What does Work Life Effectiveness mean to you?
Finding harmony in all aspects of my life through a measured, systematic approach rather than knee-jerk reactions that swing the pendulum too far in any one direction. It means understanding my personal value system and planning ahead to make sure that where I spend my time aligns with it, whether related to work, family, hobbies, or rest.
What is one strategy that helps you establish, maintain, and achieve WLE in your workday?
It’s a constant effort really, and for me it’s about keeping my priorities front of mind and making corrections when needed. I once heard a pilot talk about how the hardest part of flying was landing the plane because it required clear planning for priority tasks and yet enough flexibility to account for changes – all centered around the fact that there is limited time to execute.
I try to apply this same view to my daily life by recognizing that things can and will change, but that I must think ahead and commit to what is important before it happens. The net effect is a flexible plan where the decisions about where to focus my attention while under pressure are already mapped out in my mind.
From a practical standpoint, I use tools like my calendar and task list as guide posts to start each day. If I have an important family or work event, need time to exercise, or need a block of time to think or strategize about a particular challenge - it’s on the calendar. From there, I can adjust to incorporate new things that crop up and I already have a good view of the things that are fixed vs those that may not be so rigid. Through that lens, the quality and reliability of the empty calendar space is just as important as the allocated time – and you must plan for the empty space just as diligently.
What do you find the most challenging about being effective in both your work and family lives?
We work in a very demanding space, on matters that have real consequences to our clients, and that often span global times zones. Add to this environment limitless connectivity and an increasing velocity of information flow and we can often experience an overwhelming amount of distractions that have the potential to erode our ability to be “present”.
The technology we use can sometimes feel like a sword of Damocles instead of the powerful and productive tools they are intended to be. It is a constant battle to put down the phone (at home or in a meeting), resist the urge to send one last email before I sleep, and instead stay focused on the people and tasks in front of me.
Is there an AlixPartners program that you have found helpful in maintaining a good balance?
I think there are several programs that stand out for me (hat tip to the Working Parents ERG and new parental leave policy). But the real magic comes from my colleagues who support good balance through their actions and the resulting firm culture that challenges us to work smarter by helping one another and sharing the load. Balance is only possible when others are willing to play a role, whether that’s a teammate covering for a colleague with a sick child, a partner helping with a compacted schedule, or a team leader who sets the tone by prioritizing and planning client needs so that urgency is the exception and not the rule. It’s the people who make it all work – and lucky for me, AlixPartners has no shortage of all-stars.
At what point in your career did you realize that work life effectiveness actually improves your performance in the workplace?
I realized early on, like most, that too much work or not enough time with family for too long a stretch eroded my overall happiness. Also like many others, I opted instead to carve out time from sleeping or family time to satisfy work that always felt, but was not in fact, urgent. That approach was not sustainable for me over time, and I was lucky to have mentors and leaders around me that showed me there’s a better way. That was a real catalyst for change—for the other important aspects of my life. That shift in mindset is what led to me to the happy conclusion that finding harmony improved the quality of my work, my relationships, and my health. Win-win-win. Who knew?
How has your approach on work life effectiveness evolved over the years?
My philosophy has generally stayed the same, but I’ve recognized the need for well-placed flexibility and making use of tools and methods that weren’t always available. As an example, I have a young daughter at home, so I prioritize time with her first and use whatever tools I can to make that happen—lately it’s Facetime and Skype when traveling and, when home, blocking out calendar time in the early morning and evening for a music lesson, reading or bath time before returning my attention to work.
It doesn’t always work out that way, but I find that when I make a point to plan for it, it’s generally doable and the time with her can be uninterrupted, quality time.
How do you ensure your teams are achieving work life effectiveness?
I try very hard to support a collaborative environment that recognizes we all have priorities competing for limited time. That means communicating with my colleagues and understanding what work life effectiveness means to them as well. Supporting colleagues and helping them to unplug, whether on vacation, or a date-night with their spouse, is an easy way to pay-it-forward and also acts as a buffer for the inevitable times where client needs or extended travel necessarily cut into other priorities.
If you had to give one piece of advice related to work life effectiveness to your younger self, what would it be?
Take time to rest and recharge, and don't wait to find a hobby that you love. The law of diminishing returns applies to all aspects of life, including work, so don’t be afraid to hit pause occasionally and support others to do the same.
Our Work Life Effectiveness (WLE) interview series features AlixPartners professionals across the world discussing successful strategies for facilitating their own work life effectiveness. Read more of our people's stories below.