actually not internal. We’re very poor at taking our own internal signals; sleeping badly and a few other things that we’ll come back in a second.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Pay attention to people around you, in particular people that you respect and that have your best interests at heart. It might be family members, might be friends, it might be colleagues, it might be your boss.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

If you have a boss that is thoughtful about your time, listen to them. If they’re saying, “It seems that you’re not taking enough vacation. It seems like you’re not really taking time during the week to do other things. It seems like you have no other hobbies. You seem a bit glum, or a little bit depressed, or a little bit sad,” take it to heart. If someone has told you that, always remember they’ve probably been thinking about it for a long time. For them to tell you this, it’s already served something that’s been going on. Then meditate on it, think about it, and step a little bit back. The external warning signs for me would be the first way to start.


Bertrand Schmitt

Yes, that’s a fair point. What you can see from outside typically could be sign of being tired. People can see you are tired, you are barely awake, or you are too stressed out and you might be lashing out at people as a result. There are a lot of signs that others can see that you might not see that are signs that something is going wrong.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Yes. Then to your point, Bertrand, there are some internal signals. If you’re tired, you know you’re tired. If you’re sighing during the day in the middle of a meeting that should otherwise be hopefully fun… Maybe not all meetings are fun, we know that for a fact. But if you’re sighing at the wrong moment of the day, maybe you should get more sleep. It might be a one-off, it might be it happened that week and you’re on a business trip and you’re just very tired. But take those signals to heart if they start happening very, very repeatedly.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Sleep deprivation is a big, big thing. Sleeping well, making sure that you align yourself with your own clocks. I know some magical human beings who can sleep 4-5 hours a day. I’m not that person. I need 7-8 hours. Every single time that I’m a long period of time sleeping below 7 hours, I notice it and I can withstand it. I could do a week of 4-5 hours, but immediately I know by the end of the week I’m really, really tired. I’ve really not been able to create the space for my brain to fully rest, et cetera.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Although this will depend from person to person, take attention to your sleep. That’s the beginning and end of almost everything. If you sleep poorly, we’ll share some hacks later on. But maybe it’s time to do a sleep study to think through how do you get better sleep, go to bed earlier, eliminate all these inputs from things around you. Again, we’ll go back to hacks later. I don’t want to dive too much into it right now, but there’s definitely a lot of things around it. When we talked about being tired, not sleeping enough, you mentioned being snappy and aggressive.


Bertrand Schmitt

Maybe on the sleeping part, I noticed clearly, at least these days, less than 6 hours in a row, it’s definitely not good for me. I know that 7 hours, safe bet, but less than six, definitely danger zone.


Bertrand Schmitt

I always point back people to a study from the US Navy a long time ago. Basically, they were trying to assess how pilots were effective and how much sleep they needed to be effective. In that study, there was a very clear line that 4 hours and a half of sleep was the absolute bare minimum for a human being to basically be able to do his activity in a proper way. I’m always highlighting that to people. Never go there. Never go there because you cannot sustain it and it’s proven.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

We’ve had all these experiences probably in college when we were doing all-nighters to study for stuff, et cetera. Your brain isn’t quite as capable afterwards. I remember when I was at McKinsey, I think I was relatively beloved as a leader because of that, because I always made a point of making sure that people…


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

We work very hard, we work very long hours. But working 90-100-hour weeks, the whole banking thing, some of the top-end management consulting when projects are very short or engagements are very short, doesn’t work. We all know this for a fact. Your brain isn’t as capable. Halfway through the week, your brain isn’t as capable the next day. Creating space for people to actually rest and do other things that are not work is vital. It’s actually a characteristic of performance. Ninety to 100 hours generates worse performance.


Bertrand Schmitt

Yes, you can do so much with just only 80 hours a week.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

You’re joking, but some people think like that.


Bertrand Schmitt

I’m joking. But I know I had period in my life where I had to be 80 to potentially 90 plus hours a week. I think it can be sustainable over a one month period if you really have no other choice. But my point would be that it better be worth it. I would say a lot of engagements from my perspective don’t qualify. It has to be for more important reason, and I think at 80 should probably be the limit.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

My extreme, this was back in my days at Deloitte Consulting, I think we pulled… There was one particular project where we were probably three to three months-and-a-half in hardcore 90-100 hours modes-


Bertrand Schmitt

Oh wow.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

-and that was just very telling. It was telling to me. It was telling about the whole team. There were stupid mistakes happening all the time, issues in the modeling. The project, in the end, went extremely well and it turned into a project that was a little bit calmer after that. This ended up being a one-year project. But those first three to three-and-a-half months just illustrated to me how incompetent we may become once we really don’t have sleep, rest, good food, meet with friends and family, go out of it for a bit. I think that’s informed my whole career.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

It was very early in my career—to your point you were making earlier—I wanted to become better, faster, quicker so the 90-100 hours didn’t make a difference to me and my colleagues. We were all doing the same. We’re all in the same boat. But honest to God, I can’t ever do this again. This doesn’t work. This actually just doesn’t work.


Bertrand Schmitt

What I believe for me though is that, especially early on in your career, if you don’t put in the hours, at some point there is no way you’re going to break out from the back in a way. I certainly believe you have to put some hours, especially in your 20s.


Bertrand Schmitt

But there is a fine line. At some point that line, you end up doing so much that you could just end up in burnout and you might get sick of it. I’ve heard stories of people who collapse in the subway, for instance. You really want to make sure you don’t cross that line. I would feel that the 90-plus hours a week for three months is definitely crossing a line. I think you probably want to adjust to the situation. Are we talking about the survival of your company, of your firm, of your country? Are we talking about doing some accounting exercise? I think it’s important to understand where we stand.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

I think actually most US presidents at some point, I don’t know if it’s optional or not, but go through sleep training so they can sleep less hours. It is true that if you have different responsibilities… I heard this in the past, I don’t know if it’s an obligatory thing or if it’s optional. How can you withstand sleeping less hours? I am pretty sure it should involve some use of other things because I can’t see just the human body magically adapting to it.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

I had a professor in college that would sleep 4 hours a day every time. He was a professor of physics and he seemed like a normal human being when we interacted with him. He was a very kind guy, not snappy at all, so maybe it does work. But my theory is actually it works better for… It depends heavily on your metabolism, and with certain metabolisms it works better. In certain people it will work better.


