Happy New Year Working Queen Bee Readers! Right before the holidays I was on a conference call with a group of people from work and at the end of the call, a woman I had never met before said, “Andrea, before we go I want to say thank you to you.” I said, “For what?” She said, “About 3 years ago you were on panel and you told us all something and it literally freed my thinking about being a working mom. You told me to leave early. Thank you!” I am not sure I like being remembered as the girl at Microsoft who told people to leave early but then I recalled the context of the discussion.
I was on speaking panel with various executive women from Microsoft at an offsite meeting. The topic was work life balance. There were easy three hundred people in the room which include many execs from our company. I was asked, “How do you handle work life with two small children?” I remember I answered honestly and I thought twice about saying my answer afraid that it may hurt me but it was important to be honest. I shared with the group that every day that I am working from home (which is 60% of the time) when my kids get off the bus at 4pm, I stop working. I literally felt like I heard a gasp in the room and a moment of silence. I explained that I shared with my direct reports and my boss that at 4pm I stop working and focus on my kids when they come in the door. We do homework, try to make dinner without setting the house on fire and get ready for the sports and play practice. I then went on to explain that after my kids go to bed, I often get back on line and prep for the next day. I could be online for 5 mins or 5 hours but I put in the time to make sure I was getting done everything I needed to do. I shared that by simply explaining my work style to my team and management, people accepted and honored it. I rarely got called during that time period and it worked for me. The reality of it was I worked at least 10 hours a day. I also gave a lot of time traveling, often leaving on Sundays and working many long days and nights. When we left that day, a vice president who was a man came up to me and said, thank you for your honesty. I remember thinking I hope he doesn’t remember that when I am up for a promotion.
I realized when I read Sheryl Sandburg’s book, Lean In, that this was an issue. Sheryl use to leave at 5pm and instead of just walking out the door, she had her admin walk the hall and check to see if anyone was around so that she could leave to have dinner with her family. She often took the backstairs and was afraid that people would talk about her leaving “early”. There was definitely an environment at a previous job of mine that if you were not in your office, you were not working or not dedicated to the job or company. I was shocked to think that Sheryl Sandburg with all her success and money felt the same pressure I did. The reality of it is, we all work way more than 40 hours per week no matter what time we leave for the day. The reality of it is, companies come and go but the time with your family is a gift and you don’t know what the next day brings. The reality of it is, you as a women or man, should never be afraid to leave early or modify your schedule to spend time with your family if you are meeting the needs of your job.
So set your schedule, communicate to your stakeholders and get rid of the guilt. Never be afraid to leave early.
Buzz Worthy Lesson of the day: Set your schedule, communicate and get rid of the guilt