Work-Life Balance in a Post-Pandemic World
As an attorney, I have the privilege of working closely with businesses of all shapes and sizes—from Fortune 500 companies to two-person startups—as well as attorneys in every practice and at every stage of life. I can’t think of a single client or colleague whose work life has not dramatically changed over the last two years. From where I sit (specifically, in my home office with a toddler on my lap who is pretending to take an important call from a judge), I see this post-pandemic work environment as an opportunity. It is an opportunity for employers to evaluate their workplaces and make changes that support their employees’ quality of life, without suffering a downturn in productivity. It is also an opportunity for employees to take meaningful steps toward achieving that ever-elusive “work-life balance.”
After having my first child eight years ago, I asked my law firm for permission to work almost exclusively from home, so that I could try to figure out how to be both a new mom and a litigator. I wanted the library story times, the swimming lessons, and the preschool parties. But I also wanted to sit first chair at trial, write complex appellate briefs, and work closely with our clients to solve the seemingly unsolvable problems. Even though I was a first-year associate and had done very little to prove myself, the firm agreed and has supported me at every turn. As a result, I have built a successful litigation practice, while working from home. I am now a partner in a leadership role. I have also never missed a soccer game.
However, even with the unwavering support of my firm and my family, I often felt as if I was alone on an island. While working from home made my life possible, I felt guilty that I could not attend client pitches because I was volunteering in kindergarten. I hated missing pediatrician visits because I was prepping for trial. I felt, as so many employees did, that the ideal of “work-life balance” was unattainable.
One pandemic and three babies later, I see a real difference in the way both employers and employees view the world. I no longer feel alone in trying to merge my home and professional lives in a way that works for my clients, my firm, and my family. I see executives of large corporations not only appreciating what their stay-at-home spouses deal with, but wanting to be involved in the day-to-day. I see managers who automatically evaluate whether that hour-long in-person meeting is necessary, or whether a 15-minute Zoom call would more productive. I see judges who no longer require attorneys to travel across the country to attend a conference that could be held by phone. I see all of this as opportunity for employees like me to help create a professional work world where employees really can “have it all,” whatever that looks like for them.