Getting Real about Work Life Balance


By Sheena McKinney, Executive Assistant at Heinz Marketing

Some say work life balance is better described as a dance, more of an integration or blending.  Some say it’s a complete myth and misnomer. 

Below, gleaned from our weekly “How I Work” series, 21 top business leaders get real on their perspective of work life balance.   Some are parents, some work remotely, some are working in large teams in city skyscrapers and everything in between.  You might be surprised, you might laugh, you might disagree, but hopefully you get some inspiration and ideas for honing your own pursuit.

Marcie Dickson, Chief Marketing Officer at Miles Mediation & Arbitration.

My time feels mostly overextended, and the pursuit of work/life balance often feels unattainable, but I’m still working on it. I remind myself every day that I can do most of the things I want to achieve, but I can’t do them all at the same time— and that’s OK. I’ve improved how I balance work priorities with home life by setting clear boundaries between the two. And I’m very intentional about spending time with loved ones and carving out time to recharge and reflect on the weekends. Also, I’ve fully embraced the fact that for the foreseeable future, life as a working mom of 2 will be beautiful chaos.

Stacy Milman, who runs partner marketing for Conversica.

It’s like being on a quest for the holy grail. Does it really exist? I think of it more like a dance than a balance. There’s always a give and take and those gives and takes are constantly changing. I find it crucial to be on the same page as your partner. We have our entire life on a Google Calendar. It’s important for us to review each week what’s going on so that we know how to cover for each other if anything is outside of the normal routine. I also think it’s important to be upfront with your manager and team. You shouldn’t be punished for having a family and a life outside of work. Set those expectations and communicate how you will get whatever is necessary done by the time it’s needed.

Fara Hain, VP of Corporate Marketing at Zerto.

I do a digital fast on Saturday. Honestly! No phone, no laptop, nada. I will never answer an email, chat, or call on a Saturday. If we go out, I leave my phone at home. It saves me – I highly recommend disconnecting one day a week.

Jeff Perkins, CMO at ParkMobile.

As a Dad with young kids (ages 8 and 11), balance is critical. Yes, I’m highly ambitious and driven to succeed. Yes, I’m very competitive and want to push my company to stay ahead of the curve. But, I also don’t want to look back on my life in 10 years and feel like I missed out because I was working too much. When I started my career, I had a desktop computer and no cell phone. So, it was really difficult to get work done if you weren’t physically in the office. Fortunately, modern technology gives us greater flexibility, so you don’t have to be chained to your desk. If I want to leave work early on a Wednesday to see my daughter’s volleyball game, that’s usually no problem. I can take a call on the way to the game. I can do work after the game. I tell this to my team as well.  As long as we are getting our work done and hitting our goals, everyone should be able to have a good balance between their personal and professional lives.

Rebecca Thorburn, COO at Visible

My officemate happens to also be my lifemate, which makes it pretty easy to flow from the professional to personal. I like to keep moving, so I schedule breaks for tennis or pilates. And since we both work at home, my husband and I try to go out for lunch together every day, to get out of the house for a bit.

Stacy Hower, Marketing Vice President at Dun & Bradstreet.

It’s a misnomer and a myth. It’s an achievable ideal like a PhotoShopped model in a magazine. Why? Balance is a scale where each side is perfectly even at all times – it’s perfection. And we will make ourselves miserable chasing after something that can’t be achieved. I think of it as a work-life pendulum – sometimes work is getting a lot more of my time than my personal life. The key to getting the pendulum to swing back is to recognize when work does not NEED your extra time and you take it for yourself. This requires knowing your values and what’s important to you so you can prioritize what to fill those previous non-work hours with. And instead of mentally tracking a score sheet to ensure balance – determine if you are able to harmonize those personalize priorities and values with career success.

Molly Facloner, Senior Director, Head Of Marketing at Humanyze.

With a young daughter, it’s essential but hard. Luckily she’s at the age where she will call me out for being on my phone during family time, and I’ve come to appreciate it (especially because it means I can do the same when she’s on her iPod!) I try to strike a balance between having her see that sometimes there is work that has to get done, and we do it, but also being focused on family when the time comes. The easiest way I’ve found to balance it all is to just give up on the idea of a full night’s sleep 

Laura Patterson, president of VisionEdge Marketing.

What?? Can you repeat that question?

Julian Lina, Head of Demand Generation and Sales Development at Fond

Holistically, I do it by consistently getting an adequate amount of sleep, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy diet, and proactively addressing my mental health. From a work perspective, I derive calmness and focus simply by being conscious of my goals, day-to-day action items, deadlines, and progress. Google Sheets for OKR tracking, Asana for project management, Notes for to-do lists, and Google Calendar for time management are all key contributors.

