Balancing Work and Home Life

Dan Wardby Dan Ward

A few weeks ago, Kacie Escobar and Heather Keroes recommended a great webinar that was part of HubSpot’s Digital Agency Day. In it, agency owner Tiffany Sauder of Element Three talks about her experiences in building that agency.

One of the things that stuck with me is her discussion about the personal side of the business, and how she led the agency while also devoting time to her growing family.

As Father’s Day approaches, I’m reminded of what she shared about work/life balance. As a father to two active, intelligent daughters, it was encouraging to hear another business owner talk about the challenge to be great at your job while also being great as a parent.

I don’t find myself particularly “balanced” when it comes to my life at work and at home. But the truth is, nobody is. Finding the right balance between work and family is a constant struggle for any working parent (including parents of four-legged “children”). What’s important is whether we engage in that struggle, and whether our employers support us. It doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition.

Our team knows that family comes first. I will always do my best to live up to that promise. I have left early and missed days many times for drama performances, doctor appointments and sick days. How could I deny our employees that same privilege? That said, I know that we also work in a business where our family lives are sometimes put on hold as we manage crises or major events.

So where do we find the balance between work demands and family needs? Here are a few tips:

  1. Don’t see balance as a 50/50 split; you’ll never achieve it. In her webinar, Sauder points out that there are times where we are 80 to 90% devoted to work, but that’s OK as long as you (and your employer) allow you to make time to also be 80 to 90% devoted to family. If you stand directly over the fulcrum to ensure you’re always perfectly “in balance,” you’ll find that you’re also not moving.
  2. Protect your right to have a life outside of work. Roger Pynn has reminded us for years that we work to live, rather than live to work. Our clients know they come first … until such time as we need to place our families (or work family) first. We will drop everything for clients, but we will also decline a meeting or miss an event if our children have a recital or our spouses need us at home. To let you in on a secret … clients have families, too, and they understand when you have to place your family first.
  3. Take a walk. I realize that’s not the easiest suggestion to make if, like me, you’re working in Orlando in mid-June, but you need to unplug for a few minutes each day. Get outside and walk around the block. Take a few deep breaths. You’ll be amazed how recharged you can feel after just a few minutes away … and how great ideas can sometimes take shape when you’re not at your desk. “Balance” doesn’t always equate to extended time away from the office; sometimes small things can make a big difference.
  4. Turn it off. This admittedly is the hardest advice for me to follow. After a stressful day, you sometimes need to vent to your loved ones and blow off steam. Do so, but then take the kettle off the stove. Especially if your family time is limited, make it quality time; be present. Whatever is stressing you at work will be there the next morning. Replaying it in your mind the night before will do nothing except ensure that you’re not 100% present for your family.
  5. Find the “/” in work/life balance. You need time for you. Find something that is entirely yours, and that gives you time away from both work AND family. My wife likes to make fun of my nightly ritual, but it works for me. I read The Wall Street Journal every evening religiously, then indulge in my guilty pleasure … Words With Friends. Work is stressful. So is family. Find opportunities to break away from both, if even for a few minutes.

While I don’t always succeed, I try to back up these words with action, not just for my home family, but also my work family. We answer “yes” to almost any request for personal time, start all employees with three weeks of vacation, and between Memorial Day and Labor Day institute “summer hours” that allow our team to head out early each Friday.

As with anything worthwhile, finding balance requires intentional effort. What are you doing to find more balance in your life?

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