While on a pilgrimage walk on the Camino de Santiago (St. James Way) in Spain, I asked some of the most committed and courageous faith-driven business leaders I know to guest contribute to Purposed worKING. Enjoy! – Rusty
“Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted…It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously waiting for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones. Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him. Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands. How joyful is the man who quiver is full of them!”
Recently, I attended an all-hands-on-deck company meeting, where everyone stopped what they were doing for three days and convened to set expectations and priorities for the business for the next fiscal year. The proverbial “National Meeting.”
As is typically the case with gatherings such as these, there are informal question-and-answer sessions where mid-level managers are given the opportunity to ask candid questions of senior executives. These sessions offer rare moments where everyone recognizes humanity in the workplace. During one such exchange, a question pertaining to work-life balance and flexible work schedule policies was raised. The senior executive responded by saying that as a rule, the company would not be instituting an official flexible work schedule policy, and that it’s the employee’s responsibility “to know whether you need to be at your child’s recital or not,” and that employees need to figure out arrangements to make room for family commitments, and that the company and your boss would be supportive within reason.
I thought to myself on the one hand that it was a reasonable response; employees need to set boundaries at work and prioritize the time they spend with their families. But I also chuckled under my breath as I considered how this actually plays out in some working environments. If the culture of a company, or a department—or the example set by your boss—is such that working long hours and traveling constantly is the tacit expectation, it can be incredibly difficult to leave at 4pm to be home to watch your kid’s ballgame, or skip an important business trip to attend that recital.
It turns out, according to a lot of research in the realm of work-life balance, that there is a large gap between espoused organizational work-life policies and actual practice. This is referred to as the “implementation gap,” and the Boston College Center for Work & Family has done a tremendous amount of research on this gap. So the issue is not so much that companies are not trying to be responsive to work-life balance issues, it’s that there are missing links between setting up a program and actually making it work.
This is a very important issue to employees, particularly for those who are moms and dads. Recent Harris Interactive research and surveys of Fortune 500 employees reveal that for men in their 20s and 30s, and women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, the most important job characteristic is having a work schedule that allows them to spend time with their families, and 50% say they wonder if the sacrifices they have made for their careers are worth it.
Certainly, companies can and should be doing more to bridge the “implementation gap” that exists. And while any company should do far more than leave it to their employees to figure out work-life balance on their own, there is a certain grain of ironic truth to this idea—particularly for those of us who are working Christian mothers and fathers.
Just as our relationship with God and Jesus is a personal walk where we are forced to acknowledge and contend with our own shortcomings, confessing our inadequacies, so too do we need to examine our own responsibilities as working professionals with families at home, and set a course that best keeps our work and home lives in balance.
The Bible teaches us in Ephesians 5:25 and Psalm 127, our spouses and children are gifts from God, and we must be responsible stewards of these gifts. We’re encouraged by God to be both diligent in our work, while not sacrificing these precious gifts that God gives us. The apostle Paul wrote in the Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”
And so, we must aspire beyond what culture accepts—moms and dads that miss birthdays, baseball games, and recitals. We have but 6,570 days to influence our children before they traditionally leave the nest at 18 years old, and God expects nothing less than our best in prioritizing not earthly wealth nor professional achievement, but those treasures which are stored in heaven. Cherish your families by giving them your time.
Reference: Psalm 127 (NLT)
Working husband and dad, trying to figure it all out