What does work-life balance mean to you?
To me, it means being able to drop my girls off at daycare in the morning without having to watch the clock, being able to spend a few meaningful minutes with their teachers and classmates. It means being able to pick them up again at a reasonable time — so they aren’t the last ones lingering in their rooms. It means being able to make dinner, handle bath time and do bedtime — all uninterrupted and without feeling the need to check my email. It’s being able to leave the office early some days in exchange for working late other days. It’s working from home when I need to focus uninterrupted (and don’t want to shower), and it’s creating a travel schedule that works with breastfeeding (no joke).
To me, work-life balance means doing great work while not feeling guilty about personal time and personal priorities.
Finding Balance at Elasticity
As they say, I was #soblessed to find Elasticity. When I first met with my now-boss, I was feeling hopeless. I felt stuck at a company that didn’t quite get it. They weren’t accommodating. Although my then-boss was a saint, her hands were bound by some pretty strict rules. I’ll spare you the fine print, but just know it wasn’t a very comfortable environment for a working mother. When I finally realized it was time to move on from that place, I searched for months and actually had to turn down an offer because I just knew it would be more of the same.
I could sense that Elasticity was different right away — mostly because Aaron Perlut interviewed me in a pair of mustache print pants, and the other two partners took me to a 2-hour lunch without ever checking their watches or phones. The air was somehow fresher over here.
I’ll skip the details and jump to the big takeaway from my onboarding process: When I signed on the dotted line, Elasticity and I made a bunch of promises to one another, but the most important one was that they promised to treat me well if I promised to work hard.
It’s really easy to work hard for a company that treats you so well. Truly, all Elasticity cares about is good work — and they put so few parameters on it. You set your own schedule, you take on what you can handle, you get help when you ask for it. The freedom you have here helps you maintain your balance.
Working 9-5 is no longer a thing. It’s become more like 8-6 with a 15-minute lunch break … at your desk … while answering emails. At first, I thought this was just the grueling pace of agency life, but after working for two nonprofits and one university, I learned that the shift is across the board. Everyone feels pressured to work harder and longer. All work and less play makes for a very dull (and unbalanced) workforce.
Furthermore, working 9-5 or 8-6 doesn’t really work for my family. We need more flexibility than that to maintain our sanity. Elasticity provides that flexibility, which contributes to my overall balancing act.
Yes, some days are long and I need to make other arrangements for drop-offs and pickups — but not frequently. Some weekends I need to buckle down and take care of my inbox — but not all weekends. Sometimes clients need to meet with you before coffee shops even open – but it’s rare. You get the idea. Elasticity is careful to make these trades even, which brings out the best professional version of myself and does not stifle the personal version.
I am carefree when I’m with my family (dressing my girls in matching pajamas and making them pose until I get a usable photo). I never feel guilty about my hard stop at 4 p.m. because I know I have the flexibility to get more work done after I’ve caught up with my husband and we’ve put our girls to bed. I never feel bad about enjoying personal days or taking a break to enjoy a long lunch with colleagues, and in turn, I’m never resentful for late nights, last-minute meetings, tough projects and demanding clients.
I once had the opportunity to sit down with a big-name PR firm based here in St. Louis. When I asked questions about work-life balance and described my ideal schedule to them, they had to hold back their laughter. They told me in no uncertain terms that I would never be able to leave at 4 p.m., that they discourage working from home and that they prefer that “big things” are handled in the office with other team members close by.
I recognize that my schedule is unorthodox by most standards, but as this big, OMG-SO-AWESOME company was telling me about all of the things they wouldn’t do for me, I had to wonder — how do people here balance? Finally, I found myself talking to a working mother who had graduated through the ranks to senior vice president. Truthfully, I was in awe. “How do you make it all work?” I asked, on the edge of my seat. “I have a nanny,” she said.
But I don’t want a nanny, I thought silently. And is that the only way people can do it? They can only make work and life exist peacefully together with a nanny? That’s crazy to me. My children are already at daycare all day long. Those few precious hours between pickup and bedtime should be mine.
It’s clear to me that not all companies get it like Elasticity does, but some do. A quick Internet search will tell you that organizations such as Google, Wegmans Food Markets and Colgate-Palmolive are praised year after year as the best places to work. Some of the criteria that puts said companies on these “best of” lists? Offering compressed workweeks, providing paid gym memberships and having low voluntary turnover. (A check mark next to all three for Elasticity, by the way.)
Give and Take
To me, work-life balance is a critical component of overall happiness. Bigger than me, I would argue that work-life balance is also a critical component of a healthy company. I could go on all day about why other companies should adopt our model. There is an abundance of research available outlining the long list of positive results companies experience by providing adequate work-life balance. However, I encourage you to use me as the case study! I work harder, happier and smarter because of the freedom I have to balance it all in a way that works for my family.
In sum, work-life balance is give and take. What I mean to emphasize with this post is that Elasticity recognizes the need to give and take, and because of the recognition, neither side feels guilty about taking or resentful about giving. It’s a shame that Elasticity’s approach to work-life balance is rare, but I am #soblessed to be able to benefit from it.