A Different Take on Work-Life Balance From a CEO of 21 Years
1 March 2018 | Team EACPDS
Recently I was asked to share my views on the concept of work-life balance as part of an internal all company meeting. My views have changed over time as I have gone through several life changing events, including starting EAC 21 years ago, buying my first house, marriage, 5 kids, addiction in loved ones, divorce, hiring and firing good friends, and this list goes on. Through it all I have worked hard to be true to several guiding principals that have remained constant and have influenced my view of work-life balance. People may look at the things I have gone through in my life and be tempted to judge me. To say “See? He doesn’t have work-life balance figured out or XXX wouldn’t have happened.” There may be truth in that statement, but I can promise you I have learned from every one of those situations and am much better at managing my life now than I was back then.
Did you catch what I did there?
A quick search on the terms “work life balance” netted 102 million hits. The overwhelming view I see seems to be rooted in the belief work and life are diametrically opposed to each other; that I need to be doing one or the other but I’m a failure at work or at life if I ever mix them or they overlap or I spend “too much time” at one or the other. I lived with the guilt associated with this belief system for many years, and honestly, I believe it lead to many of the issues I experienced earlier in my life with both work and family. You see, I’m wired to work hard to try to be the best at whatever I do. Does that mean I’m always the best?? Absolutely not! It does mean I recognize I can always get better and I work hard to make that happen.
Reconciling that somewhat self-imposed drive with the pressures from societal beliefs and individuals demanding your attention often leads to tremendous amounts of guilt. Guilt for taking PTO. Guilt for working late. Guilt for making a personal call from work. Guilt for making a work call while driving your kids to school. You get the idea. I’m sure many can relate. I know it was a big part of my psyche back then.
But, a simple change in thinking can forever ease the guilt and make you a better parent, spouse, partner, employee, or whatever else you are determined to be. You see, bottom line is work and life are NOT diametrically opposed. It’s all just LIFE. Sometimes your kids, your spouse, your significant other, your partner, your boss, your project, your parents, your teammates, etc. need more attention than at other times. Who am I as an employer to dictate when that needs to be? Who am I to say my employees can’t take some time to go to the dentist on a Wednesday afternoon? or who are we as society to say they can’t take a phone call on a Sunday afternoon? If I’m hiring people with similar belief systems to me then I need to trust they know how to manage their lives in the best way possible; that they will get their job done just like they will manage raising their kids, managing their relationship and taking care of themselves both physically and mentally.
It’s all just life. Manage it.