Eric Martin, Vice President, Account-Based Marketing, SAP North America

I typically approach it through a combination of transparency and accountability.  I’m transparent about being out of the office at important times (i.e. kid’s playoff game) but accountable to getting the work done on time, even if it means working at non-traditional times.

Nicole Draa, Territory Sales Manager for Engagio.

We must have an “integrated life” it’s not a balance it’s how you integrate family, health, work and interests.

Josh Wagner, head of enterprise sales and partnerships at LeadMD.

No such thing. I had a coach who preached the stress bucket. What that means is that the bucket can only fill so high before it overflows so you have to be aware of where you are to optimize results where you need them at the time. Assume the baseline fill of the bucket is ½ full. My baseline is family time (wife and kids), work, wife time, training and me time. They cannot all get the same amount of attention all the time. So what proportionally fills the bucket constantly ebbs and flows.

Nick Hart, senior enterprise customer success manager for Outreach

An old colleague of mine described this perfectly. Nowadays, in our ever-connected world, there is no such thing as work/life balance but rather work/life integration. Personally, I will enjoy a vacation much more if I can check my email in the morning for 30-min to ensure nothing is on fire, then go have fun. Some people have to completely disconnect in order to relax. Above all else though, I strongly believe in being present. As much as humanly possible, when having a conversation with someone, my undivided attention is on them, not distracted in a device.

Melissa McCready, founder and CEO of Navigate Consulting Group

Pace yourself. Make sure to give yourself breaks, whether it be 15 minutes to grab a coffee or just step outside to breath. Remind yourself you are not in a job of saving lives and you cannot control everything. The balance is in choosing what to react to and finding ways to plan ahead so if you need to shift things, you can with limited disruption to everyone.

Rebecca Kline, General Manager, Growth at PagerDuty.

Work hard, play hard. I’ve hired good people throughout my career and have never and will never let childcare, personal obligations or other issues become “team commentary”. Good people will deliver and be accountable. And when people need to take time, they take time. Overall though, I’m not a workaholic or anything like that. I mean I think about work 24/7, but I’m not always working Going out for hikes or downtime/vacation is when the best ideas come. Working smarter, empowering folks to make decisions, and quickly identifying issues helps teams be unstoppable. Likewise, not addressing issues is the killer of teams.

Tricia Montgomery, a long-time marketing executive who now serves as an interim CMO for fast-growth companies

I really question the notion of ‘balance’,  actually.  I think it’s more about ‘blending’.  That said, I blend with the conviction that family comes first.  Always.  There are times when I choose to do family stuff during the workday and work stuff in the evenings/on weekends.  I just do what I need to do, when I need to do it.  It sounds a lot easier than it is, though.

Amanda Levine, Content Marketing Manager for PathFactory

I feel like these days it’s more about work-life integration. With email and messaging apps, work follows you everywhere you go. I somehow managed not to have work email on my phone up until a few of years ago. Now, I keep a folder of work apps on the second page of my home screen and I have the notifications turned off. I try hard not to check them on evenings or weekends (unless there’s a big launch coming up and I know I have to work overtime). My team is also really respectful of personal time and rarely emails or pings me outside work hours or if someone is on vacation. I think baking that kind of respect into org and team culture is essential for finding some sort of balance.

Suzanne Calderon, Global Partner Marketing Director at Oracle Marketing Cloud

Some days/weeks I am better at practicing what I preach than others, but in general I believe that if you work hard and meet all of your obligations then you should also be able to find time to put your family or personal needs first, even if that means during the occasional business hours. It’s a give and take relationship, you can’t always give without taking time to fill yourself back up. Life is short, work hard and find time to play hard!

Christina Brennan.I love her LinkedIn description: “Communication Consultant | Presentation Coach | Poor People’s Campaign Organizer”.

Work is part of life, so it’s really a matter of having a balanced life, which includes family/friends, community service, relaxation, and (fill in the blank with what’s important to you). If you wake up excited for your day more often than not, you’re probably doing a pretty good job!

Michele Aymold, VP of Marketing at Parker Dewey.

I tell my teams that “there is no such thing as a marketing emergency” and I really believe that is true given my industry and responsibilities. I’ve learned the hard way through burn-out and bad workplace fit that taking time for yourself is essential to be your best at work – and how important it is to speak up when you’re on the edge. Having a supportive team who understands, has also been there, and encourages you to take care of yourself is so key.

What is your perspective on work life balance?  How are you doing in this area?  We’d love to hear your thoughts.