Bertrand Schmitt

I think it’s heavily specific on a few individuals. It might be biology.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

To your point, horses for courses, depends on the time you’re at. We’ll come back to this concept later on. The quality of time, the quality of hours piece. One hour is not worth the same irrespective of what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. One hour can be worth as much as three or 4 hours of someone else or something done in a different way. I’ve long been an apologist of that, that we need to be better and smarter.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

In some ways, what we do at Chamaeleon is also very entrenched in this and the use of systems and augmentation that allows us to hopefully be more productive and better. If we’re not, then we need to revisit processes and we need to revisit how we’re applying our time. I’m saying this with a huge mea culpa. I’m the worst offender. I’m checking emails on weekends, I’m doing other stuff.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

To your point, if we’re entrepreneurs and we’re running our own businesses, that’s natural. But then creating the space, so how do you deal with it? Creating the space to go out and not do it? It might be the weekend or it might be a day of the weekend. Sundays I’m disconnected. It could be vacation. I’m extremely poor at taking vacation over the last few years. I used to be very good at this back in my life, but over the last years, I’ve become extremely poor at this. I’ve been thankful because some of my colleagues, people that I work with, say, “You have to go. Just go do one week out or whatever and do it properly.” If doing it properly encompasses, for example, not checking your email.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

I did this a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t want to fly. That’s the thing. I was like, “I fly enough as it is,” so I didn’t want to go and fly. I said, “I’m going to just drive.” I drove to Mendocino, spent a couple of days with a few friends inland and went to the coast a couple of days later. The rule I had is no email. No email, no Slack, no messaging. Everyone on the team knew, “We can reach Nuno, we can just call him or text him.”


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Obviously, nobody did. Thank God. Thank you for that. I appreciate everyone on the team for that. But they always had access to me. If something dramatic was happening, nothing dramatic fortunately happened. Obviously, when I came back, it took me 3 hours and a half to go through all my emails from that week. That was the cost.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

But to be very honest, the ability to disconnect. Again, it might be different from person to person, but in my experience, you absolutely need to really disconnect. Just go fully offline and say, “I’m going to be away from all these things,” because otherwise you’re not fully present there.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

In my case, I was by myself. Many people, if they go with their significant others, their loved ones, with their families, with their kids… We’ll talk about kids in a second. If you’re always checking your phone, you’re not fully present there. Not only you’re not fully working as you’re also not fully there, so it’s a bit of a stupid thing. You’re not getting rest, you’re not spending time with your loved ones, and you’re not fully working. Think of it like that. It’s a use of your time that is very, very profitable because that will allow you to recharge your batteries. It will allow you to think through things in a different way.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

One idea always comes to mind, I won’t say who this is, this was a very senior person, CEO of a very large organisation, who once told me this as I was a consultant and it hit me. He said, “I’m very envious of you guys.” I was like, “Why would you be envious of us? We’re consultants, right? You’re the CEO of a massive company.” He said, “Because you guys have time to think about my business.”


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

For a second I was staggering. This is a CEO of a large organisation, public company and he’s like, “We have time to think about your business and you don’t? You’re the CEO.” And it’s true. It’s right. At the end of the day, it’s true. If you basically back up your entire week with stuff, back-to-back meetings, calls, et cetera, you have firefighting in the middle of it, you don’t have time to think.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

You also have to create time to think. Even in your regular schedule, create a couple of hours to think about your business. Create a couple of hours to think about your people and how you’re working through things. Create a couple of hours to think about yourself. It might be 1 hour a week, it might be 30 minutes a week, it might be 2 hours a week. It depends on your schedule. But create that space, put it in your calendar and don’t abstain from doing it. It’s important, not just for your mental health, but it’s important for your productivity. Otherwise you’ll end up doing stuff always the same way. You won’t do stuff better. Then an hour is an hour. An hour is not 3 hours because you’re not improving your efficiency during that time.


Bertrand Schmitt

Yes, Nuno. In agreement, everything you are saying, there is definitely a question of learn how to manage yourself. How much sleep do you need? How much work can you sustain being overly tired without becoming overly aggressive? I think it’s key to learn that.


Bertrand Schmitt

At the same time, I think it’s also key to keep the foot on the pedal, especially early on in your career, in order to make a difference, to go to the next level. It’s near impossible without that to go to the next level. We talk already about how it depends on your situation, but it will also go back to, are you doing stuff that you love, you are interestingly passionate about? Is it the industry, is it your function? That are questions that will, of course, have an impact on how you can sustain that or not.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

There’s this saying in Portuguese, I’m just paraphrasing, but it’s like, that person who runs for passion never gets tired, and I think that is true. Again, if you are very tired and disappointed and sad, it might not be that you are having necessarily a hardcore mental health issue or you’re depressed or whatever. It might be just you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, that you are doing the wrong job for yourself, that you’re in the wrong environment with the wrong people.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Don’t take everything we’re saying as everything is a mental health issue. It’s not necessarily. It might be just your externality is the wrong one. At that point in time the reassessment has to be a little bit more substantial.


Bertrand Schmitt

Yeah. Being able to recognise that it’s not the right industry, the right function and maybe that requires a change because you are lacking the interest or you feel that it’s not the skill set you want to keep building on, actually the skill sets you don’t want to acquire at some point. That’s quite critical to realise and to learn. I think that’s part of an overall analysis of knowing yourself. I think it’s quite key to know yourself, else you won’t be able to help yourself and to get the best out of yourself.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

To finish on this topic of a little bit when should you stop, when should you go, agreed on depends on the time of the life you’re in, the role where you are within that role. Also very important for you to set yourself in that decision itself. What I mean by that is some people go, go or stop, stop. But there isn’t clarity on why they’re going and there isn’t clarity why they’re stopping. If you’re saying, “I’m going, going, going,” you’re going towards what? What’s the ultimate objective? We all know that you can have as many goals as you want and it might be that you might not attain them.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Again, I’ll go back to something I’ve probably said before. The value is in the journey rather than necessarily the end game and outcome. The outcome and the game, once you get there, you probably just have another one that you want to go for. But do have objectives. Do have goals in mind. Do have things that you want to withdraw or take out of it.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

I had this really fundamental interesting piece. I won’t say at which company, but it was many, many moons ago, many years ago. I remembered every time that I would work the 80, 90, 100 hours a week, I would be more snappy, I would be more aggressive, et cetera, somehow magically, and this is in the same organisation.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

My evaluations were systematically worse when I worked more hours. I’m not saying this is true of everyone and this is true of whatever, but I noticed that was my pattern. I would work more hours, I’d piss more people off, and I would be more judgmental. I’d be like, “I’m working all these hours and you’re not, and I’m pulling all this weight,” and whatever.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Systematically, my evaluations were worse than when I stepped back a little bit, worked less hours. But I had the frame of mind to be, for example, kinder to my colleagues, which seems like an obvious thing, but if you’re working 90-100-hour weeks, kinder to your colleagues might not always be top of mind. You’re in survival mode. Just thinking through that, thinking through why are you doing what you’re doing? What is the goal? What would get you closer to that goal, and being very strategic about that is helpful. Always knowing, as I mentioned before, that the value is in the journey, then the outcome is what it is.


