Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Juggling Life and Work Is No Easy Act Employers Can Help by Affirming Balance from the Top Down

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Juggling Life and Work Is No Easy Act Employers Can Help by Affirming Balance from the Top Down

Article excerpt

Even though he's the chief executive of Tobii Dynavox, Fredrik Ruben doesn't want to be a superhero.

Married and with three kids, Mr. Ruben routinely turns off his phone for hours on end, trusting co-workers to take up anything that pops up. To de-stress, he'll go for a run outside without headphones to clear his mind. This way, he's fresh when back in the office or at family events.

"I don't want to pretend I'm the guy who's always working," Mr. Ruben said. "I'm not Superman."

Plenty of managers and employees don't find juggling work and life as easy. Climbing the career ladder without sacrificing family time presents a challenge. Many employees fear job security or failing to make quota if they scrap the office for time at home.

A 2015 survey by Ernst & Young found that 46 percent of managers globally are working more than 40-hour weeks, and that 4 in 10 say their hours have increased over the past five years. Across the employee spectrum, about half of working parents say that balancing work and life is very or somewhat difficult.

"Finding time for me" is the most prevalent challenge faced by millennial parents who are managers in the U.S. (75 percent), followed by "managing personal and professional life" (67 percent). Ernst & Young dubbed the millennial generation as "Generation Go."

So, when you're a manager at work, how do you block out time for a healthy family life, too? Some swear by hard-and-fast rules to maintain the stability. One couple let the balance happen naturally. Others learned the hard way.

Bob Atkin, clinical professor of management at the University of Pittsburgh, said the easiest way for a firm's employees to maintain a work-life balance is when it's ingrained in the culture from the top down.

"There are a lot of things a firm can do to help employees manage stress," he said. In highly successful firms, each employee's balance is "broadly consistent with the culture of the organization."

'A super damn emergency'

Two or three years ago, Tony Pavlik , Tobii Dynavox's vice president of global operations, was constantly wired to email. He called himself an "absolute workaholic." But that changed when Mr. Ruben, the CEO, and other co-workers began pressing him to achieve a better balance.

Mr. Pavlik is making efforts to lessen stress at work. Now he begins each day with 10 minutes of mindfulness. At lunch, he walks outside of the firm's South Side location. On vacation, he won't answer an email unless it's "a super damn emergency."

For single parents or those in the "sandwich generation" of caring for both children and parents, balancing work-life can be tricky. Jen Fisher, a paralegal at Rothman Gordon, was divorced largely because she worked too many hours. But thanks to the Downtown law firm's culture, there's flexibility to take an occasional day off. …

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