Take A Vacation: It’s Time To Recharge Your Batteries
Taking a vacation is good for you, its good for your family and it turns out its good for your organization!
Here’s what we at ThirdPath have learned about the importance of vacation time over the past 20 plus years of advocating for doing work and family differently. You can also listen to our Thursdays with ThirdPath webinar where we discussed this topic by clicking on the SoundCloud player.
However – some of us might need to challenge a few work norms to make this happen: the fear of being perceived as an under performer; the pressure to see it as a win-lose proposition – either we meet our client and customer needs or our own personal needs; or the worry that maybe there’s no point to take a week off given the demands to be available while away and the difficulty transitioning back upon return.
But there’s a lot to gain when we push back at these norms.
– Time off can have several health benefits like reducing risk of heart disease, stress and depression.
– Seeing new places (even if it’s only a short car ride away) and experiencing different things can have a positive effect on our overall outlook on life, providing a fresh and new perspective.
– Time away from work can also help us remember that work is just one part of who we are and remind us that we have friends, family and other life interests.
Here’s a list of ideas to help increase the enjoyment of your time away and maximize the benefits upon your return. For the full list, click here.
Vacation Check List:
- Plan vacations around the “seasonality” of your work. Try scheduling longer trips for less busy periods of work and “long weekend vacations” when work is busier.
- Block off pre and post “quiet” work days. Avoid scheduling meetings and phone calls the day before you leave and the day you return to allow for the “unexpected” and for catch up time when you return.
- Create a “what can wait” list. A week before you go, create a list of things that you can wait to get done after vacation, versus tasks that must be completed before you go.
- Decide how “connected” you want to be. If you need to check email or voice messages, plan ahead around what’s least disruptive.
- Carefully define emergencies. Think ahead about what challenges could arise. Clearly define emergencies to avoid everything becoming one.
- Keep track of what worked well. Create a list you can refer back to of helpful ideas for planning your next vacation.
And don’t forget, creating vacations that really recharge our batteries may also require us to change how we approach vacations as a family. Two parents working together as a team to plan and make the most of a vacation, makes it a better experience for everyone. (And while you’re at it, don’t forget to plan a romantic getaway for just the two of you!)
Want to learn more? Join our OMG 12-call series to help you develop 21st century work-life integration skills.
Every few months we feature one of the pioneers that make up the ThirdPath community . . . This month we are revisiting an interview we did with Chris Madoo and Kyra Cavanaugh.
The pandemic has taught us that many jobs can be done completely virtually. On one of our previous Thursdays with ThirdPath webinars, we discussed these ideas with Kyra Cavanaugh, author of the book, Who Works Where and Who Cares? We also invited two leaders who manage virtual work teams to share what’s made their teams so successful.
Since this webinar, Chris has been promoted, but he continues to manage his new team virtually. We’re also proud to have Chris as a member of ThirdPath’s Pioneering Leader group, and on one of our recent calls, it was fun to hear how Chris is still using these important flexibility tools today.
Tool #1: Define performance objectives. Kyra underscores, this is not just an important tool to use for flexible work teams – but for every work team.
As Marketing and Sales Leader at Marriott, Chris learned that successfully managing a virtual work team can come with a few curve balls, but through prioritization, communication, and trust he was able to build on his team’s success. It also helped that Marriott clearly defined performance standards. Productivity goals were carefully defined as a way to promote key priorities and related behaviors. Activity logs and weekly updates also kept the team on track to help drive results.
Tool #2: Capacity and resilience. Kyra explains, managing the long-term resilience of a work team doesn’t just benefit the individual team member it also benefits the organization.
Read more …
Tool #5: Communication. No surprise, the key to all of this is good communication.
Chris knew the glue that held everything together was good communication. Not only did his employees have to communicate their capacity and work preferences, they also had to communicate what they wanted to make time for in their lives outside of work. Chris also communicated what was going on in his life, especially if it was going to impact his availability. In fact, if there were life issues that would impact their ability to complete a task on time, all of them were responsible for communicating that to the rest of the team. What he noticed from all of this, is that it helped everyone build up a strong rapport with one another, which also helped them hold each other accountable for the work they were doing.
