Creating a work-life balance: Why flexibility needs to be a two-way street

Woman working with child on lap
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Struggling to achieve a good work-life balance is becoming increasingly difficult as the way we work is constantly changing. The temptation to take your laptop home or to keep checking your emails once you’ve left work has become more common.

This is particularly true of graduates, who want to stay on top of their work in order to impress their peers. But as we get older and ‘real life’ gets in the way, our responsibilities change. Naturally, your attention is expected elsewhere, beyond the confines of the office walls.

Balancing work with home life can be particularly tricky for new mothers, who may find it difficult, especially initially, to manage the new demands of parenthood amongst an already busy schedule. And this can have a negative effect on both the business’ success and the individual's career.

There is growing awareness of the importance of supporting new parents re-entering the workplace following extended career breaks, which often begin as maternity or paternity leave. Helping men and women integrate back into the office and balance the responsibility of parenthood, without feeling guilty for leaving work on time, is essential.

New parents

Speaking from experience, going back to work can be worrying as a new parent. Like most working parents, I had concerns about balancing family life alongside my job.

As a new mother, travelling for work was one of my biggest fears, as I find myself crossing the Atlantic on a regular basis. Whilst being based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Prezi still retains strong ties with Hungary, and although the chance to return is a great perk, the idea of leaving my child behind was unappealing to say the least.

Beyond a policy just for parents, encourage your teams to take a more flexible approach, assess their work-life balance and provide feedback on ways the company can help.

Thankfully, our Budapest office has a 'bring your child to work' policy that has meant I didn’t have to make the choice between my job and my family. Such policies relieve pressures on new parents, in a way that means they are not forced to make a choice between work and children.

Young parents have plenty of new worries – workplaces should do what they can to reduce any additional ones.  

Young businesses, such as startups, should seek to implement these policies before they need them. This will reassure new parents at the outset. Communicating policies from the beginning will also drive employee retainment.

Re-inventing policies

Having C-level meetings with toddlers hopping on and off their parents’ knee may sound disruptive, but it doesn’t have to be. The presence of children can even put a team at ease and diffuse any pre-meeting tension.

However, it is important to still have a set play area and supervised activities during the day to prevent them from running wild through the office.

Today, there is no excuse for not being flexible.

While child-friendly policies can affect a number of employees, flexibility should benefit everyone. Beyond a policy just for parents, encourage your teams to take a more flexible approach, assess their work-life balance and provide feedback on ways the company can help.

For example, as well as allowing parents to bring their kids to work, offer a ‘bring your pets to work’ policy, or offer other benefits such as adjustable working hours or the possibility of working remotely when needed.

Shifting demographics

The benefits of this approach extend well beyond new parents and allow the company to see how they can improve in order to retain talent – which is a hugely important part of business.

With many companies growing at fast speeds, it can be difficult to retain young minds and creative talent. The risks brought about by this demographic shift can be offset by employing the above-mentioned policies alongside your business. Having these in place will enable you to retain employees long term, and encourage people to stay in the business when planning to start their own families.

Fostering creativity

As a company evolves, the need to retain talented and experienced employees becomes ever greater. Developing a creative work ethic allows employees to be more flexible and further the careers they’ve worked hard to build.

Today, there is no excuse for not being flexible - we have the technology and tools to work at different times and locations outside of the traditional working day.

Not only does this empower employees, it also means that people are more willing to give occasional ‘out-of-hours’ time back, such as for an evening or early-morning call due to time differences.

Having a diverse and stable workforce for any company is important, but arguably more so for international companies, where it is essential.

We want to create an environment that attracts and retains a variety of international talent that encompasses our culture at Prezi.

There are many people in the workforce who worry about current policies around taking leave and consider their roles at work when balancing family life as well. Others may need a flexible work environment to care for unwell family or friends.

Choosing to ignore such requests from employees can be costly in the future and implementing these policies early on can be beneficial to the culture of the business, the individual and the future of flexible working.

 

About Emoke Starr

Prezi

Emőke Starr is Prezi’s Global Head of HR. Prezi, founded in 2009, is the presentation platform that helps you connect more powerfully with your audience and customers, and has over 85 million users worldwide. Emőke has worked across the globe and is currently based in San Francisco. Previously, she has built her career in HR in Europe, including her native Romania, and she also continues to regularly work from Prezi’s office in Budapest. One of Emőke’s key motivations at Prezi has been to help attract and build an inclusive, diverse and aligned team through forward-thinking employment policies and an engaging working environment.

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