Balance-my favorite word. A wish I hear others echo, a desire we can realize. Come look and step outside the box with me. I’ve seen its success, over and over again.
Finding Work/Life Balance Starts with a Strong Core by Robyn Hatcher
March 3, 2016
Val GrubbWe caught up with Valerie M. Grubb, the moderator of NYWICI’s upcoming Cocktails & Conversations event “Balancing Work and Family” on March 8, 2016, at The New York Times. Val Grubb is the president of Val Grubb & Associates.
What advice do you have for people who may be struggling with competing career and family demands?
Go easy on yourself: As difficult as this sounds, you’ve really got to take care of yourself first before dealing with the kids or your parents. This is something women are typically horrible at doing, as we have a tendency to put everyone else before ourselves. The airplane face mask analogy comes to mind here. It’s hard to maintain a positive outlook on life or have positive interactions with your kids or aging parents if you’re sick or exhausted.
Don’t sweat the small stuff: Let the house go, let the dishes go, let the cleaning go. It’s alright if the house is dusty. Turn your underwear inside out so you can get more uses. Or don’t wear any at all! There is only so much time in your day so don’t stress over the laundry.
Don’t feel you have to go it alone: Silence the voice in your head that says you’re not good enough or that you are a failure. I often hear from friends who feel like they’re ‘failing’ if they have someone help them. As your kids get older, make them pitch in. If you can afford it, hire help: babysitting services, cleaning services, errand people — what things on your list could you pay someone else to do? I also assign tasks to my brother, and make sure I don’t bitch or obsess over the fact that he may do something differently than I would.
Maximize your time: My mom lives in Indiana, and I typically fly in once a month to deal with “stuff” in her personal life (doctors’ appointments, ensuring that she’s taking her medications, managing her house, etc.). Since I fly so frequently, I got myself a credit card that lets me access the airline’s lounge — this way, I can get quality work done while I’m waiting for my flight. It’s a small thing, but it’s seriously life-saving, as it helps me to keep up with everything.
Having consulted with many HR departments, are there ways that women can better position themselves when it comes to asking for time off or flex hours to take care of family demands?
Make yourself indispensable: I hate to say it, but you’re better off if you’re a great performer who needs some accommodation. Be a great performer — one who has a skill set that your boss needs, and he or she will likely be more accommodating when it comes to working out a schedule with you. As a communication coach, I often help people craft difficult conversations they need to have with their employer. However, well-crafted communication will not work in a situation if you are not an effective or respected performer.
Come with solutions. If you need to drop to half a work day, how will the other half of your day be covered? What solutions can you offer your boss? Don’t dump the “problem” and expect her/him to solve it — come prepared with how to make it work.
What about when you are applying for a new job? How can you assess if the company will support the type of work/life balance you’re looking for?
Only after you are their #1 candidate or have made it through a couple of interview rounds is it appropriate to ask about work/life balance. Once you’ve established your work credentials and how much of a rock star you are, then it’s time to find out if this employer would be a good fit for you. Here are some great questions to ask:
How do you support work/life balance for your employees? (Ask HR and your potential manager directly)
What is the typical workload? Are there enough employees in the department to get the job done?
What sort of projects may require me to find after-hours assistance? How often do these sorts of projects come up?
Be sure to ask about email expectations. If you send an email at 9 pm, do you expect a response that evening or is answering in the morning sufficient?
— Robyn Hatcher