Our discussion with Chris and Kyra helps underscore how flexibility will look different in every organization, and how support from upper management will always make it easier.
When Marriott made the shift to a flexible workplace for departments like marketing and sales, the organization had to learn what it meant to manage remote staff. Chris learned that flexibility requires more trust and greater transparency. Marriott helped by clearly defining expectations. Employees did their part by clearly defining their work capacities and obligations outside of work. Together – individuals, teams, managers and senior leadership – we’re able to optimize a new way of working that benefited everyone, including the bottom line!
Thank you Chris and Kyra for leading the way to creating truly 21st century workplaces!
Want to learn more? Check out the “integrated leadership” section of our website – discover how men and women are advancing in their careers while also creating plenty of time for their lives outside of work.
A World Increasingly Obsessed with Work
To understand how we became a world so obsessed with work, you have to understand “systems thinking.” It helps identify the multiple forces that brought us to this present moment, and provides insight into how to make change.
Below are some of the “Laws of Systems Thinking” Peter Senge outlines in his book, The Fifth Discipline. We’ve taken the liberty of applying them to the issue of finding time for both work and family.
Listen to the YouTube recording to hear our powerful conversation with Peter Senge about this troubling problem, and how we can use systems thinking to create more satisfying lives.
Dividing an elephant in half does not produce two small elephants
It’s hard to develop solutions that take the whole system into account, but unless we do, real change is not possible. When it comes to work and family both sides impact the whole. To make change, we can’t just focus on changes at work OR home – we can’t cut the elephant in half – we must make changes in both arenas.
Cause and effect may not be closely related in time and space
Systems are very complex, and over time a change in one area may have unintended consequences in another. We can see this from the problem progressive countries faced when long paid parental leaves inadvertently contributed to gender inequality. Luckily, many of these countries are now addressing this problem by requiring fathers to take a certain percent of paid time off as well.
Today’s problems come from yesterday’s “solutions”
Assumptions around the need to be physically present to get work done are certainly archaic, but it may have been the only way to get work done during the industrial age. Today, the opportunities and challenges of new technologies and a global economy make it much easier to “blend” work and life. However, read on to see how today’s solution is creating problems for tomorrow.
Read more …
Today, for some people, “blending” has literally become never turning off work. We can see this in Shark Tank super-star Kevin O’Leary’s comments, when he said, “I don’t have a division anymore between vacation time and work. It’s always both. I work every day.” And that rule also applies to his employees: “Do I expect my employees to respond to me when they’re on vacation? 100%,” he says. Is “blending” the only option in today’s 24/7 global economy?
Faster is slower
In today’s global economy, some believe the only answer is working harder and faster, but perhaps there is a better way … Instead of prioritizing work over the rest of our lives (and the environment!), we believe we need to develop a new mental model that allows all of us to live life at a more human pace. We at ThirdPath call it “Work-Life Integration” — prioritizing work alongside other life interests — whether it’s caring for our children, our aging loved ones, our communities, or caring for our environment.
Small changes can produce big results — but the areas of highest leverage are often the least obvious
Click on the YouTube video to listen to our conversation with Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline – one of the most well-known books written about systems thinking. We explored the growing problem of “workism” – the pattern of people seeking validation exclusively through work — and how to use systems thinking to fight against it.
Every few months we feature one of the pioneers that make up the ThirdPath community . . . This month we are putting a spotlight on two Shared Care couples.
Read on to learn how sharing in the joys and challenges of earning an income and caring for their families has positively impacted them as individuals and as a couple. Or click the SoundCloud icon at the end to listen to them describe their inspiring stories in their own words.
