A Step Back May Be the Best Path Forward

Work-life balance, like success, is something that we each define differently. And what that balance is changes over the course of our lives. We must constantly find it for ourselves.

Companies are improving the support they provide to individuals to pursue their desired work-life balance. Better formal policies surrounding leave and alternative work schedules, as well as “perks,” like on-site gyms and healthy meals, help. More important though, are shifts in attitude and the teams you work with.

Some companies are coming to understand that when someone takes a step back from their career, it does not always indicate a lack of long-term commitment. Rather that step back is often the best path for that person to remain in the game for the long haul. For a period of time when my son was younger, I put my professional goals on the back burner to prioritize my family. I did so by shifting the type of legal work I handled and the number of hours I committed to working. There is increasing openness to and acceptance of such nonlinear career paths, as well as recognition of the value that they can bring. The experience I gained on my circuitous route offers a different and valuable perspective to my workplace.

The teams that you choose to be part of are also critical to your ability to achieve work-life balance. I am fortunate that Fish & Richardson recognizes that people need to prioritize different things at different times, but that does not diminish their overall contribution. There is cultural acceptance of being able to lean on other team members when on vacation or dealing with a personal emergency. It is okay to avoid scheduling a meeting during school drop-off time or when a certain team is playing an important game.

Have the courage to find your own work-life balance so that others on your team feel empowered to find theirs.