Living Articles

Honest Work: What this year’s biggest challenge?

We asked our reader panel what obstacles this year holds. Read on for their very different answers.

The Full-Time Mother

I am the mother of two pre-school boys. I used to live and work in London, I now am a hausfrau. 

"My challenges this year will involve small, but lovable, tyrants, tedious domestic bureaucracy, and an attempt to square feminist ideals with my housewife reality. The challenges will also be emotionally intense, frustrating and exhausting (this is no 9-5) but I will do my best to enjoy the fun, fleeting nature of childhood. I'll spend a lot of time in the kitchen, rather than in the office, cooking endless batches of macaroni cheese and indulging in some baking rather than creating colour-coded spreadsheets. But the paramount challenge will be to enjoy the distorted timeline of motherhood: long days and short months. Long minutes and fractured memories. And trying to remember to write down the funny things they say. Lucky me."

The Diplomat

I work on global issues. I currently live and work in London. 

"This year I'm learning a new language ahead of moving to a new country to start a new job at the end of the year. I'll also be having a baby in the spring. This "time out", though exciting, poses challenges as I juggle switching from work to learning mode whilst continuing to look after my four year old. I am also conscious of the need to remain relevant and to keep up-to-date with international developments around the globe.

When I start to prepare to return to traditional work at the end of the year, I'll be switching again to get over the 'motherhood penalty' and looking to restore my confidence to lead my new team and retaining my ability and agility to respond to fast moving global events."

The Charity Helpline Manager

I manage a telephone helpline, which is entirely staffed by volunteers. I live just outside London and work from home.  My colleagues are based across the country.


"Like many charities, funding is a massive challenge for us - and this year even more than usual.  Many of our face-to-face projects across the country have found their funding cut or even completely withdrawn, so helplines like ours are left to fill the gaps.

After more than a decade working in the voluntary sector I'm used to short funding contracts and a certain level of insecurity, but if you ran a successful project, met your targets and received positive feedback from service users, you could feel fairly optimistic that there would be money available to keep it going.  Now budget cuts are really beginning to bite and things are feeling much more vulnerable."

The First Jobber

I graduated in 2014 and joined the Civil Service. I'm about to move to Brussels for a secondment.

"Starting a new job is always daunting, but even more so in a foreign country. Not knowing anyone in Brussels, I'll want to form friendships with my new colleagues: I think this could be my biggest challenge. What if my French holds me back, or they're just not a sociable bunch? I don't want to be that annoying office social sec, but having good friends at work makes the job, and the post-deadline drinks, much more fun. And then there's the language barrier - is all lost if I accidentally insult my boss in my rusty French? Sacré bleu!"

The Judge

I'm a judge specialising in cases involving children and vulnerable adults. 

"To manage my extremely demanding work, so that I'm still enjoying it and achieving excellence. To manage my commute so that it isn't dead time that frustrates and drains me. To manage my children's and family's needs in ways that relax and reward and buoy up everybody. At the same time I want to avoid exhaustion and find enjoyable time and energy to exercise and engage in creative hobbies and outdoor fun: basically to manage that elusive work/life balance..."

The Textile Designer

I specialise in the screen-printing process, printing and design for fashion and interiors. Living and working in London.

"This summer will see me going into year four of my business. I will be reflecting on the last three years and facing the reality of looking at what is working and what isn't. I have recently launched my own home and lifestyle range, which means I will be focusing on promoting my brand by attending fairs and trade shows. This is challenging as it is always daunting exhibiting your work with the knowledge that everyone will have an opinion on it. It is important to have belief in yourself and your product. Support from family and friends is really important when you're putting yourself out there. Overall,  seeing if my products are well received will be the true test… something which I am anticipating with excitement!"

The Surveyor

I value land and property for clients who aim to redevelop them. I live and work in London.

"I love what I do, but am no longer enjoying the current job as much. It's comfortable and I'm good at it,  but I want more of a challenge. Motivation is a factor, as I haven't (yet) been formally recognised for the strong work I did last year.  This year I have to find the right role, otherwise I will cruise along. There are changes in the air, so I must take the opportunity to push myself forward and regain control of my career."

The Music Manager

I run a music production company, that makes music for films, TV & video games. I live and work in Glasgow.

"The biggest challenge is work/ life balance for sure. Given we are a small company (and work around the clock between our UK and US composers) I am always “on the job”. It’s difficult to step back from work and take time out to catch up with friends, go to the gym, get a haircut etc etc etc. I love my job, but it also takes over most of my life - in time and energy. My challenge is to try and keep some time and energy aside to carve out space for other important things to co-exist alongside my work."

The Technical Advisor

I work for the local government, in the environmental protection department. I live in Birmingham.

"I have recently started working on a big project. High profile, interesting, challenging: perfect opportunity to showcase myself and maybe even get promoted at the end of it. I fought hard for it and was thrilled to get it. Couple of weeks in and I'm thinking 'be careful what you wish for'. There's lots of politics involved, going behind people's backs, pursuing private agendas, broken communication. My biggest challenge is going to be to maintain my professional integrity, preserve my reputation and still do a decent job. If I can stay sane and positive that's a bonus."

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