Roger and his wife are both engineers. When their son was born, they both decided to work reduced hours so they could share in the care of their new baby. To begin with – even though they both worked for the same employer and had the same benefits – Roger’s wife assumed she would be the one who worked reduced hours. It was actually Roger who suggested they both could work part time. Now both parents have regular “alone” time with their child. Roger can see how this has helped the couple build a high level of trust. Both parents feel comfortable in the other’s ability to take on any responsibility in their absence. This feeling of trust has also helped the couple feel closer in their relationship.
Read more …
Doug and Maggie’s Story
Doug and Maggie have shared in the care of their son since he was born – now he’s in high school! They also both run their own businesses and work from home offices. For Doug and Maggie, time spent together as a family has always been a top priority. They have also always been very intentional to create this time together. Although the reasons may have changed over the years, like the recent celebration with their son when he got his drivers permit, the priority of creating family time hasn’t changed. The couple says the key to their success has been their ability to work together as a team and to set boundaries around the time they spend working.
Working as a “team at home” has also left the couple with a sense of balance that no one person is doing more than the other, and as a result, the couple feels “friendlier towards each other”. These feelings of friendliness have allowed the couple to easily adjust to changing circumstances. When their son started high school, the family’s day suddenly began two hours earlier. Without missing a beat, the couple made the commitment to get up together and have breakfast, and then see their son off to school. They also discovered the new arrangement allowed time for a workout in the morning.
Shared Care Helps Couples Develop Multi-Dimensional Lives
Through team work and setting boundaries around work time, these families have created lives that are supportive, trusting and enriching not only for their family as a whole, but also for their own lives and their relationships as a couple. Here are a few more unexpected benefits we learned about from our conversation with these Shared Care parents:
- Shared care means both parents can continue to create time for “guilt free recreation” – since they’ve had time for work and for family, both feel free to create time for their own personal interests
- Both parents become an additional resource around work problems. One dad shared a story of how his partner’s area of expertise at work helped him “think outside the box” to solve a recent work problem
- Shared Care becomes a powerful way to role model how both men and women can do things differently – at work and at home!
In each story, the couples found a unique solution that met their family, work and individual needs. Through communication and teamwork, these families created work/family solutions that were able to continue to evolve with their changing lives. They also discovered, by sharing their involvement with both work and family, they were able to further solidify the levels of trust, support and love in their relationships.
To learn more about Roger, Doug and Maggie, listen to the recording of our Thursdays with ThirdPath webinar by clicking the SoundCloud link at the end of this post. The recording also includes the stories of a few additional couples, including the authors of two Shared Care books, Lisa Levy (The Libra Solution) and Marc Vachon (Equally Shared Parenting).
The Challenge & Possibility of Integration
Don’t get us wrong – we know it’s challenging – but over the last 19+ years we’ve noticed a new paradigm, both at work and at home, that makes “integrated careers” more possible.
We’ve learned a lot from pioneering people like Amy and Marc Vachon — authors of the wonderful book Equally Shared Parenting — as they moved ahead in their careers while also creating time for their children and relationship to each other.
On the Thursdays with ThirdPath webinar where we featured Amy and Marc, you can find out how they first began their journey and what they’ve discovered as they’ve continue to navigate a path that supports love, family and two careers. Just click the link to the right to hear more!
Amy and Marc are what we call Whole Life Leaders – professionals who have moved ahead in their careers while also creating time and energy for their lives outside of work.
To become Whole Life Leaders, they developed a variety of “integration skills” that let them push back at a world that now lets us work anywhere and all the time. Instead, they looked for ways to become more effective at work so they had time and energy for their lives outside of work. You too can follow the path Amy and Marc Vachon have traveled down, and it all begins by putting into practice the following simple processes:
Key Integration Practices
1 – Create Time to Reflect
Create “pauses” at work. Make the most of slower periods at work to assess what you are doing and develop fresh and creative ways to focus on your most important work. If no slower periods are in sight – gain a fresh perspective from a short vacation, a “no work” weekend, or even just a quick walk outside during your lunch break. As Marc said on our webinar, “The only way to think in new and creative ways, is if we aren’t constantly running around putting out the next fire.”
