Can we talk about life balance? Or, perhaps better stated, is there any way to avoid talking about life balance? It’s all the rage you know. Just ask the nearest Millennial (born between 1981 and 2000) their thoughts on work and you’ll soon hear something akin to “I work to live…I don’t live to work.”
This may be one of the few things that Millennials and their employers consistently agree upon. The other being that Millennials are “special.” Yep, not many in my children’s generation “work for the man.” They seem to prefer to work for themselves on the man’s dime. Unless of course, they’re working to become the next dot-com billionaire, so work-life balance gets tossed out with last night’s leftover pizza stepped on while rolling out of their cot at the office.
Despite the preceding remarks, I actually strongly believe in life balance. We would not have survived the raising of five children without it. One of the ways we maintained it was to have dinner at six o’clock every week night. And, if I was in town, I was there.
Another key to parental survival was consistent and early bedtimes commandeered by the King of Cleanliness. Following in my father’s footsteps, I would sing, “Stand up, stand up for Daddy and let him wash you off” whilst the kids squirmed under the torrent of water pouring out of a large cup or, better yet, a bucket. Cleanliness cannot be next to godliness until the little buggers’ first layer of skin is rinsed clean off of them. Gently pat dry, read a bedtime story, say prayers and put the last one down for the night no later than eight o’clock. This affords Mom and Dad a sacred two hours of peace and quiet before their bedtime.
When I’m out of town on business trips, my family’s work-life balance suffers. When the kids were young, Elaine had some very long days filling in for the King of Cleanliness. At times she was tempted to do what our neighbor did with her three young children. I think she got it from a Roseanne Barr comedy routine. The neighbor lady would combine meal time with bath time by feeding the kids in the tub. For real. Unless you have three or more children of your own, please withhold judgment. Like I said, Elaine was tempted. Speaking of Roseanne, I’m reminded of her line about child-rearing, “if the kids are alive at the end of the day…hey, I’ve done my job.”
There are many things companies can do to help their employees maintain work-life balance. To be sure that we’re maintaining it over time, we never ask employees to do anything that management isn’t willing to do. As our Value in Action states, we go out of our way to restore balance as soon as possible. We also do something that many companies in our industry don’t. We pay our consultants for any billable overtime. So, if we bill the client 50 hours in a week, we pay the consultant 10 hours of overtime. Many firms seize this opportunity to add to their profits at their employees’ expense. One of my personal favorites is to give employees who have been working long hours a “Dinner-for-Two” to a nice restaurant as a way of restoring some work-life balance to the home front. For extraordinary efforts, we’ve occasionally given employees extended weekend getaway “Trips-for-Two.” The possibilities are endless.
A few closing (hopefully affirming) comments for my Millennial friends. In the not too distant future, I will be leaving my enterprise in your very capable hands. As one born smack dab in the middle of the Baby Boomer generation, I will do so with some trepidation. Hopefully, you will have had ample opportunity to show me and our clients how truly special you are…in every positive sense of that word.
Hopefully, I will have had ample opportunity show you that working to live is an honorable pursuit that occasionally calls for more than that which you would normally be willing to give. On such occasions, I would simply ask that you do just that...give. Give more of yourself than you’re comfortable in giving. For you see, your personal comfort should rarely be your primary pursuit. Rest assured, it is not that of your employer. More importantly, it is rarely that of your God.