In the Age of Wisdom and Foolishness, Are We Forgetting About Work-Life Balance?
One of my all time favorite quotes hails from A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…” This quote resonates on a cerebral level for me and a few weeks ago, I sat down and took some time to think about what these words meant to me in the immediate present. After a hard, challenging and exhilarating 2.5 years of balancing too many work hours, big professional gains, contesting egos in the work place, juggling volunteer obligations, following through on familial obligations (which required travel back home to Arizona), working with my professional affiliations and maintaining an active/social lifestyle, I was exhausted. All I wanted to do was put my sweats, close the blinds and pull a Rip Van Winkle (sleep for 100 years).
I recognized that I needed to put my daily grind on pause, reflect and re-focus on the things that make me happy because I was burning out and becoming acrimonious towards the thing that was taking away from my #happytime – work. I took some time and wrote down a few points that made me happy every day. Surprise, work wasn’t on the top of that list (what I do was on the list, just not #1 or #2). I then paralleled my happiness points with what I may have to sacrifice for that daily happiness. I started to feel guilty about wanting to refocus my time on things that were more selfishly in my best interest personally and it made me think that if I was struggling with this, others must be battling the same issue. In my search for my next blog post topic, I happened upon a work-life balance article on Gigaom about former CEO of MongoDB, Max Schireson, and his struggle with the same quandary – how to balance professional success with personal needs and not feel guilty about either.
Max brought up some great points in his discussion about work life balance within all industries, not just the technology industry. I agree with his opinion that typically companies focus heavily on addressing work-life balance issues with women, because they see women as the predominant caretakers of the family, but in reality, work-life balance is important to men and women and all generations of your workforce. All parents want to spend time watching their children take their first steps, run in their first touchdown, and get ready for their first date. Sisters and brothers want to be there when their siblings accept their diplomas or be able to surprise Mom for her 60th birthday. Friends want to celebrate the professional and personal successes of those they count on as confidants and support systems. Regardless of your job title – CEO of a global organization, HR Manager at a growing startup, junior analyst at analytics firm – having quality time away from work to do what you love is important. Recognizing that you need help from your organization to improve your work-life balance and seeking the partners you need in order to get it is the first step in alleviating the guilt of the balancing act and making real strides to putting your best foot forward both in and out of the office.
I’m very fortunate that I work at an organization that is open to our work-life balance needs and will work with us to fuel our happiness level because ultimately, our happiness impacts our engagement and productivity in the office, our engagement and productivity in the office impacts our ability to meet organizational goals and drive revenue and so on and so forth. We’ve had new fathers switch their remote work schedules to evenings so that they could be up for their newborns’ 10 pm, 2 am and 5 am feedings and help out Mom. We have team members that needed to work from countries on the other side of the world so that they could be with family members they hadn’t seen in a decade. We have team members that work 11 am – 8 pm so that they could hit the gnarliest of morning swells at Tourmaline Beach. At the end of the day, we want our team to be engaged when they come into the office so they can focus and #gsd. Our open-mindedness to a flexible work environment has been a bragging point that both current and former employees have said made a huge impact on their happiness at our company.
While I didn’t step back from my position at my company (let’s be real, there is only one person that can do what I do, and that’s me), I did speak with my internal partners and let them know that I needed to take some days off and get back to more regular office hours, which meant that I couldn’t attend every last minute meeting or work function. Overall, I feel great about my decision to scale back and now putting in a few hours over the weekend to crank out some critical things doesn’t feel so grueling. Knowing that I needed to make a few changes and sharing that with my internal partners was the first step in increasing my happiness, in the workplace and in general.
What are your organizations doing to address work-life balance issues?
Credits to Derrick Harris for his article + interview with Max Schireson.
@Gigaom – thanks for providing this #techgeek & #hrnerd with relevant reads about the goings-on in the tech industry.
Most importantly, props to Max Schireson for his courage to buck the trend of male CEOs and choosing to make more time for your family.