Read more …
Develop a clear sense of highly valued non-work activities. Create time for family, friends, volunteer work or projects that feel of equal importance than the work you do. Get help from the people who are close to you to make time for non-work activities. Your spouse, a friend, a family member, or coach can all be resources to help you reach for your goals. This has been a cornerstone to both Amy and Marc’s approach. They wanted to craft a life where they were successful at work, partners in the care of their children, and to continue life interests beyond work and family. It turns out by doing this, they’ve also created a healthier, less harried lifestyle – something they are modeling to their children as well.
3 – Make Changes at Work
Below are some of the tools Whole Life Leaders like Marc and Amy use to help improve their effectiveness at work. The beauty of these skills is that they are also very teachable, and we’ve got ways to help you start learning them right now.
- Reduce email overwhelm. Adopt better habits around reviewing, managing and responding to emails.
- Create quiet time. Block off routine time in your calendar for quiet, focused, thinking work.
- Plan around the “seasons” of your work. Discover ways – at work and home – to better manage peak periods of work.
- Improve delegation. Delegate to junior employees as an opportunity for them, and as a way to create more time for you.
4 – Experiment, Learn, Repeat
Maintain an experimental approach! Remember, changes may need to happen both at work and at home. As Amy and Marc progressed in their careers and moved into positions where they began to manage others, you can imagine they had to learn a few things along the way. Whether it was Amy creating a job-sharing leadership position, or Marc’s conversation with his boss to collectively combat overwork and overwhelm, both would agree, the journey has been very worthwhile.
Want to learn how to develop these integration practices so you have time for work, love and play? Join one of ThirdPath’s OMG! – Overwhelm Mitigation Groups.
Our OMG experience provides an opportunity to learn and master key integration skills. The 1-hour calls meet monthly with a skilled facilitator, like-minded peers, and proven methodology. Join our OMG! 12-call series starting this summer.
Change Can Begin at Home
We need to continue to push for changes in public policy and more flexible organizations but there are changes that we can make in our own homes to move away from rigid gender based roles and assumptions.
Dads working full time …
Dan (New York Dad) – “My wife and I have developed a rhythm of working together to balance work and home life. Most days I handle getting our daughter’s things together for the sitter and drop off / pickup. Jen handles getting our daughter ready for the day and getting us out the door on time. In the evenings we share in the tasks of bath duty, laundry, story time and bed time routine. I enjoy this arrangement because Jen and I split up the responsibilities giving us each one on one time with our daughter but still have time together as a family.”
Dads flexing work hours …
Miguel (Chicago Dad) – “I’m a stay at home dad who works part time and enjoys every minute of both. After 20+ years in the button down corporate world, I took a step back and decided that I wanted to stay home with our daughter since we knew she would be our only child. She brings me joy and excitement every day. I love being able to be around for all the big milestones as well as the silly little things. Of course it helps that my wife works full-time which covers our day to day necessities. Keeping my hand in the working world allows me to have some balance and engage in grown up conversations. I wouldn’t trade this for anything!”
Dads staying home full time …
Dan (Chicago Dad) – “You never know what life is going to throw at you. All you can do as a couple is adapt and make sure you are there for each other. Our “style”, dates back to the end of 2005 when I left a high pressure banking job for what I thought would be a 12-18 month break to spend more time with our 3 boys and decompress. Almost 8 years later, I remain “retired” and a full time stay at home dad. My wife’s career flourishes (I’m very proud of her), and I would not trade the time I have had seeing my boys grow and mature. Being the only dad at school events clearly designed for moms and continually asked why you aren’t “working” can be tiring. But taking comfort in knowing you were there for your kids makes it all worthwhile.”
