Leadership   //   May 21, 2024

Gen AI, RTO, politics at work: Day in the life of a chief people officer who counsels CHROs

Jolen Anderson is the chief people and community officer at BetterUp, an online coaching platform for individuals and organizations. In her role she oversees internal human resources functions including talent strategy, leadership development and inclusion efforts. But she also works with external CHROs at major brands including NASA, Google and Chipotle to understand their perspective and the challenges they’re facing that BetterUp’s offerings can help address. 

Here’s what a typical day in her life looks like.

Morning routine

Anderson works remotely from her home in Brooklyn, where she resides with her husband and three children. She wakes up around 6:30 a.m. and starts prepping the kids — twin daughters who are eight years old, and her 11-year-old son, for their schooldays. 

Their school is nearby so she walks them over then walks back home, enjoying a bit of exercise, outside time and solitude before returning home to start work. BetterUp’s headquarters are in Austin, Texas, a time zone about two hours behind her, allowing her to dedicate more time to personal responsibilities before really starting her workday. 

Her husband also works from home though is often out on client sites as he works in the real estate business, so they share the home workspace. 

“It’s always easiest when all the kids are at school, but if there’s a day when somebody’s home sick, that can sometimes add complexity to it in terms of who’s on first and who gets to kind of use the workspace at which time,” she said.

Working hours

She normally starts working around 9 a.m. ET, giving her an hour of focus time to answer emails, tie up loose ends and come up with a plan for her day before meetings start, typically around 10 a.m. Then it’s usually back-to-back meetings all day, either addressing internal HR and people function tasks or taking calls with external HR clients to better understand the community BetterUp helps support through its product. 

She seldom takes a dedicated lunch break but slips it in between meetings, and deals with a lot of context-switching when taking many calls each day. But she enjoys that. “It’s something that I find very exciting because it just makes the day go super fast,” she said.

“I'm a working CHRO and I want to stay fresh on what's happening in our space. So things where I can deepen my own learning and understanding typically take me on the road."
Jolen Anderson is the chief people and community officer at BetterUp.

I’m just going from thinking internally about being a people leader and all the talent challenges that we’re thinking about from a BetterUp perspective, coming to the customer sort of product space as I work with our business, and then thinking externally about what my peers and others who I know in the industry may be facing,” she said. 

She also often travels for work to BetterUp’s HQ in Austin, or other client sites across the country. So far this month she’s been to events that convened CHROs in Vancouver and Miami. 

“I’m a working CHRO and I want to stay fresh on what’s happening in our space. So things where I can deepen my own learning and understanding typically take me on the road,” she said.

End of day

Around 5 p.m. she begins wrapping up and sending final emails, while her husband picks the kids up from school. She often has to take some after-hours calls with clients in other time zones. 

And on this particular week she has three external events — dinners with other HR leaders to convene and discuss the challenges they are facing over a meal.

She expects they’ll discuss three hot-button topics in the space: integrating new generative AI tools in HR functions, the return to offices and which hybrid arrangements are most effective for which types of companies, and issues around politics and civility in the workplace, with an upcoming election, ongoing wars and shifting discourse around particular social issues.

If she isn’t attending a dinner or other outside event she makes it a priority to spend the evening with her children and “maintains a certain sacred time there,” she said. They do their homework, eat dinner together and then watch an episode of whatever their favorite TV show is before they go to bed, around 9 or 10 p.m. Her daughters love to watch So You Think You Can Dance and Young Sheldon. 

Finally before bed she has a quiet hour to catch up with her husband and share their days with each other. Juggling responsibilities between them is tricky, but she works hard to prioritize what she considers sacred, “which is my kids and my family and all my loved ones always feel like they’re at the end of the day taking priority,” she said.