Work Life Effectiveness interview series: Meaghan Schmidt
What does Work Life Effectiveness (“WLE”) mean to you?
Being able to be the best I can be at work and home. As a new managing director and a working parent, I have quite a few demands on my time. WLE, to me, means the capability to effectively accomplish my work and personal tasks.
How do you establish, maintain, and achieve WLE in your workday? What is one strategy that helps you?
Admittedly, this is still a work in progress. I live and die by my calendar. I make it a habit to check my calendar for my upcoming day the night before to see what I have scheduled and then create a checklist of what I need to accomplish. I also balance the calendar approach with working out because I need an outlet to burn off steam. Whether I’m going out for a run, taking a barre class, or hopping on an elliptical, cranking up the music and sweating is exhilarating and clears my mind.
What do you find the most challenging about being effective in both your work & family lives?
My inability to say no! But I have learned that delegating and prioritizing are useful in meeting these challenges.
Is there an AlixPartners program that you have found helpful in maintaining a good balance?
For me, the programs that the Employee Resource Groups are hosting have been extremely beneficial. WE Matters held an event for Women’s Health Week that was very informative and reminded me about a doctor’s appointment that I needed to schedule. The Working Parents ERG speaker series has been incredibly informative. The breast milk shipping program has relieved the stress of traveling while nursing. I have also bonded with so many of our colleagues through these programs, which has fostered new relationships and has allowed us to share “tips and tricks” that have enabled each of us to navigate life as a working parent.
At what point in your career did you realize that WLE actually improves your performance in the workplace?
My second year out of college, I was travelling Monday to Friday and our team joined a local gym. We collectively worked toward leaving the client at a reasonable hour, which allowed us to work out—sometimes individually and other times to play team racquetball. Although we were living out of a suitcase for almost a year, those nights gave us the opportunity to burn off steam and bond with each other. Those relationships exist to this day and set the foundation for me to know that when we have a fire drill, my colleagues know that I will be ready to go into the trenches with them!
How has your approach on WLE evolved over the years?
I have found that starting my day earlier allows me to accomplish more before others are actually in the office!
I actively seek diverse perspectives on WLE. Obtaining perspectives from colleagues in other practices, contacts outside of the firm, and having a male mentor have been just been a few ways that I have accomplished that.
Delegation not only frees up your time, but it also allows for development of junior colleagues. Over the past five years, my time outside the office is now dominated by my three young kids. As a result, I have definitely become more “present” when I am home and not in the office.
Now that we take more of a global staffing approach, I find that having a team comprised of members across time zones allows us to have a better balance. Not only do we provide 24-hour “coverage” for our client, but we can hand things off to each other in the various time zones, which in earlier years would have required members in a discreet time zone to work longer hours.
How do you ensure your teams are achieving WLE?
At the onset of an engagement, I establish a calendar to schedule out the team’s vacation and other personal commitments. Although fire drills do come up from time to time, having the information allows for planning. Since becoming a parent, I have also found it important not to inflict my personal schedule on the team and to respect their schedule. I am typically in the office early and try to leave at a time that allows for me to do bath and bed time. Once the kids are down, I will plug in to get caught up on email etc. Although it may be convenient for me to send an email late at night, I do not expect my team to reply. It just happens that one of the kids was up and I was multitasking!
If you had to give one piece of advice related to WLE to your younger self, what would it be?
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to WLE. The phrase “having it all” is defined by you individually. You need to do what is best as you see it for your career, family, and health!