Read more …
Dads sharing in the care after school …
Listen to our March 2018 Thursday with ThirdPath webinar where two dads discuss how they share work and family responsibilities of their school aged children. When both parents learn how to navigate school closures, sick days, after school activities and summer schedules, it can make full time flexible work possible for both parents. And when men and women both learn how to share in these predictable and unpredictable changes, everyone wins – moms, dads, kids, and our workplaces. Here are a few things you will gain from this approach:
More time as a family:
After school time can be great for both bonding and productive activities. Parents can plan an after school adventure instead of waiting for the weekend. They can also schedule appointments and errands. One shared care dad combined the two, “my kids weren’t always thrilled to get the errands done, so I’d make a plan to go someplace fun afterwards.”
More wiggle room for change:
Learning to work as a team, knowing which parent can flex and when, as well as building a network of support with family and friends, will pay big dividends when families work together to navigate school closures, sick days, and the summer months.
More opportunities to teach life lessons:
As children become more self-sufficient, creating a relaxed afternoon at home can give everyone time to connect. Having a friend come over can free up parents to get other household tasks done, or as children grow older, they can help you with these activities, by learning to take on responsibilities like laundry and cooking meals.
More able to be present for teens:
Older school aged children may start to need you less, but being around still makes a big difference. Parents of teens learn that teachable moments come at different times – at the mall when trying on clothes, or late at night when they are trying to finish a paper. Other parents admit to “shamelessly eavesdropping” during car pools. This helps the parent ask better questions later on such as, “So how is that new coach?” By taking turns being the parent at home, both parents increase the likelihood of being available, whatever comes up.
Want to learn more about mom’s and dad’s who are doing things differently at home? Check out our “integrating work and family” web page.
Every few months we feature one of the pioneers that make up the ThirdPath community… This month we are putting a spotlight on Ben Applegate – founding partner of Applegate & Thorne-Thomsen.
Ben founded his firm on the “counter cultural decision” that instead of requiring excessive work hours in order to meet an inflated bottom line, their firm would value time for life alongside earning “enough money.”
Ben Applegate: “We founded our firm in 1998 after leaving a larger firm. It’s a boutique practice providing housing and community development work funded primarily through tax credits and the government.
“Our mission statement has always been to be the best at what we do on a nationwide basis while balancing profitability and lifestyle for all of our employees. Anytime we bring someone into the firm we talk about our shared vision – to make a good living, but not necessarily the greatest of livings. That filter has served us very well. If we get a sense that someone who we are interviewing is only negotiating hard on salary, we know it’s not going to be a good fit.
Read more …
“When I look back, I’m not sure if all of our success is do with our shared vision, or if it’s also to do with being a mission driven law firm doing community development work. But I do know that we never have to recruit, and we have a waiting list of people who are willing to abandon the “golden handcuffs” at their big firm positions to work with us.
“At many big firms the target is now 2,000 billable hours in order for you to get your bonus, and you may not even get your base salary if you don’t hit that target. We have been able to build our firm on a 1700 target. It’s a good trade-off. The discount on their salary is made up with more time for life.
“It doesn’t always work that way. We go through periods of ‘episodic overwork’ – when things pick up. But when this becomes ‘chronic overwork’ we know it’s time to go hire more people.
“There have been times when someone bills over 2,000 hours, and what we do is counsel them to see how we can help them get their lives more in balance. Obviously this was the opposite kind of conversation they were having at the large law firms that they came from.
“The benefits to our clients are clear. If you can operate within the 1700 billable hours model, that leaves capacity for the inevitable periods of episodic overwork, but you can meet these upticks in demands with greater efficiency and less burn out. If you are already at 2000 billable hours – if you are already running the factory at over capacity – then when you get another order in, something is going to break.
“The whole dollars trade off is something I’ve been preaching to Jessica and the other ThirdPath Pioneering Leaders forever. It’s really about making that counter cultural decision that enough money is enough, and that we don’t have to make it all about maximizing profits.”
