“If you haven't hugged or kissed your kid in the past couple of days, take that time.” This comment from Chardon Schools Superintendent Joseph Bergant rang understandably true to me. From coaching an executive who admits that all he does is yell at his kids (and probably his staff, too) to the Ohio shooting, I see motivation to address how we fit parenting into our busy work life. It's the school calling about injury or trouble and a teenage explosion the morning of the big pitch that my clients cannot seem to master. We all know the problems. We know preparation and building relationships keep them to a minimum at home and work. So why do businesses keep missing the obvious solutions?
First, employers and managers take note: You are responsible for easing some employee stresses. Whether you are parents should not matter. After all, you are likely to face similar interruptions with an aging parent sooner or later. Once and for all, give parents and children a break.
Managers need to focus on quality and timeliness of work. As I manage, I stop staff meetings for family phone calls on a regular basis and I encourage my employees to take the family phone call when I see their eyes flash with parental worry. Work still gets done! My employees are loyal to my business and me because I do not split them into parent versus employee. (By the way, small business employers tend to be the worst culprits of “stopping the call.”)
The hidden price of denying this low-cost benefit is a distracted, unproductive, and unhappy employee who leaves the minute the whistle blows and can't wait to find a better job when the economy improves. The smart employer knows that family life at whatever stage—whether caring for children, a partner, a sibling, or a parent—is a priceless benefit to all generations of employees that saves thousands in absenteeism and rehiring costs.
Employees, you have a responsibility to listen to your kids and teach them when to call. I text my schedule to my kids, and tell them to call me with a “pool of blood” anytime, but otherwise work is our livelihood. That's why I stopped a speech to take a call from my son, Daniel, which he was making from an emergency room. Our system meant it had to be an emergency of blood or safety, so I took the call.
I know my employees have explained and practiced their own family systems. I also know they don't have to abuse my family support because when they're home they listen to their kids. If I have to call them at home, they readily answer, which keeps my business responsive and nimble to the needs of our clients.
My business has grown in the recession. I say, balance benefits everyone!
Wendy Kaufman is the President and Founder of Balancing Life’s Issues, a national corporate training company. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.