Bertrand Schmitt

To be clear, we’re not talking about how you should manage people. I’m not saying you should force people to work these extremely long hours. It’s a question of what is it that you want to achieve in your life? How much efforts are you willing to put into it, and are you putting too much efforts into it?


Bertrand Schmitt

Maybe to talk about support systems. Obviously, you can talk to some professionals. You can talk to advisors, team members, family. I don’t know how much you want to talk to board members about some issues, so that’s always a question.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Talk to people you trust, fundamentally. It could be professionals. We’ll talk about coaches later on. Advisors, family, obviously, some team members. Again, you have to be a little bit cautious. Colleagues, et cetera. Really be sure that there is trust implied and that both parties are aligned.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

I’ve been very blessed. I’ve been a board member in companies where people shared with me precisely this, precisely. I remember a founder, again, won’t go into names, but the founder called me on a Friday saying, “I’m depressed.” Okay, then we need to have a conversation. I was a board member to core. There wasn’t some funky relationship in any way. I was just a board member. An investor just, I think, confided me enough to have that conversation.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

We had a conversation. I listened mostly to him. At the end of that conversation, I told him, “Look, don’t take this the wrong way, but this weekend, you’re not going to check any emails, any message.” “Oh?” “No, nothing. Zero. It’s an obligatory thing. No emails. I’m going to check on you. I’m going to check in the team if you’ve sent anything out. If you checked anything out, I will check on you.” Obviously, made a bit of a joke out of it. “You need to rest. That’s the first thing you need to do. Once you rest, you need to think a little bit and figure out if this is depression or something else.”


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Actually, it was interesting because in this case it wasn’t really depression in the sense we’d give it to him. He was getting frustrated at his co-founder. He felt again to that point that he was pulling the 80, 90 hours weeks, but his co-founder wasn’t, et cetera. Actually, this was a good ending. He ended up actually having a good discussion with his co-founder. His co-founder admitted that he wasn’t as focused on the business as he was in terms of time allocation. He ended up leaving the company over time, stayed on the board for a few years. It was actually the right solution.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

But again, very uncommon that people will have these discussions with your board members. I felt very blessed when that’s the case. I’ve had a few of these in my career. They’re more uncommon than common. But just mostly make sure that you can trust the person you’re talking to, and that that person then go and talk to another board member or say, “This might be not the right CEO,” or that person might be talking to one of your colleagues or talking to your boss or affecting your evaluation or how you’re seen by others around you. Obviously, you have to be relatively cautious on how you do this.


Bertrand Schmitt

Obviously, there is a big axis: your family, your family life. How do you manage your spouse? How do you manage your kids? That’s really a big question because it’s not just managing yourself, obviously, it’s managing expectations of others.


Bertrand Schmitt

Your kids might not understand. Your spouse might understand, or might not. She might know what it is to be in a high-stress environment. She might be herself, or himself, in a high-stress environment. That’s a big part of the discussion. Do people understand where you are? Are they trying to help you in that situation? Or are they dragging you in the opposite direction? It’s even more stressful for you, putting long hours on one side but not in agreement with your spouse. Do you have time for your kids? Do you see your kids? Do they see you? Do they miss you? That’s a big question.


Bertrand Schmitt

I believe quite a few folks, especially with COVID, realised that how much travel was taking a toll on them suddenly being stuck at home for 12 months, 24 months. I think quite a lot of people realise that maybe there is better ways to do your job, more efficient ways to do your job, where you can see more your family. I remember some friends telling me how careful they were not to travel as much as possible during the weekend to have time with their family.


Bertrand Schmitt

I think that’s really key. You need to have a supportive spouse and you need to make time for your spouse as well as for your kids. If you don’t do that, at some point, you are going to miss a big thing in life.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

First things first. Kids always win. I have no kids, but kids always win. We just had this magical moment a few minutes ago in our recording, which I hope actually Bertrand puts part of the outtake in. If not, you listeners, you send us messages and tell us that he needs to get the outtake of his daughter interrupting our recording. She’s the coolest. Basically, kids always win. I think that’s what we realised with COVID because we’re at home and then kids are like, “I do not care about what you’re doing. I will interrupt you whenever I want and I will just do whatever needs to be done.”


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

I would add, rightfully so—and this is where we get to the gist of the discussion around the axis of family—with family, you should be present and you should be aware and you should be there. Sadly, I don’t have kids. Also, very sadly, I am no longer married, and I’m Catholic. I’m a big believer in the sacrament of marriage. For me, this is particularly painful. But be present.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

I felt, in particular when I was married, and in the relationships that I’ve been in, that it’s actually crucial to be present, to be there. It might be the dinner once you arrive from a very tiring day. It might be that weekend that’s a bit messy because you have something you need to do, even for work. It might be something altogether, but just being present and aware, disconnecting from your phone, trying to really engage with your family, trying to listen to what they have to say, and being part of that piece is it.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

This is the part that’s fascinating to me because you’ll ask a lot of people, and I think the large majority of people, you’ll ask, “Why are you working so hard?” They’ll probably say something like, “I want to be successful,” or, “I want to make money,” or, “I want to be better at what I do.” But at some point in that conversation, the majority of people will tell you, “I want to do this so that I can have a better life for myself and for those around me or for my loved ones. It might be my spouse, it might be my kids.”


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

What’s the point of working like hell and then not dedicating that time to the kids and to your spouse and being present, et cetera? It defies the purpose because the outcome is already there. The outcome is already the time you’re spending with your family. If you’re not spending quality time with your family because you’re working on something magical that will make your family much happier, guess what? That’s not probably going to happen. So spend that time thoughtfully.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

It’s not big things. It’s not about going to do trips and changing the world. It might be for some, but normally it’s not. It might be those 5 minutes or those 15 minutes that you get out of your laptop or your phone and your kid is bugging you and you’re like, “You know what? Okay, I’m going to spend time with you. Let’s go do some stuff.” It might be having some rules. It might be, “I’ll always…” I am super respectful of that when we have team members or people that work with us that tell us, “Look, need to take care of my kid. We have dinner together. Put him or her to bed.” Absolutely. That’s priority number one.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

I used to have the joke with my clients when I was back at McKinsey, when their spouses would call, be it wives or be it husbands. I always used to say, “Real boss, right?” They’re like, “Yes.” We would laugh, but it’s true. It is the real boss, and that’s how it should be.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Again, axis of family for me is vital. It also includes blood family, brothers and sisters and mother and father. It is very important that this is taken care of properly. This is not coming from a place of someone who knows it all. I’ve lived outside of my country for 20 years. I haven’t lived close to my blood family for 20 years of my life. But when you are with them, try and be there. Try and be present. No excuses. Try and be there and try your best.


