Finding the Work-Life Balance

“Work to live, don’t live to work.”

Although I’ve been saying it for years, that phrase never had more meaning to me than it did this spring when my boyfriend and I purchased our first home. We were living in Texas and bought a house in Tennessee, then moved there the day before closing. We’re either adventurous or really stupid.

Adventurous? Stupid? You make the call.

Adventurous? Stupid? You make the call.

As with so many other experiences in life, you don’t know what it’s like until you go through it. I assumed buying a house involved making an offer, doing an inspection, closing and moving in. I didn’t take into account all of the ups and downs in between those steps: negotiating over everything from the price of the home to who pays for a new toilet seat, disclosing every move you make to your mortgage officer, dealing with the underwriter’s last-minute demands that something seemingly inconsequential be fixed before closing, and the list goes on. And on. AND ON.

At the time we were going through this, my boyfriend worked as a dairy buyer at a grocery store, with little access to phone or Internet (at least for non-work purposes) during the day. Had I worked a similar job, we both wondered how it could be remotely possible to get done everything that needed to get done. How do you deal with a bank only open during office hours when you’re working during those hours? How do you quickly compile tax documents for years previous while you’re stuck at a desk miles from the accordion file stuffed organized with all those documents? Luckily, we didn’t have to experience that, because I work for a company that understands that life isn’t meant to be spent solely behind a desk and that it’s possible to do your job well without set work hours.

Home sweet home.

Home sweet home.

It’s mind boggling to me why more companies aren’t as mindful of their employees’ time. Obviously, there are some jobs you just have to be present to do. If he wasn’t there to place the order and stock the milk, my boyfriend’s grocery store wouldn’t have had milk on the shelves. Sure, I get that. But when your job revolves around sitting in front of a computer, answering emails and working in so many cloud-based services, what’s stopping you from being able to accomplish that job from anywhere?

Flexible hours make employees happier, which decreases turnover rates for companies while increasing productivity. This seems like every company’s dream, and yet so many of them are slow to get on board with the concept.

I remember when my best friend had her second child and had to put him in daycare at just three months old. She was so upset and cried. She wanted to work, but she didn’t want to put such a young baby in the care of someone else for the majority of most days of the week. Her office job—the emails she needed to send, the phone calls she needed to make, the forms she needed to file—could have been done from anywhere. But that wasn’t an option, so she went back to work after three months then quit her job a year and a half later to stay home with the kids. Her employer was sorry to see her go but probably never asked the question, “Is it better to lose a valued, hard-working employee completely or to have that valued, hard-working employee work mostly from her home in order to be there for her family?”

This friend isn’t the only one who is thinking this way. More than two-thirds of respondents in a recent survey by a tax and professional services firm said they’d consider quitting if their bosses didn’t allow more work-hour flexibility. In the same survey, 58 percent of managers in the United States said they work more than 40 hours per week. Couple that with average commute times nearing an hour daily, according to the U.S. Census, and you have a decreasing quality of life where the majority of a day revolves solely around your job.

I believe we need to look at the systems in place that are forcing people to work 40+ hours each week and figure out how to decrease bureaucratic process while increasing personal productivity (i.e. work smarter, not harder), but in the meantime, if we accept that work weeks are simply getting longer, there’s even more of a cause for flexible work hours to accomplish such lofty goals as exercising, helping your kid with his homework, spending time with loved ones and eating dinner as a family.

TeamSnap, the company I work for, trusts their employees to work where we want and how we want. I usually work from my home desk, but I’ve also worked in cities where I’m visiting friends and relatives. I worked from my mom’s couch and my brother’s dining room table when I was on one of my house-hunting trips to Tennessee. One of our founders recently worked while visiting Colombia. About a quarter of our employee base is in Boulder, where our HQ office is, but even those folks don’t go into the office everyday. We take breaks when we need to, but most importantly, we work when we need to. We all value the freedom we have to work how and when we want, so we make sure we bust butt when needed.

And it shows: Our turnover rate is low, our employees are happy and our product shines because of it. Our satisfaction rating, according to our customer support tool, is 95+ percent, and our customer base continues to grow. Because of the flexibility my job affords me, out of the two months we spent looking for and closing on a house, I only took off a handful of days, including the one that involved driving 12 hours with two cats and one bearded gentleman from Texas to Tennessee and the following one, when we closed and became homeowners. I didn’t have to take a ton of time off; instead, I got my work done in conjunction with taking care of personal business. Neither side suffered and I got to accomplish a major life goal.

We’re living in the future, folks. As more jobs are done online and more workers are expected to be available on demand because of it, we need to make sure we’re creating the right balance and encouraging everyone to work to live, not live to work.

Stephanie Myers is the Content Manager for TeamSnap, managing such content as this blog, the TeamSnap newsletter and much more. When she’s not being the boss of content, you can find Stephanie playing lawn games or working on her 95-year-old craftsman home in Memphis, Tenn.

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