Jess Hickman

Best Practices for Managing Work/Life Balance

Managing Work/Life balanceThe topic of managing work/life balance came up during a recent meeting. Most of the group acknowledged that it’s a tricky thing to manage. It sounds like it’s just two things: work and life. But it’s so much more than that. Life is broken out into many areas such as family, friends, health, hobbies, and community involvement, just to name a few. Some team members felt like their balance was good, while a few felt that they could do better and wanted ideas.

Here are some managing work life balance best practices shared:

PRIORITIZE

  • I always take care of some time for me. I started meditating, and I pray in the morning when the house is quiet and empty. It’s very important for me to pull my mind out of work for a little bit and out of the family problems that everybody has.
  • All alerts are off for Teams and Outlook on my phone when I am not working. The apps are available if I need to connect with someone, but they aren’t a resource for others to pull me in when I’m not working.
  • What I’ve seen with friends of mine and associates is they would say, “Well, I’m going to do something at the end of the day”, and then the end of the day comes, and things get really, really busy, right? It’s really just challenging yourself to say, “Well, when can I take that time to unplug?” And, “what makes sense for me?” For some people, it’s physical. Go do something physical. For other people, it’s a mental thing, or a spiritual thing, and for some people it’s all the above. You have to figure out what will allow you to re-energize and then try to do that.
  • I make myself take breaks. I think that it’s key because suddenly I’ll find that I’m staring at my screen for too many hours. So I go downstairs. I physically leave my desk and go make myself a cup of tea or walk my dog around the block to get a bit of fresh air. If you don’t schedule that or block it out on your calendar, it just doesn’t happen. I occasionally put a private invite to myself to walk the dog just to get myself away from the computer.
  • I focus on ending my work day and being OK with knowing that whatever I still have to do, can happen tomorrow.

PLAN

  • I always take a lunch break and always book my birthday as vacation. That’s non-negotiable. The one year that I didn’t, I really regretted it, as I got stuck in a client meeting until seven o’clock in the evening, and it was not a great birthday. If you push yourself to work during the day and you find yourself exhausted in the evening with no time for your own interests and things like that, it’s not great for your mental health, whether it’s physical or mental.
  • I started carving out and booking lunch for myself. And then I try to get out and just take like a 10- or 15-minute walk as part of that break. Or, if need be, I simply walk around the block. It doesn’t take long.
  • I completed a values exercise, which was to take a hundred different cards of different values and throw them on a table and prioritize which values are most important to me. If you look at my dry erase board, you’ll see my top 10 personal values of what’s most important to me. Health is number one. I find StarFish, more so than other companies I worked for, very empowering for the employees to take care of themselves. The company allows us flexibility to do those things. So if my kids come up to me, and I’ve got an hour in the middle of the day, I can do that. I don’t have to worry. As long as the job gets done, I can do that. I’ve been very pleased with how flexible the company is and that my boss brings up “Project Me” as a talking point. Those 10 values are now present in my day to day.
  • Whether working from home or in the office, plan for activities and book things for after your typical work hours. Whether that is a fitness class or a social event, by writing it down in your calendar, you’re going to get out and go for a hike. Planning something in advance, almost like a work meeting in your calendar, makes me stay on my personal commitments and able to balance the hours. This is especially relevant for anyone who’s going to be working at home or going back and forth between working at home and at the office. I find it really beneficial to put things in my calendar just to keep me on track with other commitments so I don’t work past my typical hours.
  • Every year I find something that I’m going to do for pleasure outside of work, such as running, or roller-skating. This year it’s pottery. I organized myself with my family as I have two sons and my husband.

COMPANY CULTURE

  • The philosophy at StarFish is interesting because you have this philosophy from the company to employees, but the employees also have to reflect that philosophy and live it. If the philosophy is you want a work/life balance, then as employees and people, we have to figure out how to unplug.
  • The first thing in the morning, I’ll get up, I’ll go downstairs, and I’ll work out. If it’s a nice day, I’ll try to take a half hour walk during the day, and just listen to the wind blowing and take in the environment. But I’ll reiterate the point that others said, I’ve been really appreciative of the flexibility StarFish has to allow us to do that.
  • In my first year at StarFish, which was so long ago, our CEO Scott Phillips went off on a three-week holiday and checked out. When he came back, I asked, “Hey, how is your day today, how are you settling back in?” He’s responded along the lines of “I was an hour into the meeting with this client before I realized who the client was”. They were our largest client at the time! It showed me that he allowed himself to completely check out during his holiday, so much so that he forgot the name of our biggest client. I loved that. Because now I have permission to go on vacation and disconnect – no email at all. So whenever I disconnect, whether it’s for vacation or at the end of my work day, I totally disconnect. My laptop is closed, and I get no alerts on my phone.
  • I went through some major health problems and StarFish was really supportive in allowing me to maintain a decent work-life balance during that period. I had to really pay attention to my health even though I wanted to maintain working so that I didn’t lose contact with the team and become isolated and out of touch.
  • Having a manager who pays attention to my workload really helps. My manager will talk to me when they see I’m working more hours than they think I should. Sometimes I’m doing things I really enjoy. Other times, I’m not paying attention and don’t realize I could ask for help from someone else. My manager helps me ensure that I’m staying healthy and not risking sacrificing my social and family life for work, or risking burnout.

It’s clear to us that in order to be successful in managing work life balance, we need to be aware of all the elements in our lives that allow our cups to stay full. It’s one thing to be a part of a company that supports this, but it’s another for us to play an active role in maintaining the balance. Assess and identify what you need to prioritize, and then make a plan to put it in action. Add it to your calendar, create a new habit, and talk about it with your manager and colleagues. Doing this allows us to be at our best when doing the work we love. And it allows to be at our best when doing those things we love, away from work.

Jess Hickman is the StarFish Medical Senior People & Culture Manager. Since joining the company in 2010, Jess has participated in the hiring for staff in every department and seen the company grow over 100%.


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