Work Life Balance – Advice for Employers and Professionals

Work Life Balance.

Last May, our very own Katie Stewart, Senior HR Consultant was a guest on the Get Down to Business radio show, with host Shalom Klein. The show, which airs on AM 560 The Answer on Sunday evenings at 6 pm, featured several different women in business throughout the Mother’s Day special. Below is a transcript from the show featuring a discussion between Shalom and Katie on work life balance for both employers and employees.

Read on or listen to the podcast below!

Shalom Klein: Welcome to Get Down To Business, the show that’s all about small business, jobs and entrepreneurship. We are joined by Katie Stewart, Senior HR Consultant at Tandem HR. This week we are dedicating our Mother’s Day show to women in business. Katie – welcome to Get Down to Business. Thanks for joining us.

Katie Stewart, M.A., PHR, CLRL, SHRM-CP: Thank you. I’m glad to be here.

Shalom: So, you work with a lot of businesses. As a woman in business you know a thing or two about the challenging work-life balance for, I guess for everybody, but certainly for parents. What do you tell your clients? How or is it possible to have a work life balance?

Katie: It’s definitely challenging for both the employer and the employee but I’m always telling my clients that nowadays the household is not really just made up of the one sole breadwinner that’s devoted to work while there is a full time caretaker at home. I always encourage them to take a look at how they are promoting themselves as an organization. Are they promoting themselves as being flexible? Or are they rewarding employees based on hours worked or rewarding someone that commits their life to the company? So really they should take a look at what they’re promoting.

Shalom: Obviously there are a lot of things we can take out of this. There is the work-life balance that we, as professionals, should be considering whether we own a business or whether we work in a business. But for those of our listeners that are fortunate enough to have the title of “employer”, there are things they can be doing as well to help create this type of culture and environment. Let’s break it down. Let’s talk about the business owner first. What are some things that business owners can do to create a culture that is friendly for parents that are trying to maintain that balance – trying to be a good parent and trying to be a good professional?

Katie: Again it just goes back to flexibility. I actually had a manager once say to an employee that you should put your job before your family because your job is what feeds your family. That’s such the wrong message to be sending to your employees. We never want them to have to choose between their jobs and their family.

I do have a couple of tips for employers. Establish what your clear standard is and stick to it. Don’t expect employees to answer emails when they are on vacation with their families. Make sure you set that example from the top. If you have a bunch of leaders responding to emails at 1:00 am or over the weekend, teach them to use the delay on their email. They can still work during those times, but then the emails are not going out until 7:00 or 8:00 am on a Monday.

Shalom: Hey, maybe we need a tech expert to teach us some of those tricks! That’s interesting what you’re suggesting. You’re not saying it’s a ‘no-no’ to work at strange hours, but you take advantage of technology and use those features so you’re not creating a culture where you need to instantly respond and where there’s messages flying around the company at 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning. That’s important. Great advice for creating that culture. What about professionals that want to maintain the work-life balance, that don’t want to be the odd man out in the company, but also want to shine within their family and within their organization? Are there productivity tools that you can offer?

Katie: One thing I say is to be open with your employer. Talk to them about what your needs are to make sure you are successful both at home and in the organization.  A lot of employers these days offer flexible work schedules. So maybe there’s a schedule other than the typical 8:00 – 5:00 that would be more beneficial for you as an employee and a parent. I know Tandem HR, as my employer, has a lot of flexibility. If you have to run your child to the doctor at one point throughout the day, they allow you to make up that time or move your schedule around a little bit.  Having that kind of open communication with your employer is definitely key.

Shalom: So have that open communication and, as you mentioned, Tandem HR is certainly a good example of an organization that creates the culture, but you are providing this information to your client base as well. Katie, are there any examples, not necessarily by name, of other organizations that have done creative things to create either a fun culture or a culture that is friendly to moms in the workplace and friendly to professionals that want to maintain that work-life balance? Are there any other creative solutions that you can provide to our listeners?

Katie: The biggest thing is the flexibility. I know I keep going back to that, but really allowing it. It’s difficult in some industries, I know, but if you are in an industry that allows flexibility. I have one organization that I worked with for years where people can start their day as early as 4:00 in the morning and people stay as late as 9:00 at night, because they don’t need to be communicating with their customer during any specific time of the day. They can really get their job done at any time. So they allow their employees to pick their schedule based on what works best for them.  Flexibility and communicating with your employees!

Shalom: That’s great. And working remotely can certainly be helpful and I know that goes into the category of being flexible. I like your advice, Katie, about being open with your employer in the early stages of employment, but certainly when situations come up. Don’t try to run off to the doctor and hope that you’re back in 20 minutes, but have that conversation and it will make the work experience so much better. Great advice for employers and great advice for employees. Tell us a little bit more about the work that you do at Tandem HR and some of the services and consulting that the organization provides to companies.

Katie: We provide human resources services, payroll, benefits administration and risk management. I am on the human resources side, so I provide my clients with a wide array of services. A lot of it has to do with employee relations and helping small business owners as well as their managers to work through some of these difficult conversations, such as when an employee is coming in and asking for flexibility in the workplace. I also help them with training and development, developing workplace policies, and managing their risk in terms of unemployment and other legal liabilities. I help them work through the sticky situations.

Shalom: That’s great! Once again, we have Katie Stewart, Senior HR Consultant at Tandem HR. Lots of great advice from a great organization that is providing a lot of advice to the Chicago business community. Our listeners can find out more at TandemHR.com including a lot of information on their blog or call 630.928.0510.

Tandem HR

We are a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) in the Chicago area that assists hundreds of small and mid-sized businesses with creating exceptional workplaces.