Bertrand Schmitt

Yes, I’m like you. I’ve been living far from my blood family for many years now. Trying to count. Maybe not 20, but not too far from 20. It’s a long time. It’s not the most easy part of living life somewhere else from where you come from. It’s the most difficult. Probably made even more difficult during COVID when you couldn’t even travel to see them.


Bertrand Schmitt

But you have to manage that. You have to listen to them and you have to find the support you need, given your situation. As you say, you cannot just be working for a magical ending at some point in your life. At some point, you have to be there for the moment, for the present because that’s what your family, your kids are looking for. It would be too late at some point. That’s a key point of the game.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

There’s a part where it gets even more complicated, which is, what if your co-worker or co-founder or the person you work with is actually your family? Your spouse, brother, sister, mother, father, et cetera. We just invest in a company that’s led by the daughter, and the father is the co-founder. That’s the first for us. We’ve invested obviously in spouses where the co-founders are spouses.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

In my experience, things work well if there are boundary conditions. If you establish either rules or some alignment on what constitutes personal time versus professional time, what boundaries can you not cross and you still treat each other as a spouse or as siblings or whatever in a different way than you would within that work environment?


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

This is art rather than science. I’ve never seen perfectly how this works. I’ve seen some people that do this really well and create those spaces and create that ability to, “Okay, we go to work, and now it’s not work.” In particular, it’s a co-founder situation, it’s a startup. It’s all-encompassing all the time and it’s too much. I can say that we’ve invested in several… I’ve invested in several founding teams that were spouses and nobody divorced or broke up during the time that we were investors in the company or while the company existed. I only know of one couple that broke up years later.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

I think that’s a good track record and that’s what’s meant to be, that for some reason, we think that’s the right person to do this business with us. There might be some incredibly valid reasons in terms of skill sets, ability, accomplishments, et cetera, but that we have that ability to, a little bit, create these boundaries, the ability to do then something else that is outside of the work realm.


Bertrand Schmitt

Yeah, if it’s truly co-founders and you build on each other’s strengths and you are on similar levels of expertise, maybe different expertise, but at similar level, it might be definitely easier. What I’ve not seen working so well is a situation where you bring some family members down the line and they might not be to the same level that’s needed, and it might not work. Some people in the team might be resentful, it might be visible at board level that there is an issue, and it creates some tough discussion.


Bertrand Schmitt

I will say in general, I’ve seen situation where it seems to work really well when both parties are really equal and really co-founder. But if that’s not the case, coming later down the line and not the same level, I think that can be an issue if you don’t carefully drive this. But I’ve seen a situation where people overestimate the ability of their family member and create issues, unfortunately.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

It’s difficult to make it work. If you can make it work, it might be magical, but it’s difficult to make it work. Do it thoughtfully. Obviously, again, if you’re separating the realms like we’re blood family or we’re family versus we’re co-founders or co-workers, at some point, the co-worker-co-founder relationship might not work. If you’re a blood family, then it is what it is. Again, having that ability to have honest conversations and saying, “This is not working. How can we sort it out?” is also pretty important. Otherwise, you’ll end up becoming the next succession series on TV, or at least an element that can be fictionalised into that.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Moving into other axes, obviously, maybe we can go a little bit more rapid fire. Friends and having time for friends and doing things with friends. Hobby is what I call time normally for yourself. It might be that in your hobbies, you involve your family or you involve friends.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Actually, the sports I do, one is a little bit individualistic because I’m inside a car driving. There’s really nobody else with me. Maybe I could have friends who go racing with me as well. Now, I have friends at the track that became friends after I started racing, I guess. Table tennis is also a sport that’s one against one or two against two. Obviously, time for yourself, but it could be times for you to connect with others.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

The immediate thing that comes to mind that is last but definitely not the least is spirituality and religion. Obviously, if you’re a spiritual person or if you’re religious and you have religious practices, that takes an important part of your time. I am, as I mentioned before, Catholic.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

I am not only a practising Catholic, but I do have daily norms and routines that I follow in my life, like going to mass, for example, on a daily basis, which is a little bit uncommon. We see some people doing it, but it’s a little bit uncommon. For me, that’s very important. It’s a very important routine of my day and how I do things. I know for other people, it might be something else, it might be their meditation in a broader sense of what meditation is and spirituality.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

There’s a lot of other axes that you should think about as ways to get a little bit back onto your work-life balance. They’re also flag posts. They’re also posts that tell you how well you’re doing. If you have no time for anything, if you have no hobbies, if the last time you met your friends was three months ago, you could be not spiritual, who knows? But if all of that is your work, then maybe there’s something there that needs to be corrected. There may be something there that doesn’t quite work out.


Bertrand Schmitt

You want to be careful because work might disappear, the work might change, the team might change. If you put absolutely too much into it, it might be at some point a very rude awakening. You want to be careful the day you wake up. That’s why I agree with you. You need to cultivate these other axes. France, it’s easy to catch up even remotely if that’s your best option.


Bertrand Schmitt

I’m a big believer in hobbies. Either hobbies that are potentially connected to what you do for work or not so that you have something else totally different, focus on. Personally, myself, learning to fly. That’s my hobby for the past 12 months. I think that’s very helpful to have something else, another rock in your life that you focus on that gives you some stability in case anything happened. I think there is real value to invest in these directions and you have to pick what feels important to you and what you connect the most to.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Sometimes these hobbies or the conversations with friends or your spirituality is what gives you perspective, the ability to think higher level, to look at your life more broadly than just the work. I think the point you were making, Bertrand, is pretty vital. Work can’t be everything because it is not an even relationship. In some ways, at some point, it becomes parasitic. There’s a parasite. In most cases, it becomes parasitic towards the employer. The company, if that’s an entity, where you’re giving maybe too much of you.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

But it might be the other way around. It might be that it becomes too parasitic towards the employee because the person is not doing a lot of work and they’re doing whatever and they’re just chilling, et cetera. This episode is obviously, clearly not for those people. But it could be that it’s the other way around.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

I think once a relationship with your work, with your company, with your work environment becomes parasitic one way or the other way, it’s time to probably leave or time to think through what else is there for you, because there’s something wrong. There’s something wrong about that relationship.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Again, we are made to work. We are told we’re made to work, even spiritual and religiously. We’ve read that. It’s not like, “Work is all this hassle thing. I prefer not to work.” I think most of us are in this field of we actually want to work. We want to gain something out of it. Some of us love it, some of us might like it. But at the end of the day, work can’t be it. There is something around it that is more important in some ways, which is your arch or your arc of life.