To learn more about Ben Applegate and two other inspirational leaders who have created thriving law practices that support people to be successful at work AND successful in their lives outside of work, click the below SoundCloud icon. These three leaders are:
- Ben Applegate – Founding partner of Applegate & Thorne-Thomsen – see below for more information
- Tony Doniger, Senior partner at Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen – read his commentary on this topic
- Peter Lando – Founding partner of Lando & Anastasi – read more about their firm’s philosophy
Thank you Ben, Tony and Peter for leading the way to creating truly 21st century workplaces!
Advice From A Seasoned Caregiver …
Amy Goyer’s book “Juggling Work and Caregiving” is full of good advice about how to balance work and eldercare. Below is an excerpt about the importance of developing a team when caring for an aging loved one…
Team members can include a variety of people …
Whether they are family members, friends, volunteers, or paid professionals, make a list of everyone who is currently involved in your loved ones care, or who supports you so you can be a caregiver.
Consider the following options:
- Family members
- Neighbors: Your loved ones and yours
- Friends: Yours, the friends of the loved one you are caring for, or of other family members
- Members of faith communities
- Paid or volunteer services such as a house cleaner, handyman, companion, meal or grocery delivery, chore services
- Medical, health, social service or geriatric professionals
- Financial, legal and technology advisers
- Gatekeepers: People who regularly interact with your loved ones and who may be the first to notice a change or problem (people such as the mail carrier and yard worker)
Team members contribute in different ways …
Everyone will contribute at different levels and with different strengths.
They will likely fall into one of the following six roles:
Read more …
- Big picture – Family members and care managers who keep an eye on and communicate the overall planning and status of things
- Single responsibility – Someone who is willing to coordinate one chunk of caregiving such as managing finances or a household task
- Ongoing – Paid or volunteer caregivers, neighbors, and friends who help with the everyday aspects of care
- Single task – Someone who is happier accomplishing a specific time-limited job with clear instructions
- Special projects – A team member who steps in for an emergency or one time circumstance
- Backup – Team members who are great at stepping in when plans go awry
Match team member roles with personalities and availability …
One team member may be more hands-on while another prefers tasks such as “dealing with finances and paperwork; conducting research; making phone calls; cleaning; organizing; running errands.” No matter what, keep the lines of communication running smoothly between team members. Amy includes practical suggestions for how to communicate productively as well as advice for what to do when things aren’t going so well.
Bottom line, “Your caregiving team is made up of people who have different relationships with the people you are caring for, all with lots of history and possible baggage.”
Caregiving can be challenging for you and for all team members. Luckily Amy’s book includes a number of suggestions for creating, managing, and navigating the ins and outs of this difficult time.
Did you know that ThirdPath has resources to help you at every life stage? Let us help you get support to think in new ways about your work and life responsibilities so you can find more joy in both.
Pauses Increase Happiness and Effectiveness
Are you feeling the need for a pause in your life? Luckily, there is a good deal of evidence that shows taking a pause helps us to live happier lives AND become more effective at work.
Joe Robinson, also talks about this in his book Don’t Miss Your Life, where he points out… “Satisfying work and a well-lived life are the result of thinking, assessing, and having the attention to create a better pathway forward. Something no one else can do for us. What you want doesn’t happen on its own. You have to make it happen.”
Here are 8 different beneficial pauses, big and small, that Robinson suggests we start implementing today:
1. Big Picture Pause.
Set aside a chunk of time, say, 30 minutes this week and then once a month, to think about where you’re going at work and life this year and why you’re going there. What are your work goals? Life priorities? What’s missing from the picture? What do you need to change? How can you do that?
2. Work Effectiveness Pause.
Review tasks and identify ones that are frequent bottlenecks and time-wasters. How could they be adjusted for less stress and more effectiveness?
3. Priorities Pause.
Set aside 10 minutes at the end of the workday or at the beginning to map out the top five tasks on your list for today or tomorrow.
Read more …
Each Friday, take a few minutes to assess the state of your work-life balance. Are you out of whack? What needs to happen to have a better work-life fit?
