Monday, July 22, 2019

I Have Served My Family Purpose – It’s Time for Me

For many women, I believe a time comes when we realize that we have done the best for our families. We have endured the late nights encouraging or nursing someone back to their normal self. We have risen early to shuffle people out of the home; providing a great start to the day just like a well-rounded breakfast would provide necessary nourishment. We have taken the second job or not taken a job to help the family unit thrive (or at least remain stable, whether that’s financially or emotionally).

But perhaps we have poured out this protectiveness and tolerance only to find out that these actions of love have hurt our families by making them more dependent and less self-sufficient. Does this sound familiar? When women reach this epiphany, and the feeling persists after deep reflection, it is time to make a change.

Many feelings can surface during the transition. Guilt that we are doing something we shouldn’t do. New concerns for the welfare of the family. Doubt, both in your abilities to navigate the transition as well as doubt in your actual abilities to land a job or launch a new career. But perhaps one of the most challenging feelings to process is regret. There can be sadness that creeps up and reminds us that we could have done more when we were younger and had more energy. All of these feelings should be acknowledged but not obsessed on. Acknowledge them, yes. But then redirect your thinking to what you are doing now and in the future. Shifting focus like this is the key to moving past these challenging feelings.

Putting yourself first is thinking about your desires, needs, and aspirations as you think about others that are close in your life. We have a tendency to put ourselves last as we are planning or reflecting on what needs doing. If you are at the stage where your need for change has persisted, it is time to ask the question: What do I need in this situation? Ask this question when planning vacations, financial responsibilities, allocating your time to activities, and many other areas.

When we begin to put ourselves first, we may believe that this decision will take us far from home, our children. Or at worst that our closest relationships will be strained. Those that have come from a strong spiritual background may believe that women should rule the home while men provide. I believe this can be one woman’s truth but not a final truth. All of these beliefs can be adapted over time with clear and consistent communication with our loved ones.

Before clear communication can take place, we must be clear on where we are going and what we want. A good network of other women who have varied experiences and are willing to listen and encourage is a great start. Utilizing the many assessments (personality, work interest, Myers, work values, skills, and aptitude) are good data points for self-knowledge. Working with a life, health, or career coach can also be a great aid.

Here are some steps to ensure that you transition well and your family survives intact:

1.       Be clear about what you want. Spend as much time as you need to figure this out.

·       Do you need more time for personal pursuits?
·       More time for career pursuits and less time doing housework/paying bills?
·       Do you want more time pursuing what is directly in line with your core values?
·       What are your core values?

2.       Believe you can achieve.

The vision board process is a great mindset shifting tool that works over time. Once you establish what you want, create a visual example of that vision.

3.       Communicate your desires to your family and support system. Delegate!

Help your family see how your transition will benefit you and them. No one likes change, especially those that are comfortable. But creating a picture for your family on how this change will help the family unit is key. It might be as simple as you will be “happier” and more agreeable. Share with your stakeholders (family) that this transition will result in more income for the family, more stability for the family, or simply more life satisfaction for you (because you are slightly miserable). Have faith and patience that if we do not understand it now, we will in the future. Spend time thinking about how the family will adapt and grow in ways we may not have considered. Share this vision with them and let them add their expectations to this new way of life. For example, a certain family member might be enticed with the idea of having their favorite dishes more often since the need to cook or meal plan might fall on them in the future.

This transition will not be easy, but it will be rewarding if you hold to the truths you uncover about yourself. Choosing you does not mean that your family will drown or fail without you. Keep communication (speaking and listening) strong and everyone can work together to fulfill the entire family’s needs.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Work-Life Balance: Whose Responsibility Is It?

Work-life balance is the new focus, and rightfully so. It is the daily balancing act of juggling one’s working time (paid or volunteer) and the other activities that are important to you.

These other activities could be anything; like having the time or mental space to paint our nails with green nail polish, walking through a sunflower garden, or working out to prepare for a climb in the Nepali Mountains. It could be having bandwidth to attend your child’s awards ceremony in the middle of the day or the flexible schedule to leave work and check on your elderly parent during the workday. 

This flexibility to balance our work and engage in meaningful activities benefits workers in many ways. It allows workers to be peaceful and able to meet company goals. Workers that are able to seek work-life balance feel mentally grounded or in-control. In addition, workers see physical benefits, such as the ability to maintain a desired weight, good sleep, more stable blood sugars, lower blood pressures, and a decreasing risk of Alzheimer due to high stresses.

According to a 2009 Wisconsin Marshfield Clinic Study, women who vacation more than once a year have less depression and tension as well as greater marital (or relational) satisfaction than other groups.  

Employers benefit when employees are able to give their all in the workplace and fully commit to reaching the company's goals or mission. With sufficient paid, sick, and volunteer leave offerings, employers also have the benefit of seeing less unplanned absenteeism and retaining skilled employees over time. When policies are in place to allow for flexible working arrangements, employees have the opportunity to arrive and leave work with less stress. They come to work more refreshed and better equipped to tackle the day's demands.

Google recently implemented a policy to increase their paid time off from 12 weeks to 18 weeks and found that new mothers leaving the company decreased by 50%. 

Both employers and employees see the benefits of work-life balance, but whose responsibility is it?  

Employers (C-Level executives in conjunction with HR) have the strongest influence because they can change the work culture from the top down. The culture can be changed by implementing training and policies that enforce and support work while balancing personal life. These initiatives that companies pledge to implement should be structured to affect all individuals and not just certain groups of the working population (such as just women). When the policies are created to encompass all individuals, the culture can change for the better. Influencers are creating initiatives and policies like subsidies for child care onsite at the workplace, funding for paid parental leave (for males and females in the event of birth or adoption), and initiatives that support single parents. 

This does not mean employees have no power or say in enforcing this balance. Employees retain the right to call the shots on where they work. Perhaps they may not be able to make immediate job changes but they can be strategic about their next job move. Rest assured, there is an employer putting benefits in place to support work-life balance for their workforce. In order to stay competitive and retain their workers, it is critical. Moreover, an employee might not leave the company, but they may decide to change roles, request an alternative work schedule, or even a job share to allow for more balance. Communication is key. How will an employer know the needs of their workforce if it is not shared? Participation in surveys, communicating with HR respectfully, suggesting strategies where everyone wins are all critical.  

Work-life balance is THE responsibility of BOTH the employee and the employer because it affects everyone. Employers need to focus on creating this environment through policies and initiatives, all based on consistent input from regular employees who come from varying backgrounds and with different needs. This will ensure that employees can thrive and still stay energized and excited about contributing to company goals. Employees need to communicate openly with influencers about their needs and stay abreast of work-life balance initiatives in other organizations.  When both parties work to do their part, everyone wins!