Bertrand Schmitt

I believe strongly in one thing is that work, the company is not your family. I personally cannot stand companies that talk being a family for employees. For me, that’s sad. That’s wrong. If you’re a company, you want to have a team. It’s a team because you want to bring the best people to the team. You want them to work well towards a common goal. At some point, maybe at different company stage, company growth, change of strategy, potentially you have to reorganise. You might have to let some people go. You don’t let people go from your family. I don’t think that’s how it’s working. But in a company, that’s what might happen.


Bertrand Schmitt

I feel that maybe in tech in 2022, people started to realise that was a lot of bullshit from a lot of companies who were talking about being a family and this and that to the point where the shit hits a fan and suddenly there is no family anymore. There is layoff after layoff, and that’s really unfair. That’s a bad environment to make people believe in something that does not exist, is not real. But unfortunately, I saw a lot of companies playing that game and people willingly embracing that story.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Bertrand knows I have a slightly different view on this, maybe in the nuance, the difference. I agree with this notion that your company is not your family. Most companies are organisations where you spend a lot of time, and obviously, they can’t be your family.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

It might be—and it happens in certain cases—there are relationships that are formed within your work environment that are certainly friendship relationships, and in some cases, it might be almost like family relationships. The way I work, and certainly in the organisations that I’ve been a founder of rather than I just joined. I used to work at McKinsey, but I joined McKinsey, but the organisations that I’ve helped co-found and that I’ve been working on, there is a notion of us, we really try and take care of each other.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Now, is it clear that we’re not family? Most of the time, it’s clear we’re not family. But we will do things that are a little bit familial in how things get done. It’s a bit of a two-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s very positive because people can be a little bit more open about the issues they’re going through. On the negative side, obviously, there’s also a lot of expectations from everyone involved that you’ll do right by them.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

It depends on the size of your organisation, I believe. It depends on the scalability of the organisation. It depends on the people, ultimately. I have been in organisations that had very strong family-like ties. At worst, I’d say friendship ties.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

I’ll give an example, and this was not even my organisation. I joined an organisation as the second person in the team. The person who led that department, that team, is still someone that I consider almost like a second father, not just a mentor, but someone like… I went to his 50th birthday. Flew over just to go to his 50th birthday in a different continent, because, of course, if he ever asked for anything relating to his kids or his wife or himself or whatever, I would do it. It’s more nuanced. It depends, is how I would say it. I wouldn’t be saying, “Oh, it’s tough. It doesn’t work.”


Bertrand Schmitt

I don’t think it’s opposite at all. What you are describing is not a relationship with a company. You didn’t go to the 50th of this company. You went to an individual, and this is different. I’m not saying you cannot have friendship and build friendship, you cannot have a strong spirit of camaraderie, of friendship. Of course you can. Of course the best companies generate that. I’m talking about when companies are purposefully trying to position themselves as being your alternate family. I think it’s the wrong word and the wrong approach to it.


Bertrand Schmitt

Another extreme. Sometimes I feel some companies are trying so hard to obligate you that it starts to feel a bit like a cult. That’s also something I would be personally worried when companies try to take all your life and potentially trying to take place of your spiritual life in some ways by being close to a cult, and we all know some startups that were run close to that.


Bertrand Schmitt

I always believe that people have to be careful. There needs to be some limit on how strong you push things forward, especially the younger people. They might be more easily impressionable and might believe a bit too much some stuff, so I think it’s important to put some limits. But of course, personal friendship between people, it’s a very different story from something that is too organised, choreographed by a company.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

In shocking news, we fully agree then. There’s no disagreement and agree with everything you said. Obviously, you have to be thoughtful about the more junior team members, the younger, the less experienced and how do you influence them and how do you work with them. Knowing this isn’t a very exact science. I mean, obviously you try your best and sometimes you don’t do greatly, but hopefully over time, you get better at it.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Moving to the key question maybe on many of your minds, those listening to us, is work-life balance possible? Stake on the ground as always, I think it is. There’s a few levers and elements that are very valid and that are very important. We discussed some of them already. Horses for courses. The time and period of your life that you’re in, the stage at which you’re in, within the realm of the company that you’re in, and the job that you’re doing, all of those things have importance and all those things define how your boundaries change and how they can change one way or the other.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Maybe it’s more time to work and much less time to life. Maybe at some point, you start balancing it a little bit more. It’s taking time off, it’s acknowledging that you need to take time off. Weekends, ideally at the very least. Vacation. Time during the week outside of your working hours to meet with people or to do something that you like or a hobby. All of that is pretty important.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

I’ll go back to a topic I’ve mentioned before, which is the key, in my opinion, to how you get the most out of your performance and job. Quality of time. This is incredibly difficult. The ability to do in one hour the work that would take otherwise someone else or yourself more hours to do is essential.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

I’ve always been someone who believes that FaceTime is absolutely not the right thing. It’s great that people meet once in a while. It’s great that they interact in person. But just being there for 12 or 14 hours just to show you’re working is a stupid, idiotic thing. People should be measured on their accomplishments, on what they deliver, and on the quality of what they deliver. Then the time, you’ll start figuring out, “Okay, that person’s a bit faster. That person’s a little bit slower. Is this higher quality, lower quality?” Et cetera. But measuring your professional life in that sense, “Have I executed the way I wanted?” is vital.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

This is not easy. It’s something that you systematically need to iterate. I’ve been working for 27 years. For example, I believe right now, I’m at a stage where there’s pieces of my calendar that are very inefficient that I’m not really delivering the value I should in those times. There’s others where I’m super efficient. That’s hopefully a good news.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

But at the end of the day, going back to the drawing board, reassessing, how do you improve those times? Are there processes that you can get better at? Are there people that you can leverage better? For example, if you’re a manager, are you managing in the right way? Are you empowering people to do stuff or are you getting micromanagerial on everything?


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

I tend to be a bit helicopter in how I manage sometimes. I’m very high level and then I go very deep. I try to sometimes stop myself from that. It’s like, “Okay, no, this is yours, you do it, okay? If there’s some quality assurance that needs to be done, we’ll get to that.” But ultimately the ability to use an hour in a manner that is efficient for high-quality outcomes is the essence of this game. That’s how you get work-life balance over time.


