By Alexandra McClelland
On September 27, Women In Tech's Burbank chapter enlisted the help of five leaders for a discussion on work/life balance:
- The panelists: Julie Hsu, Stacy Desilets, Michelle Leong, Charity Rieck
- The moderator: Melanie Larsen
- Event Organizers: Jenna Maskell and Sarah Rosas
The event had an energetic start. After our panelists introduced themselves, the questions and answers began. We jumped right in to the first question: Is work/life balance possible?
The panelists dug right into this difficult topic! Stacy pointed out that at Yahoo!, we are encouraged to "work smarter, not harder". This certainly helps in achieving a work/life balance. Julie gave us two words to remember: organization and prioritization. She also emphasized that you must communicate often and make your needs known to others. Charity spoke on the importance of strategizing, and Michelle suggested a system of planning out your time with a "what can I get out of the way first?" philosophy, so that you have more time to dig into the serious issues.
Our next topic: What are your partner's expectations of work/life balance?
Julie explained that it helps when your partner understands your needs and the specific demands of your job. Stacy pointed out the importance of compromise and communication. An audience member asked: "What if you and your partner both have highly demanding jobs?" Michelle said that you have to find the right balance to make a situation like that work. Our moderator, Melanie, mentioned the importance of "Give & Take." Another audience member said that it is important to be flexible, both with your schedules and with one another.
We then moved on to the third topic: What are some tactics to achieve work/life balance?
Charity discussed the tactic of scheduling anything that is important to you. For example, if working out is important, schedule your workouts on your calendar and communicate to others that those times are unavailable for meetings and calls. Use your calendar to your advantage! Melanie brought up the use of coping tactics such as deep breathing and yoga. Audience members pointed out that it helps to take morning calls from home, as opposed to coming in at 7AM and working till the evening.
The next question was: What are some things you can do to prepare for expected and unexpected workload increases?
Stacy said that it is a must to know when to ask for help. It is also beneficial to have allies in the workplace who will step up to help you if needed. Michelle re-emphasized the importance of using the calendar to block out all your important time slots. Julie pointed out the importance of taking breaks - schedule your breaks on the calendar if needed!
An audience member asked how one deals with regular traveling while maintaining a Work/Life Balance. Julie said that you must accept that some things won't get done on traveling days. It is important to prioritize and keep in mind what makes you happy! Michelle discussed delegating - if possible, you can send someone else on your team to travel if it is not feasible for you.
The panelists were then asked if they had ever left a job to achieve a better work/life balance.
Julie discussed the importance of communicating and working with your manager to work out your individual schedule and needs. Charity pointed out that Yahoo! allows a lot of flexibility in scheduling. Stacy had left a particular job due to the impossibility of a work/life balance there.
Our final topic was: Interviews: What are some work/life balance-related interview questions you can ask or have asked before?
Charity mentioned that you can ask about the culture of a company to find out if work/life balance is possible for you there. Stacy also said that you should mention things you enjoy and are passionate about, to set appropriate expectations about what your personal balance will be like.
And with that discussion, our panel was concluded. Our panelists repeatedly emphasized topics like scheduling, prioritization, and knowing (and communicating!) your personal needs. They definitely made the topic of Work/Life Balance clearer and more attainable for all of us!