Having worked hard throughout my career to manage the complexities associated with juggling a career, family and community involvement, I can tell you with certainty: Work/Life Balance is a myth. The concept itself is flawed. It assumes that, just like the scales of justice, you can put your career on one side and your personal life on the other. And between the two, find the balance you are looking for to lead a good, harmonious life.
This is not – nor will I make it – a woman’s issue. Work/life integration, or workplace flexibility, is a family issue and a professional issue, and it quite possibly could be the most important issue employers and their teams need to tackle today.
With two-profession families (both parents eager to have meaningful careers,) and the need (not the desire) for both dads and moms to be actively engaged in their children’s lives, finding a way to manage careers and families should be at the top of the “to do” list.
My advice on the topic is always this: Rule #1 – if you are going to live without regrets, don’t mess up your kids. This doesn’t mean you need to be there 24/7, catering to their every whim. But it does mean you need to be mindful of the costs associated with being successful and design a way to integrate your professional and personal lives. It also means you need to work for a company that will not only support, but encourage, your efforts to do so. Because the bottom line is: your career is important too.
So, what does work/life integration look like? It looks different for different people. And it changes during the seasons of your life. At its core are flexibility, agility and commitment.
It may start out looking like working four days a week – leaving one day during the week to run errands, coordinate appointments and make a home-cooked meal. And that’s all well and good until you want to coach your kid’s soccer team and the practices are at 3:00 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Or, then they’re in high school and you don’t want to miss a single game or concert, as this important chapter in your life goes way too fast. Or, it may be important to be home at times throughout the week and working remotely is part of the mix.
At the same time, clients don’t go away when you’re not in the office – or on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 3:00 and 5:00. Some may not even go away on the weekends anymore. So, what’s the ambitious professional to do? This is a question we each need to answer. Because it is, after all, our ballgame to play.
Here are a few tips I’ve found useful over the years:
- When you’re out of the office, a short text or an email can go a long way in creating assurances and keeping projects moving.
- Logging on to your computer after you’ve tucked the kids in bed can be the difference between control and chaos
- And yes, even making a client call from the garage – when you have ten minutes before anyone can find you – may be needed from time to time.
Fundamentally, however, the key to successful work/life integration is to surround ourselves with teammates – smart, ambitious people who want what we want – strong careers and strong families – who are willing to do what it takes to integrate them successfully. And you need to work for companies and people who will have your back when you need it – knowing that you’ve got theirs.
Career/family integration was the fundamental reason I started Trefoil Group 25 years ago. As a business leader, that’s the culture I’m committed to making available to anyone interested in joining the Trefoil Group team. Because no matter how hectic life can be, the joy is in living it fully.