Bertrand Schmitt

Yes, that’s a huge point. Myself, I remember hiring people, and what you are targeting to achieve is a better use of your time. If you hire people and after a few months of ramp-up you get a better life because stuff is done better, faster, more efficiently, and you have to spend less time on it, then it’s success. If you are just spending more time managing, or I would call it nano managing people and going too much in the weeds, then that’s a huge problem. You are probably not saving time.


Bertrand Schmitt

A big part of the game is improve your process or hire the right people, but you need step-by-step to improve how you work. That’s a critical part of the game. Hiring the right people, and firing if they are not the right people, as well as optimising your process is a key part of the game.


Bertrand Schmitt

I want to stress again as well, you really have to match your period in life with the type of company and the stage they are at, as well as the position you are taking. You want to be really careful that the two are well aligned.


Bertrand Schmitt

I remember how many times I had to tell people, “Hey, maybe this is not the right thing for you because of the stage we are at and because the stage you are at in your life.” Different stage in your life, different stage for us as a business or this entity would be a perfect match, but this is not the case so either you change and you switch. But maybe there is no reason for you to change because this is your stage in your life and you cannot change it and you don’t want to change it. But the company also has some obligations to other team members, to your clients, to your shareholders, so you really have to match the two. Unfortunately, so many issues are because you are matching the wrong time in your life with the wrong stage for the company.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

It is important to make this distinction around… You’ll often listen from your friends, your colleagues, or others this notion of work-life balance. There’s the case for yes and there’s the case for no. The case for yes is many times done by people that have created very clear boundaries in their career and how they work, et cetera. But it might also be made by people like myself, where there’s sometimes a tenuous line like work and life where I’m checking emails on weekends and stuff, but it doesn’t affect me naturally. I still believe I’m resting on a Sunday, although I might check a couple of emails.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

The case for yes and for no, I believe is actually, shockingly enough, in the eye of the beholder. I’m going to be extreme here, but it’s like you could literally just switch to “I actually have work-life balance without doing tons of changes.” I know people like some of you that might be listening, like, “Mate, I’m doing 80 to 90-hour weeks right now.” It might be tweaks, it might be little things that you’re doing. It might be that you fully accept that this is the time, to Bertrand’s point, that you are doing the 80 to 90 hours, and maybe in three months’ time or in six months’ time, it will not be the time for you to be doing that. Accepting that is very, very vital.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

I’ve seen people that come to me with what I call the Kumbaya answers of, “Oh yeah, of course, work-life balance. I live in Bali and I go all around the world.” I’m like, “Great for you, it’s wonderful that you can do that and that you still feel you’re efficient.” I know people who actually are efficient doing this. There’s nothing wrong about it. But when you listen to these stories, never forget it’s in the eye of the beholder. It’s like the empty glass, half full mindset. If you frame it in a way that works for you, the case for yes and no is really your mindset choice. It’s shocking, but it is.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

I did something. It was a bit of a strange exercise when I was back at McKinsey. Not the easiest place to have a discussion on work-life balance, I can tell you. But I used to do this exercise, I may have mentioned it in the past, where I would absolutely disconnect my BlackBerry. We had BlackBerry and mobile phone. I would absolutely disconnect my BlackBerry on Friday evenings. I think, normally, 8:00 PM, that was my cutoff. I would turn it back normally late Sunday or Monday morning, depending on my week and what was happening. Everyone had my phone number, and I told everyone everywhere, “If you need anything, if it’s urgent, just call me.”


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

In six years I was at the firm, zero calls during the weekend. If you then ripple that back to your teams or the people that you work for, if you create a system by which people understand how you work, it sort of works.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Again, back to the point Bertrand has made throughout today’s episode. Fully, it depends which stage of your life you’re in. I would do this and you’re like, “Well, you didn’t work for two days.” Well, most of the year I wouldn’t work for two days, which I was entitled to, or a day and a half. But then I wouldn’t make my teams work for two days. This applied to everyone.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Part of my life at that point in time—and Bertrand knows this because that’s when we probably met—I was on a plane all the time. I was all over the world. For example, I might be on a project in Korea or an engagement in Tokyo. Guess what? I would go until 1:00 AM or 2:00 AM many nights working with a team. There would be nobody in the room. We’d leave together. I would pull in still 60, 70 hours, sometimes even more, but I had a boundary condition. I had the rule.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Again, that rule, in the eye of the beholder meant I had work-life balance. It created some other sorts of issues. Then people thought I had a good life. I was like, “I don’t think so.” But if you create those rules for yourself, for your teams, for the people that you report to as well, if you create these boundary conditions…


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

I remember having this discussion vividly. She’s still a very good friend of mine. She was someone who worked for me as an engagement manager in a project. She was overworking. Clearly overworking. At a certain point in time, what we had to do was not just tell her you can’t work these hours, we need to leave at this time as we, as partners on the team, actually had a rule. I remember I wasn’t the only partner there was another co-partner, we call it engagement director at McKinsey back then. I was the other co-engagement director.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

I told the other co-engagement director, “You do not send any emails to her during the weekend. Zero.” He’s like, “What do you mean?” It’s like, “Whatever. Schedule send, do whatever you need to do, put it in your draft, send it on Monday morning. No.” Truthfully, I think it changed how this person worked.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Back to our point that we made at the beginning, it made this person more efficient. It made this person even more thoughtful by actually working less hours. Shockingly enough, that’s the type of stuff we need to do more and more I think in today’s work environment. Just FaceTime is BS. It’s a really bad metric.


Bertrand Schmitt

Yes. Obviously, there are different type of businesses. If you take professional services business, at the end of the day, you are billing hours. The more hours you do, the more you can achieve as a business. If you are a product company, it’s a very different story. You can optimise time very differently. It’s a very different game, I believe, as a product company versus a professional services type of business.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

But you have a limit of billings as well. I don’t know any professional services firm that can charge more than 40 hours per person. McKinsey wasn’t even 40 hours. I think it was 35 the hours that we could charge. I can tell you, we didn’t work 35 hours a week. We were not French. I don’t know, it was some funky number, it was not 40. We work more hours than the hours we can bill.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Do some firms do funky things around double billing? I don’t know, maybe some do, where a professional might be charging 80 hours a week but to different organisations. Who knows? But in principle, you shouldn’t do that type of stuff. That’s just not kosher at all. So you’re still always working more than the 40 hours, I have no doubt about that.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Unfortunately, professional services is probably one of the worst offenders, I think. Together with very early-stage startups in that environment, they’re top of the list for me where you work really nasty hours. Maybe, obviously, within professional service I would put investment banking just to be clear, not just consulting. Law firms work stupid hours.