5. Recharge Pauses.
Fatigued brains look like ones that are sound asleep. Pause when the pressure peaks, you’re stuck, concentration fades, the daydreaming begins. Take a walk, listen to music, or plan your weekend to build up energy and cognitive resources again.
6. Free Time Pause.
Take time to put together a free-time log for a week of all your time outside work. Where are the time sinks? Where are the free-time slots you could schedule a new hobby or activity? What would you like to do? Salsa dancing? Cycling?
7. Vacation Pause.
Figure out at the beginning of the year where you want to go on vacation and when you want to go. This makes it easier for coworkers and managers and locks them and you into making the holiday happen at the most opportune time, with plenty of notice to make workflow adjustments.
8. Life List Pause.
Take some time to think about what you’d like to do on this planet for the experience of it. What’s on your Life List? Sail the South Seas? Learn guitar? Keep a rotating list of five experiences and start jotting down steps to make them happen.
OR: Listen to our December Thursdays with ThirdPath webinar to learn why turning off work on vacation is good for you AND good for your organization.
Every few months we feature one of the pioneers that make up the ThirdPath community . . . This month we are featuring a parent who knew even before having children, how to craft a life that supported time for both work and family.
Andrea was clear early on that she wanted to live a life that included time for both work and family. To accomplish this, fresh out of law school, she began taking the steps she believed would most likely help her achieve this goal.
Andrea began her journey by securing a position at a large law firm. While there, her goals were to work hard, gain experience and respect, and to save as much money as possible so she would have more financial freedom later on.
Unlike some of the other newly hired lawyers at the firm, Andrea lived well below what she earned as an attorney and put all her extra savings towards paying off her student loan. Once debt free, she then kept up this modest lifestyle in order to build a nest egg that would fund a year off and let her travel and see the world. After working long hours at the large firm, she needed this time to relax and breath. She also knew taking this time would play a crucial role in her ability to search for the ideal firm that would support her longer term goals.
During her year off Andrea traveled and spent time with friends and family. She even met her future husband. After about 6 months, she began looking for a new place to work. While being interviewed at each law firm she was very open about wanting an integrated life, and she looked for firms where people were already living this way. Did people have children? Was life outside of work important to them? Could people work reduced hours? To really understand the culture of the firm, she also looked very carefully at the leaders. Were some of them role models for the type of life she was looking for?
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When she began working at her new firm, Andrea worked full time. She also got engaged, married, and then began looking for a house with her husband. While doing this she saw it as another opportunity to think ahead about their future goals. For example, she advocated for a house that would support a short commute. She also knew the importance of finding an affordable house so they could cover other important expenses like the cost of day care and her goal to work reduced hours when they started a family. Soon after this was all put in place, they got pregnant. In fact, they learned they were going to have two children not just one!
After the birth of the twins, Andrea began experimenting with working flexibly and reduced hours. The benefits of a reduced schedule allowed Andrea to take off most Fridays for almost 2 years. She then had a year where one of her twins required numerous doctor’s appointments, so instead of taking Fridays off, she used the company’s flexibility to work half days to attend the appointments. When the twins were in preschool, she continued with an 80% schedule and flexed her hours for different family responsibilities, including helping out at their children’s co-operative pre-school. When the twins entered first grade, Andrea went back to full time hours, though she continues to flex her hours as needed for family responsibilities.
Andrea’s determination to live out her dream of having an integrated work life informed her decisions early on. She made financial decisions that allowed her to live debt free and save up the funds necessary to hunt for a firm that embodied her vision of work life balance. Many of her fellow employees and leaders have families and work flexibly themselves. She also sought out a life partner whose goals for work and family were similar. And she took time to interview prospective employers until she found a good fit.
What are your goals for an integrated work life? What steps have you taken, or do you need to take, in order to get closer to your dreams? Listen to our full interview with Andrea and be inspired by a story that will help you think about how all the different pieces – work, money, partner and family – can fit together to support an integrated whole.