Where Your Optimal Work Life Balance Lies
Sometimes finding the right balance means working more, not less.
Today I share the story of the first time I was asked to work late as a salaried employee, and the surprising end that changed my view of balance forever.
Being Resilient can mean opening ourselves to possibilities we once shunned.
The office felt kinetic with the rush of an oncoming deadline as I waltzed out at 6pm sharp. My friend with a truck was waiting outside to take me to the suburbs to get a new bicycle. It was my first summer in the city and I had visions of pedaling around with the wind in my hair, and the sun on my skin.
I was just 5 months out of college and at a big shot consulting firm, the kind that advertised in airports. And I had had my work/life balance ideals firmly in-mind when I left right on-time. I had submitted my last deck to my manager before I left, so with all of my work done I felt like freedom was my right until 8am the following day.
So with my new bike in the truck bed, and we were discussing where to go to for dinner, I got a phone call, it was my manager, and they needed me to get something done that could not wait until tomorrow morning, they needed me in the office now.
I felt this heat of indignation rising in my chest. I’ve put in my time, how dare they ask me to come back in and work late with them? That wasn’t the agreement. In fact, HR told me never to work overtime because I wouldn’t be compensated for it.
I was about to respond to my manager, prepared to deal with the consequences of telling him no, when something held me back, and there was something tugging at me from the back of my mind, and like unexpected rain on a windshield, I suddenly remembered all of the times my manager had patiently sat there teaching me something new, or that night the whole team went out and we spent hours laughing our heads off, and all the times my team had appreciated my work, however entry level it was.
And then, like a sun shower out of nowhere, a cooling surge came across me, as I realized that I wanted to go be part of this team again. I wanted to contribute to the work. I suddenly realized that I had left my team high and dry in a tough moment, and that really I wanted to be there with them.
“Sorry,” I replied, “I should have realized that was going to happen. I’ll be back in 20 minutes. I’ll see you then.” And I hung up.
My friend was outraged enough for both of us at what was happening, while I was doing what felt right.
I slunk back into that office, afraid of getting all kinds of crap for my behavior, but no one said a thing. As we sat around the too big conference table, they took me back into the fold as we all just got back to work. I felt so grateful for that team to give me the chance to choose, to decide my allegiance, and I had gotten the sense that they had all had to make that decision at one point or another.
As I rode my bike home that night, with the breeze in my hair and the moonlight on my skin, I felt good. My work/life balance ideals shifted in that moment when I realized that I would stay late for that team again and feel good about it.
Hi, I’m Kristin Jekielek creator of Resilient Productivity.
I wanted to share this story with you today about my early career days, and I was fresh out of college and at my first job, it was my first salaried position as well, so being asked to work overtime without getting paid for it felt like a really big no-no for me at the time, and this story was my small moment that changed everything, that one afternoon that taught me that working late wasn’t always a bad thing, that it wasn’t always about sacrificing one’s self, that in-fact, given the right circumstances, and the right people, and the right motivations, the right environment we can feel motivated and we can feel good about putting in the extra time with the right team to get the job done.
I’m not saying this is the right choice in every situation for every person, I’m simply sharing what happened for me and what I learned from it in that moment.
If you resonated with it, I’d love to hear about that, in-fact, I’m looking for other seasoned professionals and business owners to interview. I’d love to hear about your small moments and get to share them in this story format with others. If you’re interested, connect with me here. I’d love to connect with you, and hear about the small moments that taught you how to be a high performer, that changed everything for you, that showed you how resilient you can be in the face of adversity.
Thanks so much for watching and I’ll see you next time.