Today’s workplace – and workforce – emphasizes work-life balance. Company perks like extended parental leave, quarterly off-sites, and paid time off are top priorities for employers and employees alike. Yet, living a balanced lifestyle is no simple task. Men and women at all stages of their careers now manage both a family and a full-time job. In 2015, 60.6 percent of married-couple families included two working parents. When juggling work and family, it is impossible to find a perfect balance.
I spoke with Jamie Barnett, Chief Marketing Officer at Netskope, a cloud security company in Silicon Valley, to discuss how employees at all levels can find the company that’s best suited for them, and why everyone needs to abandon the idea that perfect balance exists.
You’re the CMO of a growing enterprise security company and a mother of two. What’s your motto when it comes to balancing everything?
“Strive for a B average.” My husband and I raise two kids and work full-time. If you want to work, parent and lead a normal life, such as exercise, have the occasional date-night, and host an occasional party, striving for a B is the only way to achieve that and still maintain your sanity. You’re still a good parent and employee even if the kids eat cereal for dinner sometimes, you pass on a non-essential work task, or the house is messy for a week. If you try to be perfect, you’ll drive yourself crazy, and you won’t add value. Straight A’s don’t exist in work-life balance.
What tips can you offer to parents who manage family and career?
Choose a company with a great culture. That doesn’t mean exclusively seek out companies that brand themselves as “family friendly,” but it does mean do substantial due diligence to find a company that values transparency, teamwork, and execution versus face-time politics. I looked at sixty companies and made thirty backchannel due-diligence phone calls on the CEO and peers before accepting Netskope’s offer.
There are red flags when vetting culture. If there is no diversity in management, managers have no interests outside of work, there is a big focus on face-time, or the company retains combative employees at the expense of morale because they make their numbers, then the company is not the right fit. My CEO’s wife works a high-powered job. He values her work and they share in raising their child. His beliefs are such that if I call into a meeting rather than come into the office because my child is sick, he doesn’t flinch.
What’s the biggest mistake that people can make when trying to achieve a healthy work-life balance?
Don’t try to accomplish everything. Rather, carefully choose what you focus on. Think of your time in financial terms – assign yourself an hourly rate and, when you find yourself spending too much time on a questionable pursuit, calculate its cost against the probability-adjusted payoff. Next, think about your opportunity cost. If you spend three hours on an insubstantial tactical task, the return isn’t attractive, but if you use those hours furthering a business deal, that’s a better ROI. Many tactical tasks are unavoidable, and leaders do have to roll up their sleeves, but, directionally, you need to continually re-assess your to-do list. That financial lens helps you prioritize.
How can companies encourage their employees to live a more balanced lifestyle?
Don’t schedule a strategy meeting at 5pm when parents need to head home to their kids, keep emails and phone calls to a minimum during nights and weekends, make sure the work environment is enjoyable. I laugh several times a day because I enjoy my colleagues, learn from them, and am entertained by them.
Face-time should not be a main priority. Rather, hire the best people and judge them on their output. My team is mature enough to know when they need to be in the office for meetings, at home to concentrate without distractions, or at Starbucks to write their whitepapers. By promoting a great culture and enabling employees to work where they’re most productive, companies will make huge strides in work-life balance.
Is it the responsibility of senior-level employees to set an example for their juniors?
Absolutely. To set an example for our employees at Netskope, we foster a community for women to support each other professionally. Since women in all stages of their career face bias in the workplace, we created the Awesome Women of Netskope (AWON), where we share articles and ideas and meet every couple of months to talk about getting the most out of our careers.
Remember, B’s are just fine! Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good (from Voltaire).