Strategies For Solving the Work/Life Dilemma (cont.)

Sirull: The vast majority -- I don't have a concrete number, but I think that the studies are indicating that this is truly a widespread issue; one company that does an annual survey of their employees has found that, for the first time, men ranked issues of work/life balance as the #1 issue in greater proportion than women. It's becoming a big issue across men, women, children, no-children, etc. Also a recent study was a survey of recent college graduates, and about two-thirds indicated that combining work and family was one of their #1 concerns. In the generation to come, with young workers, it's a huge issue.

Moderator: How early in life do you suggest people look at their lives?

Sirull: I'm actually encouraging people to look at this in college, even before their first job. I remember several years ago, when I graduated from college, at the time, everyone said to us... "find out what the company wants, and make yourself into that." And we say, "find out who you are, what you want to do, how you want to work, and find a company that'll hire you." Do not attempt to make yourself into something you're not, because all that'll happen is years later, you'll be who you are, and deal with it then. It's never too early to think about the kind of work you want to do and how you want to do it.

Moderator: Do you give college seminars?

Sirull: Just starting. I've just been invited to address a group of graduating college students at a career seminar -- that's an important issue because if we have that group of people thinking about it at the beginning of their career, it can be much healthier.

Moderator: How can you help employers make their employee's lives happier?

Sirull: It's important for employers to be open minded, to be willing to look at alternative ways to work. So many people we spoke to were the first person to work in their company in an alternative way, and really had to persuade their companies -- we're trying to encourage companies, particularly at a time when unemployment is so low, to be open to proposals of alternative way to work. Some companies provide a toolbox, which is a series of tools employees can use to propose a part time or flexible way to work, work with managers to evaluate the kinds of proposals, and make it accepted procedures within the culture. I think it's important to recognize that as one of the women we spoke to said, that working part time doesn't mean you're less committed; you're fully committed, but the job you get done is done in less time. I can tell a great story of a women who convinced her company to let her telecommute full time. Over time, her peers got interested and the company closed down a satellite office and saved millions in overhead cost. Working for new ideas can help you save a lot of money. Other things employers can do is encourage some cross-training, so employees can stand in for one another, and companies benefit from that, because they have more qualified people that can do the work that needs to get done. One other point I'll make here, is that the #1 mind shift that we hope that companies are making, is to value people... and shift the paradigm from how long people work to the value they bring to the firm. It's not question of how many hours you work, but what you get done, and the value you bring to that firm. That's some of the thing employers can do.

Moderator: Do you think that daycare centers attached to big corporations is a good idea?

Sirull: I think it's up to the individual; I think that works for a lot of people in a lot of situations. If you're someone that feels that you need to get out of the building, that won't work for you. Some people we spoke to, felt so strongly that they started businesses at home. Some people enjoy bringing their kids to work with hem; they enjoy that additional time together. The more options we create for people, the better off we are.

Moderator: What exactly is gap analysis?

Sirull: When we talk about gap analysis, it's taking a business and applying it to your life in a certain way. We're suggesting that you look at what it is that you say that you want in your life, versus how you spend your time. And we do have an exercise that encourages you to write down what it is you want to be accomplishing in your life, and what it is you want to be doing, following from your new definition of success. And to rate these new items in terms of importance, and to also rate these things in terms of effort in time you're looking at achieving them, and to look at the gap between the two. So if you consider something important, but you're not putting too much time into that, that's a gap you need to address, and vice versa. It's a tool to help you look at what you want versus how you're spending your time, and move your resources towards the things you really want to achieve. It's very much a business resource allocation tool that one might use in a business and applying it your life.

Moderator: How does non-profit work fall into the life collage?

Sirull: Many people that we spoke to talked about the importance of having a role in their community and making a difference. And they got a two for one, about the sense of making a difference while making a living. One of the women we spoke to worked in the health care sector, and ended and became the director of a non-profit that served women's health needs, and she felt that she was using her expertise and experience in a way that was making a huge difference in her life. And when she wasn't working, she felt that she had more time for everything else. The same for people who move into the public sector, feel that they're making a difference while making a living. There's often more flexibility in those positions, and you can often set boundaries in those positions a bit easily, so many people have found the freedom they need in the non-profit sector.

Moderator: Do you think people should try to hire assistant to help with work?


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