Work Life Balance – It’s Complicated

Balancing Work & Life

Life may become quite difficult if you have to work for a living, which is the case for the majority of us, especially if you have a spouse and/or children. As both of my children have left the house, I have moved past the stage in my life where I have to worry so much about finding a balance between work and life (although I still pay for their car insurance and cell phones). However, I am aware of the struggles people face on a daily basis as a result of the demands of family life.

I overheard a stressed-out employee on the phone last week as I was strolling around my workplace. “Can your mom get you up, and you grab Susie at school, and then come by here and get the car and drive Susie to the doctor,” he asked his wife. I don’t know what he had going on at all times, but it seemed like he was busy today.

Man, I felt for this fellow. He has a sick kid a wife at home with no transportation and he is trying not to leave work so he can save his valuable paid time off for a real emergency. Today he is just looking at a bad day which requires some special arrangements, not really worth burning time off. Now I don’t think this gentleman is any different than a lot of working parents.  He is trying to manage competing priorities everyday.

Our Company provides paid time off and FMLA; suffice it to say we try to provide employees with the needed time to deal with family emergencies or unplanned family situations.   But ultimately it is up to the employee, to decide when to “spend” their time off.   Now when my guy hangs up the phone and goes back to work do you think he is going to be completed focus on and immersed in his work.  I think not.

I’m the HR expert; I’m a people person. Should I or can I aid this guy? He has alternatives, as I indicated, but has chosen not to take use of them for whatever reason.

I quickly go through a number of situations in my head, but none of them appear to be really helpful. Do I need to go get his wife? Should I offer him a pass to avoid jail? Since I truly can’t do anything for this man that I wouldn’t do for anyone else, I stay silent. I now feel as though I failed him and the circumstance as a whole.

So let’s review, we have an employee who is going back to their job, and going to worry about their spouse and their sick child, the amount of time off he has left and what it is that he is doing at work.  If we are lucky we will be getting about 33% of his attention.  And the HR guy feels inadequate and uncaring which will not really help my work focus either.

Work Life Balance – It’s Complicated

I am sure this situation happens every week in most every workplace around the country. How do we help the employees find the balance they need, and make them understand we need them at work being fully engaged?  After all, life is complicated.


Guest blogger on Blogging4Jobs is Dave Ryan has been in HR since it was called Personnel. Dave is active with SHRM in many different aspects.  Dave is also a certified U.S.A. Hockey Official and a frequent speaker at local colleges who speaks about H.R. topics and social media in the workplace. Dave enjoys reading blogs, staying current on H.R. topics, officiating ice hockey, golf, computers and all gadgets electronic. You can find Dave on LinkedInDavetheHRCzar and on twitter, @davethehrczar.

Posted in ,

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.

Reader Interactions



Pin It on Pinterest