Bertrand Schmitt

Yeah, I guess startups, the difference is that there might be light at the end of the tunnel for people involved, but that’s probably the big difference. It’s not by design. I think at the end of the day—we talk briefly about it—but if you do what you love, it’s much easier on you. Of course, the risk of if you do what you love until you do even more of it, but it’s for sure more sustainable when it’s fully aligned with what you are doing.


Bertrand Schmitt

That’s why it’s key to basically pick a company, a business where you feel very aligned. Because either it’s the right industry for you, because it’s the right company mission, because it’s a vision that’s exciting you, because you can go in a function you were dreaming to get into. But I think that part is really critical. Do what you love should make your life balance much easier.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

I agree with that. I believe the biggest risk when you’re doing that—this is I think John Doerr used to mention—this as the missionary founder versus the mercenary founder. The danger is that you go too far off the deep end where you’re working too many hours, doing too many things. For those who love what they do—and I think Bertrand you love what you do, I love what I do—the challenge is always, when is it a bit too much? Back to our question earlier, should we step back now? Should we do stuff and do something else? But it is, honest to God, a blessing when you get to do what you actually love, when there is fulfillment.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

I often ask this from my friends. What percentage of your work time, if you put all your work time checking emails, calls, whatever, are you happy in? Just to measure level of happiness. It’s very rare, in particular when I’m talking to people in corporate life, to see people that are above 50%.


Bertrand Schmitt

Yeah, that’s a very good metric actually.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Above 50% is very rare. People above 70, 80% is extremely rare. In startup life, it’s a bit more mixed. You’ll find all sorts of types. Even—and it’s irrespective of founders and team members and stuff—you’ll see very high and very low and anything in between. But you should be aiming at least at about 50%. If your work is not making you happy 60, 70% of your time, there’s something wrong with it. If you have a chance to change it, if you have a chance to change what it is, work on it, change it. If you’re doing a lot of things you shouldn’t, or your team is, change it.


Bertrand Schmitt

That’s a game. Either change it because you have the direct authority to change it, hire the right people, change processes or because you are going to try to change position or to adjust your responsibilities or because you are going to change company. You need to make sense of it. I like this metric, the percentage of hours, your work hours that you enjoy or not. I think that’s a key point.


Bertrand Schmitt

I will say that you talk… Even founders. I think sometimes founders have to do a lot of stuff that either they don’t like or they are not skilled for because you are the founder and you have to do stuff that no one else can do or is willing to do sometimes. So I can see that. But again, if you’re the founder, you should have the ability to change the process, to change the people, and as a result, get quickly out of a bad situation. But that’s, I think, a key metric. You absolutely need to check on that, get that pulse. I don’t see how anyone will not feel worse and worse if you’re in a situation where you are below 50% of enjoyment of what you do.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

I was 90% a year, year and a half ago. I’m no longer at 90%. I’m working on it now, but I’m certainly well above 50% so that I’m still happy. Who do you go to? How do you decide these things? We’ve already talked about the family, friends, potentially, colleagues. Very difficult, but also not impossible, board members, coaches. Obviously, the world is now filled with life coaches, executive coaches, and a bunch of people around you will have had great experiences with this. Some may have had less good experiences.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Again, be very thoughtful on the person you choose to work with. You’re going to share a lot of very personal things. Be careful on how you frame the relationship, what you expect from that relationship as well. I’ve been very, very blessed to have been not only a mentor and an investor and all of those things, but also a coach in my career where I just literally supported entrepreneurs. It is incredibly fulfilling. We have the case of Bill Campbell, who passed away a few years back, who was known as the coach and who was so vital into so many of the big companies of Silicon Valley.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

It is a blessing when people share with you their most intimate pieces. Choose coaches that are appropriate to you. It might be someone that you want that is really more focused on your ability to manage your company and the day-to-day of your business. And that’s a specific type of coach. What we usually used to address as executive coaches, now it seems like the term has been a little bit bastardised. There’s more of the full-on holistic life coaching, which is about all your life, all-encompassing, also focusing on your personal aspects, almost ending up in ful- on therapy.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

There are actually people that are therapists, so don’t forget that. If you need psychiatric help, there are psychiatrists. But if you need someone that is certified as a therapist, go after those types of talents, not just people like myself, who obviously can be helpful, but I am not certified in anything. I’m not an MD for sure, and I’m definitely not certified in therapy. Again, choose the right people for you. The final piece of the puzzle here is for those who have obviously some spiritual notions or religious notions, there’s other types of people that you obviously can talk to.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

In the Catholic Church, for example, we talk about, assuming other Christian religions as well, spiritual direction. A spiritual director in Catholic Church is normally a priest who can help. It’s not just for confession, but someone that you basically share what’s going on in your life. You talk about, in this case, other things like supernatural life and other things that are a little bit more esoteric for some of you that might be listening to us today.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

At the end of the day, really find the right people that can help you in the several dimensions of your life and create that vulnerability, obviously thoughtfully, not with the first person you meet, but create that vulnerability over time. Create that connection, that dialogue over time. It can be extremely, extremely helpful, but be very cautious.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

This is the last thing I will say on this topic which is, it can be used in the wrong way. It can affect you in the wrong way and it can throw you off a tangent. You could be in a case of having over-therapy or getting wrong advice, so just be thoughtful. As everything in life, listen, triangulate. You’ll have friends, you’ll have family, you have other people that you can talk to, and make your own decision. Don’t just trust what people are doing for you. All these gurus out there, just be thoughtful on what you listen to and what decisions you take out of it. That would be my last point.


Bertrand Schmitt

I totally agree. I think that at some point to get help and to find the right type of help, depending on what is the issue at stake. Personally, I’ve seen definitely some value from executive coaches for myself, but also for some team members of the team. If they are not executive, you have coaches as well that you can deploy for managers, for instance.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

All of this is not true across different geographical regions. Obviously, the US is different from Europe, and parts of Europe are different from each other, and parts of Asia are different from each other. The US, when I first moved here, two-week vacation seemed to be the norm. Three-week vacation, 15 days. China, when I moved there, I think it was 15 days, if I’m not mistaken as well. The US is funny. We work in tech. Now I’m in Silicon Valley. We’re a little bit like there’s a Netflix model where you have unlimited vacation, whatever that means.


Bertrand Schmitt

Yes, I was going to say, you have unlimited vacations in the US.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

We have unlimited vacation at Chamaeleon. If my Chamaeleon colleagues are listening to me, it’s like, “What the hell?” The US is still one of the worst. They feel very bad when they take one-week vacation. Two, three, some do. That said, as we work in tech and venture capital, it’s becoming more of a thing that people take more time off. I’ve heard of a VC firm, that shall go unnamed, that gives eight weeks a year.


