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Issue #23: Getting the Balance Right 

In a week where there has undeniably been more 'work' than 'life' in my work/life balance (or imbalance as it were), ye' ol' saying "all work and no play makes Foong a dull girl" definitely rings true.   

Much has been written about the benefits of a good work/life balance for both employers and employees, however a recent study published by HBR shows that executives often do not actively promote 'renewal' (exercise, sleep, diet) or 'removal' (concerts, movies, spa, family time) type activities within their teams. Smartphones have also made it easier to keep working after hours and more difficult to separate work time from playtime. 

In light of this over-working crisis (75% of employees in the US do not take the paid vacation they have earnt), we thought it would be a good time to remind ourselves of the importance of getting the balance right.

And who best to advise us on how to achieve a better work/family and work/life balance than the experts - Oliver Black, founder of My Family Care, and investment banker turned wellness coach, Elsa Alexandra. We hope you find their tips as helpful as we did.

We also check in on the CEO Dads debate in our Man's Corner and check in on Mr Smith's new house! 

As always, we love a good follow, retweet, share or like, so take some time out and click on share. 
Happy reading!

x  foong
 on twitter 
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Issue #24 of Suit & Pie is out on 20 November 2014. Subscribe here to receive it straight to your inbox and catch up on past issues in our archive. You can also read the Suit & Pie story here courtesy of
The Balancing Act
In this issue, we remind ourselves why work/life balance is so important and get some tips on how to juggle a successful career with a fulfilling home and family life. We also take a look at the innovative solutions some employers are implementing to redress the balance.
An everyone issue
Although the press often frame work/life/family balance as a woman's issue, a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that 57% of working mothers and a very close 50% of working fathers said that it was difficult to balance job and family responsibilities. With work/life balance now becoming an 'everyone' issue, employers and employees should take note of its importance.

According to Mr Obama, companies that provide a better work/life balance have more productive, more loyal employees, lower turnover and are ultimately more profitable. Better work/life balance has also been proven to increase job satisfaction, reduce absenteeism and positively impact on the perception of the organisation amongst the general public. 
For individuals, a better work/life balance improves overall wellbeing and morale enabling employees to perform at their best. Having balance allows individuals to engage in a positive way with their family and friends. They are less likely to suffer from fatigue or to feel unfulfilled and are more likely to be able to bond with their peers through common interests.
We are family (said Sister Sledge)
It's hard enough trying to have a life when you don't have kids, so what happens when you do? (According to Mr Smith the answer lies in a giant calendar). We get some tips from Oliver Black, father of three and founder of My Family Care, a company that offers a suite of services dedicated to helping big companies make work+family work for their employees.

Ollie: "We had 3 children in 17 months (yes, that means twins) and my wife works. I am passionate about our business – we have around 350 people working with over 100 leading businesses to deliver solutions and services to help their employees make work+family work… so it means I do have a view – and a few real scars – to prove the point.

Tip #1: Balance isn’t achieved in a day or week or possibly even a month, but best viewed over the year. I feel it’s a bit like trench warfare and as long as no side gains ground permanently it’s OK. So don’t be too judgemental on yourself.

Tip #2: Flexible Working – lots of rubbish spoken about it. It’s a two way street which needs give and take on both sides. Treat people like adults, give them responsibility to deliver the outcomes the business needs, whilst allowing them the flexibility to make their family lives hang together. Technology and culture are the enablers. Productivity, Engagement & Loyalty are the outcomes. 

Tips #3: Have a backup plan – things like our Work and Family Space and Backup Care are awesome (I’m biased). Once the “grain of sand” gets into your perfect set up, things can unravel pretty quickly and sorry to be the bearer of bad news, it gets harder once the “little darlings” go to school! So get your support networks in place and nurture them.

Tip #4: Domestic bliss – I am not sure it exists or that I get it right. But I find most of our arguments are really about lack of appreciation. We "do diaries” and we do look and list “all” the things that need doing as a family. We then divide up the list. OK it’s a bit OCD but presumption is the mother of all mess ups. A fair division of responsibilities, that isn’t gender biased makes sure everyone feels appreciated.

Tip #5: Perfection doesn’t exist – keep working at it, don’t believe that anyone has it “right” all the time – and, if it works for you and your family is happy then that’s good enough."

Follow My Family Care on twitter @workplusfamily, check out the My Family Care website and read about My Family Care's childcare revolution on Yahoo and Womanthology
Life is like a box of chocolates...
In this day and age, it is so easy to get swept up in a flurry of emails, concalls, videocalls, meetings about calls, calls about meetings that you hardly have time to breathe, let alone do other essential things like book that spa day (or go to the toilet). So how do we learn to cope with it all? As an ex-Goldman Sachs employee turned wellness coach, Elsa Alexandra knows the drill all too well. Here are her top tips.  

Tip #1: Get clear about your life priorities - Unless you know what YOU want, you'll end up living the life others design for you. Start by identifying your life priorities. From these seven areas, which ones do you value most: Health, Romance, Family & Friends, Recreation, Personal Growth, Career & Finances, or Physical Environment? Rank them by order of importance. What speaks louder to your heart?

Tip #2: Set yourself inspired goals - Pick your top 3 life priorities and brainstorm what your dream scenario would be for each of them. What would really excite you? What are you deepest desires and goals?

