How Anna Flynn achieves personal and professional fulfilment at the Independent Hospital Pricing Authority

by Liz Marchant

Anna Flynn, director of policy development at the Independent Hospital Pricing Authority.
Age: 43
Number of kids: 1
Age of kids: 4.5 years

What’s important to you in a role?   

I enjoy being part of a decision-making team and having influence at the leadership level. It is important for me to be able to see how the work of my team is contributing to the overall strategy of the organisation.

Can you describe what’s involved in doing your job on a day-to-day basis? 

I am the director of policy development at the Independent Hospital Pricing Authority, a federal government agency. We are responsible for the pricing structure that allocates Commonwealth funding to Australian public hospitals. I manage a team of five and most of our work involves stakeholder engagement, largely through a committee structure. I spend most days working with the team to develop papers that go to our numerous advisory committees or attending meetings and engaging in discussion around the papers.

What are the benefits of working for a government agency? Are there any downsides? 

I really enjoy working for a government agency as I gain far more personal satisfaction knowing that I’m working to help the Australian public rather than for financial profit. My agency is independent and small which means we don’t have some of the restrictions that I’ve experienced in larger government organisations. We work at a fast pace and get things done. Also, as a small agency, I really enjoy the access to the senior executive team that is not always possible in larger organisations.

Did you have any personal concerns or worries in relation to family or out-of-work commitments when you started combining working and parenting? 

To be honest, I was looking forward to going back to work. I found being a full-time mum quite stressful, and I missed the contact with adults and the challenge of work. I was initially concerned about my son being in childcare for four days a week, however, as he has grown, I actually think he flourishes at childcare. His teachers provide far more stimulating days that I can provide.

What kind of support do you have at work and outside of work? 

Very little. My family are all in the UK and my partner’s family are in the Blue Mountains. We are lucky to have a good friend base and have always ensured we have a regular babysitter but I do now realise why people move closer to their family after having kids.

How do you and your partner share the load? 

As we are a same-sex couple I think the load-sharing comes quite easily to us as we don’t fall into stereotyped roles. One of us does the child care drop-off in the morning and the other does the pick-up. We both work a nine-day fortnight and alternate being home on a Wednesday. We both try to focus completely on our little boy on our Wednesdays and not let work sneak in. We both really enjoy our Wednesdays with our son and will miss it when he goes to school next year.

What are your work commitments? 

I manage a team of five people and most of them are quite new so I need to be in the office as much as possible. We also work to very tight deadlines so it’s a very busy, fast-paced environment. I do often end up working in the evenings once we’ve done dinner and the bedtime routine to manage my workload. It’s not ideal but sometimes it’s necessary.

What’s the biggest challenge you have faced finding a balance between work and parenting commitments? 

Probably the biggest challenge was in the early days of childcare when my son would get sick; always on a day with a meeting or deadline! Also, it is difficult when I’ve occasionally had to come into the office on a deadline day or been on a work trip and had to put my little boy into an extra day of childcare. I am lucky in that my work is very accommodating and is very open to me bringing him into the office if required, which helps.

How long did you take maternity leave/time out of your career with your child? 

I took a year but, in hindsight, my partner and I wish we had split this and taken six months each. I’m not really sure why we didn’t to be honest; it’s all a bit of a blur.

What advice would you give someone before commencing maternity leave? 

Try and enjoy it. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself as a parent. There are often no easy solutions to parenting so try not to spend endless hours looking for solutions on the internet. Also, maybe have some reassessment periods after a certain amount of time. Perhaps going back to work earlier might work better for you. There is no shame in using child care and the baby really doesn’t remember anyway.

What advice would you give someone returning to their career after having kids? 

This one is tricky as I struggled. I lost a lot of confidence as I didn’t find looking after a newborn easy at all. I think I’d say take it one day at a time. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be back where you were before having a baby. My confidence gradually came back but I think the timing is different for everyone. Make sure you have a good work arrangement in place that means that you can achieve realistic work goals but also be able to spend some quality time with your child.

Are there many women at your level juggling family and work at your organisation? 

Yes, and equally as many men. My CEO is the chief role model as he equally cares for two children and seems to manage this very successfully.

Do you find time for yourself? And if so, how and what do you use it for? 

Very little. I enjoy my bus ride to work and often use that to listen to podcasts or catch up with emails. I try to go to the gym at lunch and I try to keep up one yoga class every weekend.

Do you have a daily routine, and if so, what does it look like? 

Absolutely! My entire life is one big routine.

  • Up at 6am
  • Out the door by 7.10 if possible. This includes a million goodbyes and cuddles so sometimes closer to 7.20
  • At work by 8am
  • 12pm gym for 30-minute, high-intensity session whenever possible
  • 4.30pm leave work for the frantic dash to childcare pick-up
  • 5.30 start making dinner
  • 6.30 – 7.30 bedtime routine, bath, and books
  • 8pm – finally relax
  • 9.30pm – bed

The only time we change this is Saturday nights, when we have family movie which involves an early bath then dinner in front of the TV.

If you could do anything differently in relation to developing your career over the years, what would it be (if anything)?   

I think that careers are pretty organic. Paths tend to present themselves and you take some and not others. I’m pretty happy with the decisions I’ve made to date.