Work/Life Unity: Leader’s Series


November 24, 2009

worklifebalanceI have a confession, I am a determined achiever.   Always have been.  I have been working and earning my own money since I started babysitting at age eleven.  In high school, I managed schoolwork, sports activities, and a job.  In college, I managed to earn several degrees while working and throwing in a little fun.  And now, I fit in mothering, work, professional development, blogging/social media, and volunteering.  I am someone who thrives on activity.  This is who I am- the whole me.  That is why my focus is on work/life unity.

Unity, or “wholeness”, takes into consideration that I am made up of all these roles.  How much time I spend on each one in a given day varies from day to day, and that is what works for me.  So, how have I made it work?  Three words:  flexibility, sacrifice, and decisiveness.

  • Flexibility– Being able to use my time to focus on what needs the most attention at the time.
  • Sacrifice– Sometimes taking something I want to do and having to say ‘no’ because something else is more pressing at the time.
  • Decisiveness– Gathering facts and just making a decision.  Sometimes it’s risky, but it beats feeling guilty about not knowing what to do next and where to invest the time I have available.

Like Eric, I make no apologies and have no regrets.  The reason I say that is that throughout most of my career, I have had flexibility.  Flexibility is the critical ingredient that makes my recipe of life work.  For the first four years of my children’s lives, I worked a flexible schedule.  This was in an environment that valued the end result of my work product more than the specific hours of the day I was visible.

Over those four years, my schedule changed quite a bit.  I worked as little as 70% when the twins were first born and eventually back up to full-time.  I also had the flexibility of not only a reduced schedule, but the ability to work from home on a regular basis.  Working for an employer who celebrated flexibility gave me the ability to enroll the children in gymnastics during lunch time every Wednesday.  What a nice break to the middle of my week to step away from work for two hours to do something fun and hands on with the kids.

In addition, I had a nanny at home with me on my days “working from home” to watch the children so I could actually get work done.  This gave me the unique opportunity to take ‘hug and kiss breaks’, eat lunch with my kids, and throw in the occasional load of laundry.  It was wonderful.  The result was I was not missing much in terms of their “firsts” so I was being a good mom, I was able to keep small household chores from piling up, and I was a better, more dedicated, productive employee.  I did not have guilt.

Not every job is designed to be done from home though, and there can also be limitations on an individuals ability to concentrate and achieve from home.  A few critical factors to working from home:

  • Have a designated office or work area
  • Avoid distractions (like television)
  • If you have children at home, arrange for someone to watch them while you are working
  • Set goals for yourself throughout the day
  • Make sure to take breaks (it is so easy to forget to eat lunch or take a break when you work from home)

But what if you do not have flexibility?

It’s all about choices.

This is where the sacrifice and decisiveness really become important. I’ve worked with less flexibility and I understand the challenges employees face when being able to fit it all in is not possible.  It is not a good feeling.  I’m not the mom who can break away and be a room mother for my kids’ class, I don’t get to go on field trips with them, and I often pick them up after dark, so our outside playtime is limited.  Mothering is not something that should be ‘outsourced’, so I struggle with it now.  But, there are still ways to make it all work.  What can you do to free up time to parent (or do what is personally important to you)?

  • Pay someone to clean your house or run errands
  • Hire someone to mow your lawn and do landscaping
  • Check with your grocery store to see if they offer on-line shopping with grocery delivery
  • Hire someone who specializes in organizing to help assess your personal situation

Bottom line is we only get to live this life once.  What will you make of it?  If you’re sitting there feeling guilty about your situation at home, at work, or in other areas of your life, change it.  The power is already in your hands.  Will this mean you may sacrifice something else?  Yes, it probably will.  Will you have to make some decisive choices?  Yes, definitely.  Will you be happier and have a more unified life?  Absolutely.

So tell me, does the idea of unity work for you?  Why or why not?


  • Trish-
    A great post! What really resonates with me is your quote “we only get to live this life once” Living without regrets. What works for one, may not work for all.
    Thanks for reminding us of some important lessons.

  • Trish, you’ve got it so right! It’s not work/life balance, it’s work/life unity. Jason Seiden had a post on a similar topic earlier this week. I think the point is that work is part of life. It’s not life and it’s not separate from life. So it’s not a choice between work and life, it’s how we integrate work into life. Big difference. Thanks for sharing your personal story with your readers. You’re an inspiring role model, my friend.

    • @Shennee- Living without regret is definitely liberating. Not always easy, but will free you from guilt. It’s all about making the best choices you can at the time with the facts you have in front of you. Thanks for the comment.

      @China- So glad you commented. Jason and I were just saying we wish we had known we’d be posting on similar topics. I know people sometimes get tired of the work/life conversation, but personally, I always learn a tip or two from hearing how others manage and integrate work into their life. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  • Trish, I’m glad to have come across this post. I blogged about the concept of ‘work/life balance’ a few weeks ago and have been thinking about the topic a lot, so it is good to see another person’s perspective on the issue. Thanks for sharing!

    The idea of work-life unity is a much healthier and positive way of looking at things, and understanding that it all comes down to choices – how much time you spend where, and how much time you spend doing what.

    • @Sarah- I am glad you commented. I love to hear who else is writing about this topic. I see many posts that say it’s not relevant or you “can’t have it all”. That may be true, but the reality is most of us who work have to find some way to make it all fit together. I have already learned so much from the posts by Eric Winegardner and Bill Boorman. I may not have their exact views, but I find takeaways from each of them. Can’t wait to read your post because I’m certain I’ll find some good suggestions there. Thanks for stopping by.

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.


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