Work Life Balance – It’s Complicated

If you have to work for a living – and most of us do, life can get really complicated especially if you have a spouse and/or kids.  I have gotten past that point in my life, where I have to worry so much about the work life balance, as both of my children have left my house (although I still pay for their car insurance and cell phones). Nonetheless I understand the strife that folks go through everyday having to deal with the pressures of family life.

Last week I was walking thorough my work place and could not help but overhear a distressed employee on the phone.  He was speaking to his wife and said, “Can your mom pick you up and you get Susie at school and then come by here and get the car and take Susie to the doctor?”  I am not sure what he had going on, on all fronts but it seemed liked he had a lot going on this day.

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 am the HR guy – the people person.  Can I help this guy, should I help him?  As I said he has options but has chose not to exercise them for whatever reason.

Quickly, I run through several scenarios in my mind but none of them seem to really help the situation. Should I go pick up his wife?  Should I give him a get out of jail card?  I really can’t do anything for this fellow that I am not willing to do for anyone else, so I do nothing.  Now I feel like I have somehow failed him and the situation 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.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

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