Giving My Employees the Work-life Balance I Worked to Discover

May 17, 2018

Corporate leaders have been talking for years now about the importance of balancing work and life. In all of my businesses I’ve concentrated on this critical aspect for as far back as I can remember. Yet, truth be told, I used to be a chronic failure when it came to that precious balancing act. Years ago, I felt like silly putty at work, pulled in nine different directions simultaneously. When I arrived home, it was reduced to just five (my wife and four children).

I’m not proud of feeling scattered; I just didn’t know what to do about it at the time. I did attempt to strike some balance, however. I typically arrived at work by six in the morning so I could be home for dinner, help my kids with homework, and take some pressure off my wife. By leaving for work while my family was asleep, I rationalized that we weren’t missing time together, and it let me accomplish a great deal of work before the office became too active. This method might be enough for some people, and it certainly helped me, but I have to admit it wasn’t a silver bullet.

I often thought this only existed in the corporate world. As I learned, this isn’t true. When I’m at my ranch in rural North Dakota working day and night, the same challenge exists. It didn’t take long for my friends and neighbors to teach me that farming is anything but simple – it was hard, exhausting, and at times there was no boundary between work and home. Often, the relaxation with friends and family only came after the longest days in the field.

The truth is, there is no balance at work in an office, at home or on a ranch. One of the reasons is simply that there are so many people involved, and all have needs and priorities that take up time. One day the balance can be 90% work, the next 90% family, as circumstances overcome desire. Finding some sense of “balance” really comes down to three things:

Time management

Taking an honest look at your priorities on a daily basis and making choices accordingly

Realizing that as hard as one might work at besting this balancing act, it’s the effort that counts.

Because I had experienced the struggle to balance work and life, I have a great deal of empathy for my employees. I wish more corporate leaders shared my empathy—especially when it comes to helping people through difficult times in their life.

I believe that corporations must have the resources and open communications in place to help their people. Since work is where people spend most of their waking hours, it is our responsibility—our obligation—to be ready with the resources. Unfortunately, there’s no blanket policy that can be applied to all personal situations. Nonetheless, as a leader you must keep it top of mind—be creative and think of solutions to help an employee get through a tough period, and in the end, you will be rewarded with their loyalty. More importantly, you’ll also have the satisfaction of knowing you helped someone deal with tough times.

You’ve all watched western movies where neighbors from miles away descend upon a ranch where someone has taken ill, become incapacitated due to injury, and so on. Everyone is there to lend a helping hand, pick up another’s spirits, and help to put the pieces back together.

If we are to be employers of choice, we must advocate for work-life balance, embrace the emotions of our people, and help them to get through tough times and gain maximum enjoyment from daily work life.