Bertrand Schmitt

Oh, wow.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Eight weeks. I will not say their name. They have some fixed vacation time. There are times where they just shut off a couple of weeks a year.


Bertrand Schmitt

Wow.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

I remember firms that did this in Europe as well around summer and around winter, around Christmas and Thanksgiving, et cetera. But in general, the norm is still that US takes tax vacation. People are very thoughtful about taking vacation. That said, I believe August is becoming a thing. It wasn’t, definitely, when I first moved here 11, 12 years ago. August, now it’s difficult to do business in certain parts of August, certainly in Silicon Valley.


Bertrand Schmitt

It’s slower, definitely. It feels getting slower in August in the US. It’s not dead like in Western Europe. But yeah, it’s definitely a thing. In Europe, everyone knows there’s quite a lot of vacations. August typically is quite dead. July will be more for the Nordics. I will say typically mid-July to mid-August in Europe, if you want to take a bet, it will be very slow going.


Bertrand Schmitt

Of course, as a French person, I have to talk about the 35-hour work week that was established a long time ago now, maybe 25 years ago. I believe it has been a catastrophe. I believe it really poisoned the well. It happened when I was just graduating from engineering school. I was very surprised to notice, step by step, in just a few years’ time, how many friends were pretty ambitious, wanted to do great things. Step by step, they were just focused on how they organise their four-day weekend. Next four-day weekend, their two weeks vacation, their four weeks vacation.


Bertrand Schmitt

It was very shocking how vacation was just becoming the goal in itself versus achieving something. That’s been very shocking. I think it has been really a bad thing. There can be too much of a good thing, basically. I think that France has been going there. It’s really an issue, a mindset. Of course, when you have to deal with France from outside, it might be a culture shock in some ways. I feel pretty sad about what happened and the fact that it has not been changed after all these years.


Bertrand Schmitt

There have been tweaks in the system, of course. It’s getting probably a bit better, a bit less crazy, but it’s really a difference of mindset and it’s pretty tough. I believe if you are focused on achieving great things and if you want to, in a way, as we say, change the world, you don’t do that with weeks and weeks of vacations.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

It’s a mix of a couple of things. It’s a mix of work intensity, time of vacation you can take a year. Like Germany, I believe is 30 days, which is a lot. I was shocked. Holidays, Europe I think is clearly the winner on this. Certainly Europe, in particular, in terms of number of holidays a year. US has done better, I think, in last years of adding more holidays, I guess.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Then the worst are obviously Asia. There’s some huge holidays in particular if we look at China, Korea, and other countries around Lunar New Year, around other parts of the year. But the work ethic is also very different. China, many companies, certainly in tech, still do the 996, which I believe we may have talked already in a previous episode. It’s 9:00 AM-9:00 PM six days a week. 9:00 AM-9:00 PM, six days a week. It’s incredible. Korea-


Bertrand Schmitt

As a base, right?


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

As a base. They only unlock your WeChat ability for you to pay for with WePay or drive home after 9:00 PM then the weekends. In Korea, Korea, I think went to five days a week already in the Noughties, 2004, 2005, if my memory doesn’t totally fool me on that. These countries have a work ethic, certainly the Far East in particular, I’d say China and Korea. I’m not badmouthing Japan, but I think Japan is in a little bit different echelon in terms of work intensity.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Then Southeast Asia varies quite a bit, South and Southeast Asia. If we look at India, Bangladesh, and other countries, the work intensity could be as severe as in the Far East. There’s parts, I think, of Southeast Asia where things are a little bit more Europeanised, not fully European, but Europeanised, where you can take some time off vacation. There are holidays, et cetera.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

But I would say if I had to say work intensity—and I’m really over-generalising here—Asia still has a little bit of a play on us in particular, as I said, China and Korea, I think. Just countries where people just work super, super long hours and taking a vacation, holidays, et cetera is sometimes even frowned upon.


Bertrand Schmitt

One thing I want to say is that when you ask a lot from yourself or from others, you also want to be flexible. For instance, for me, there is nothing worse than expecting a lot of work from people, but at the same time being totally inflexible, like requiring FaceTime, like not letting people work remotely or even work from another country for one month because that’s where is their family. I think there are a lot of ways where I think you should be flexible the more you ask from people.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

I agree. It’s something, to be very honest, that I’ve long thought in my life. There have been moments, and not for myself, but for the people that work with me, should we give more flexibility? Less flexibility? You have to be thoughtful and question when is the right timing for things, but in general, over time, going to a more flexible environment is the way to go.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Maybe we bring it all together. We bring all of this episode together around work-life balance, mental health, even physical health. We didn’t talk about sports much except in hobbies, but physical health is important. What you eat, how much you sleep. We also mentioned the sleeping piece.


Bertrand Schmitt

What you eat is important.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Essential.


Bertrand Schmitt

It’s very important.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Essential. It changes everything. Your weight, your metabolism. Essential. Maybe I’ll start, when in doubt, stop. I think just stop and take some time off. If you’re hesitant, like, “Maybe I should take some time off,” just take it. It’s probably a good time to do it.


Bertrand Schmitt

Yeah, stop. Take time off. Go to people you trust and that can help you. It’s really critical that you go to people you can trust.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Figure out through time what works and what doesn’t. Horses for courses. Different times, different roles, different positions, different organisation, different companies will demand different time allocations from you.


Bertrand Schmitt

I would say really recognise the stage you are in your life. Know yourself and adjust based on that.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Last but not the least, we haven’t gone too much in detail on this, but learn how to communicate this to everyone around you. Your bosses, the people that work for you, people work around you, your family. Be explicit in some of these conversations. I’m not saying on everything, I’m not saying you need to be fully transparent on everything. But if it is a meaningful structural issue, be clear.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Like, “I’m about to have a kid. I believe I will need at least a month where I’ll be a little bit stepping back, but I want to continue working because it’s pretty critical in the time that we’re in. Can I do that? How can I do that?” With your family, say, “I’m going to go through a push right now. Is this okay? Is this a good time for me to do this push for the next month?” Or, “I’m going to do two weeks of travel internationally, but then I’ll be back for a month.” Have these conversations as openly as you can, as transparently as you can. They will benefit in how you interact with others around you.


Bertrand Schmitt

I think it makes sense. As this concludes our Episode 46, we are all in high-intensity jobs, and it’s really important to get the performance right at the same time balancing with your other stuff, your family, your friends, your hobbies, so that you can maintain a good balance, and that you have take good care of your physical and mental health. Thank you, Nuno.


Nuno Goncalves Pedro

Thank you, Bertrand.