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Bonus Tactics article: How to sell work/life balance solutions to management


November 2, 2006

Copyright © 2006 PRSA. All rights reserved.


By Rebecca Hart, APR

Even with the once-novel work choices like flextime and telecommuting more readily available, professionals at all levels still find striking a balance between their work and personal lives difficult.

With the adoption of advanced business tools, like the BlackBerry, wireless Internet connections and the omnipresence of cell phones, professionals are more connected to the workplace than ever, which can make it even more difficult to know when work ends and when leisure begins.

To address these and other concerns, The University of Florida PR Advisory Council Work-Life Committee was formed to provide tools, advice and role models.

The group’s fall 2006 panel discussion on Oct. 8 on the UF campus outlined advantages of work/life balance  as well as some of the barriers  to achieving it.

“For me, balance is about finding joy in whatever you’re doing,” said panelist Cheryl I. Procter-Rogers, APR, Fellow PRSA, PRSA’s 2006 president and CEO. “When you’re at work, you’re not thinking about what you didn’t get done at home and vice versa. You can have it all. You can do it all — just not in one day and probably not all in one season.”

Additional perspectives and tips are outlined below:


David Albritton, Director, Media Relations, Raytheon Company, Arlington, Va.

“I don’t think you ever really have work/life balance. What you have is work/life choice. You’re at the whim of either internal or external clients. Plus when you add in our 24-hour news cycle, you have to sometimes make sacrifices to meet those needs. Sometimes the solutions can work in your favor; for instance, flextime situations often work well when you’re servicing clients in different time zones.”

Albritton’s tip: Leverage your own life experiences so you can find the balance that works for you. Some days you may work eight hours, some days 12 hours and some days 15 hours — it depends on what your employer requires and your corporate culture. But also recognize you have vacation time, and make sure to use it in a way that benefits your family.


Susan Towler, APR, vice president, public affairs — community affairs; executive director, the Blue Foundation for a Healthy Florida, Inc.; Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, Jacksonville, Fla.

“In order to take advantage of flexibility you have to have earned the respect of your manager and your company. You just can’t start out day one and tell your boss: ‘I want to work six hours a day, take Friday off and not check in on the weekends.’ You have to build your skills, competencies, knowledge base and experiences, so as you build trust and credibility, you’re given the privilege of increased flexibility.”

Towler’s tip: Invest time in the workplace early in your career, not just to learn the PR profession, but also to build relationships that will carry you along. Use interpersonal skills to build personal relationships as well as work ones, and know who to go to in order to get something done.


Cheryl I. Procter-Rogers, APR, Fellow PRSA, A Step Ahead Public Relations, Chicago, and PRSA’s 2006 president and CEO

“Starting out, I chose an organization where I knew I could learn a lot. I was there from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and even sometimes on weekends. I knew I needed to turbostart my career, and I was willing to give up those hours early in my career knowing that down the line I would be making different choices. Eventually, I made a decision that a lot of people might find a bit crazy: I decided that having the top job in a PR department wasn’t what I wanted in that cycle of my life. So, I stayed with the agency I had and accepted clients that matched my lifestyle.”

Procter-Rogers’ tip: Find a good mentor, then focus on building trust, confidence and credibility. When interviewing for a job, ask questions about how many hours people spend in the office, how many people have families. The answers to those questions will give you an idea of the organization’s culture.


Kim Sams, APR, Walt Disney World Conservation Initiatives, Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

“You can take advantage of flexibility without your career suffering, but you have to have earned that opportunity. For the first 10 years of my career, I worked all the time, and my work was my life. Then I had baby, and had to make some changes in the nature of my job. It wasn’t the right time in my life for certain projects.” 

Sams’ tip: These days, it’s all about retaining top talent. If you’re a great employee, your organization is going to be more flexible because they want to retain you. Technology has made it easier, but you must also master influencing how you articulate your point of view in a way to get others to believe you.


Rebecca Hart, APR, is founder of Hart & Partners, a strategic communications and research firm. She is also the chairperson of the University of Florida’s PR Advisory Council Work-Life Committee.

 

Work/life balance is not:
• One size fits all
• An entitlement 
• Personal or business sacrifice
• Only accommodating individual needs
• Hours as the measure of performance
• Control of work by management
• Permanent
• A company program

Work/life balance is:
• Integrating business and personal needs
• Results as the measure of performance
• Trust in the individual to achieve objectives
• Shared responsibility/accountability
• Demonstrating company values that recognize diversity
• Integrated into the culture

Advantages:
• Strengthens the ability to attract, develop and retain top talent
• Increases productivity and morale

Barriers:
• Work: job, commute, travel
• Life: all the rest of it


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