While research has demonstrated that organizations that have a balance of women leaders at the senior level outperform organizations that don’t, statistics show that only one-third of U.S. women senior managers are married with children. It begs the following questions: How can you juggle a highly demanding career and family harmoniously? How do you combine professional success, development, and satisfaction with a real commitment to family?
There isn’t a single colleague of mine, male or female, that I have worked with who has stated that work life balance is a realistic goal. It’s a common dilemma for many people to manage all of the competing demands of work and life. I am fortunate that I have the opportunity to experience both a successful career and the rewards of being a parent.
Workplace flexibility and telecomputing options
Our lives are speeding up, powered by technology, and we’re bringing our families along for the ride. As the lines between our work and personal devices blur, the temptation is to never switch off and constantly check (and respond to) texts and emails. More and more, organizational leaders and managers are embracing the concept of workplace flexibility and telecommuting options; allowing parents to create the balance they need.
Work and personal life should be allies; multiple roles like parent, friend, spouse, and employee can actually enhance your effectiveness and personal well-being.
It is possible to achieve balance and fulfillment in both professional and personal spheres.
By encouraging a healthy work life balance, such as instituting flexible schedules and the option to work remotely, we can build a solid company culture that employees appreciate and want to be part of; leading employee engagement, resonating among employees and solidifying our retention strategy.
I do not believe it is the organizations sole responsibility to create work life balance for us; rather, we, as parents and employees, need to be more specific about what personal fulfillment and enrichment look like and define our path to find it. Key to this is actively pursuing and achieving job growth.
We should all proactively manage the direction and meaning of our work.
Our SMA Human Resources team continues to invest in and implement leadership and management development and learning experiences for employees at all levels. By participating in such programs, employees will be better poised to move within the organization as opportunities (lateral moves, special assignments, cross-functional training) arise.
Our business is evolving and shifting; providing employees tools, resources, and training to be agile, is required. By taking a genuine interest in our employees’ career plans, we, as an organization, have a hand in their professional effectiveness, accountability, and ultimately, their productivity. Employees want to learn, develop and sustain a successful career path. Concentrating our HR efforts on employee learning and development is the most powerful way to impact our organizational culture.
Our employees control our culture-when they are happy and engaged, it thrives.
In my first several weeks with the organization, it has become increasingly clear that SMA has cultivated an environment with a very high level of employee engagement; which is something that all companies strive for and working parents crave. Managers at SMA are also proactive in managing employee performance; by setting SMART (specific, measurable attainable, realistic, timely) goals. Development and progress is defined differently for each employee. Whether an employee is meant for management track or an important individual contributor, having that open communication and dialogue creates a culture where employees are not only effective but loyal.
I believe a workplace is a far happier place when a strong performance management process is in place to ensure that employees regularly get acknowledgement and praise for their work; ensuring alignment with business goals and objectives. Allowing employees to see how they fit into the larger picture activates their sense of belonging, effectiveness and meaning.
Work life challenges are continuous, regardless of your stage of life
Our families and friends will always compete for our time and attention. I am convinced that somewhere between love and madness lays motherhood and career. Even as I write this article, I realize that I have only taken a combined total of 23 weeks of maternity leave for four children. I realize I did this because I love the work that I do.
As parents, we straddle two seemingly disparate and overlapping worlds; and the questions of priority and sacrifice have to be dealt with on an individual level.
My career has given me energy and fulfilment, allowing me to set a good example for my children regarding education, work, and ethics. I still make time to set my priorities and am mindful to calibrate the scales of my work life balance on a regular basis; all the while making sure I make time to explore professional development, new outlets for creativity, and personal introspection at SMA.
Kari D'Ottavio (guest author)
Kari works at SMA America as Director of Human Resources and is mother of four children.