Tip #3: Manage your time accordingly - Now get your calendar! On a weekly basis, are you devoting enough time to your top life priorities? What do you have to do in order to achieve your 'inspired goals'? Do you need to enrol in a biweekly yoga class or maybe block Saturdays as a family day? Whatever it is, schedule it now and stick with it!

Tip #4: Don't overstretch - Reach for your goals, but make sure you're not running off your feet. Focus on no more than three projects a day and make sure to allow yourself enough time for renewal and recreation. 

Tip #5: Prioritise your self care - Taking good care of yourself should be a top priority. That includes getting enough sleep (at least 6-7 hours a night), eating fresh nutritious foods (preferably organic) an getting a sensible amount of physical activity (don't under or over exercise).

Once you make room in your life for what really matters, you'll feel more balanced, happier and fulfilled.

If you would like to learn more about this topic, click here to get your free copy of Elsa's eBook (made available specially to Suit & Pie readers!): "7 Self-Care Mistakes Successful Women Make - An Insider's Guide to Stop Self-Sacrificing Your Wellbeing & Relationships". Follow Elsa on twitter @ElsaAlexandraR, check out her website and facebook group - Successful, Sexy and Serene
Employer solutions
So what initiatives have companies put in place to try and help their employees 'have it all'?

Unlimited holiday: A growing number of (mainly US West Coast tech) companies including Netflix, Evernote and the Virgin Group have recently started offering unlimited paid days off as a company benefit. The reasoning being that millennials tend to spend money on experiences rather than material goods. This move is to counter the American "no-vacation nation" culture where Americans leave on average 3.2 paid holiday days untaken per year.

Full pay paternity leave: From April next year, paternity pay for male Civil Service employees will be equal to maternity leave pay. The initiative, being championed by DPM Nick Clegg, means that fathers will benefit from extra money on top of statutory pay, as mothers do, if parents choose to share parental leave between them. Mr Clegg hopes this will encourage other organisations to offer similar incentives to new fathers. The measure has been met with some criticism.

Playtime (not that kind!): Although not a novel idea, I was reminded of the importance of getting to know your work colleagues outside of the working environment in an article by Lynne Parker, executive officer for Funny Women. Going on an 'away day' and 'playing' with your colleagues can sound cringey but will also offer an insight into their characters, strengths and personalities, create a bond and help to build your team. So you are more "YES! Monday!" rather than "ergh... Monday". 
Socks & crumbs (or the bit at the bottom)
Heard it through the (corporate) grapevine...

- Women Fashion Power is now on at the Design Museum until April 2015.

The exhibition looks at how women (princesses, models, CEOs, Dames and designers) have used fashion to define and enhance their position in the world. 

The exhibition is designed by Zaha Hadid and offers exclusive interviews, multimedia and the most wide-ranging presentation of modern fashion in the UK.

- The Aspire 2014 'Connected Leadership' event will take place on 2nd and 3rd December. Join over 200 women leaders and Dr Sam Collins, CEO of Aspire, to discuss leadership, how we do business and your aspirations.
This week I will be...

- trying desperately to get some return tickets to watch Here Lies Love at the National Theatre

- dreaming about Lola's amazing cupcakes (thank God for the stall in Waterloo station!)

- looking forward to Marvel's first female superhero escapade, Captain Marvel, and first black superhero, Black Panther 

- laughing at this hilarious email from a parent to the school chaplain (stick with it, it's worth it!)

- enjoying the delicious Borough Full English weekend brunch at The Table 
It's a man's world - maybe we aren't so different after all 

CEO Dads

In S&P #17, we highlighted Max Schireson's highly publicised resignation from MongoDB in order to spend more time with his family and to raise awareness of the work/life imbalance in highly demanding jobs.

As it turns out, he wasn't alone. In September, 8 months after resigning as head of PIMCO, Mohamed El-Erian (#63 most powerful person in global finance) wrote an essay in Worth magazine saying that he made the decision following a conversation with his daughter who, on refusing to brush her teeth, had supplied him with a list of 22 events he had failed to attend including her first day at school, first soccer game and a Halloween parade. That's when it really hit home.

Max and Mohamed's stories have shown that work/life balance is no longer only a woman's issue and as a result companies are becoming more accommodating in order to retain talent. 

Some bloggers however feel that it would have been a more powerful message if these two CEOs had stayed in post and tried to change the work/life policies within their own companies from the top down, as EY CEO Mark Weinberger is doing. By demonstrating that career success and family involvement can be compatible goals, even for a CEO, Mark is setting the tone within the whole company. 
Mr Smith's corner

Mr Smith gives us his thoughts for the week.
Highlights: Well lots going on this week as we have collected keys to our new house, finally after weeks of stressful wrangling (and I mean WEEKS and STRESSFUL!). It's going to be interesting as it needs quite a bit of TLC. No.4 son had a quick look round inside and asked if it was haunted! I assume this is the first round of negotiating tactics to get a bigger bedroom than his brothers'. Also we have inherited a cat and Mrs S is allergic to cats. A slightly wobbly start then...

Lowlights: Birthday next week! Starts with a '4' and ends with a '0'... Lots of advice being offered as I approach this milestone and none of it very helpful!!

Lesson learnt: I have a natural work/life balancing strategy that involves me hitting a small white ball into a little hole with a stick whilst avoiding trees, bunkers, water and 'out-of-bounds' then talking about what went wrong in the bar afterwards. Judging by my escalating golf handicap this year, I have not been prioritising enough, so I have sought to redress by buying a big new shiny stick.
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