John Serpa: Work/life balance. There may or may not have been much of that, when on Active Duty or in the Reserves. I mean, regardless of the Reserves, they’ve deployed so much over the last 20 years. National Guard always rolling-out; might not be so much work/life balance, but, it’s a buzzword – maybe that gets folks in the door to a new job, right? But we have work/life balance over here. How do I actually go from, “I’m a 24/7, 365” mentality, to pulling-back, and actually valuing a work/life balance? How do I do that?
Alicia Long: So I’m not the person to ask that question, because I still have…
JS: Because you’re still in?
JS: You’re still all in?
AL: I struggle with that myself, but I recognize that I struggle with that piece of it, and I know that there’s certain things that I have to do to change that, you know, because I have a family and a husband and children. So I need to adjust that, so that I can have a balance, so.
Steve Dufort: Yeah, I would say, I wish I found that balance as well. But, what I will share is I, I don’t, I look at work; I think work/life balance, is a bit of a misnomer. And here’s what I mean. You almost think of something in balance being even, so, you having enough time every single day for, for work, for family, for maybe things like exercise, and I actually think, that’s not how it’s worked for me at least. I think work/life balance is more of a roller coaster. So I think it’s finding a job, where at times you’re working long hours, and you’re asked to come in on a weekend, and you do that, or you even volunteer to do that before being asked. But then, I think there’s a payback from the organization, where there’s a kids soccer event, or there’s a parent/teacher conference, or it’s your spouse’s birthday, where you leave early from work and, and pay that back to your family. So I, I look at it, not that you’re going to be able to have this perfect balance consistently. I think instead it’s finding a role, where you can meet the obligations to the business, the priorities you have, but also be there for your family; serve your family as well, and, and do what they expect.
JS: Are we willing to sit here right now and say that, that the military work/life balance, when you transition and get a job, whatever that may be, work/life balance, that they’re the same basically? I mean, you know what I mean? I mean, I’m willing to say that – Steve, you said that you said that very, very clearly – it’s a misnomer. You know, some folks may transition out of the military, and think they’re going to go kick their feet up, for six out of eight hours at work, and then be off for the other 16. It’s just not like that, right? It’s work. It’s called work. It’s not called vacation. And I’m willing to say, that it’s just not that. It’s the work/life balance is individual, because I’m putting in as many hours as is necessary, because although I may not have a mission that is, you know, like it used to be, I still have a mission. I still have a job. I try to put as much passion into that as I would have while I was Active Duty. So, regardless right? I think that it comes this – my technique, it’s not the greatest – but my technique would probably come down to actual time management, you know? I mean, if you no longer really have a deadline the way you used to on Active Duty, you know, you may have been able to map that out with a, with a large group of folks or a small group of folks, in a certain kind of way. But now you really know, here’s, here’s, here’s my work. Here’s what I’m willing to put into that. And here’s my personal things that I like to do. And I’m going to dedicate as much time as I can to all of these things. I mean, it’s just there’s only 24 hours in the day, and let’s say you spend eight or ten of those at work. What do you do with the rest of those hours? And I think sometimes that work/life balance is not the “works on – what am I doing when I’m not physically in the office?” That’s just my way of looking at it.
SD: I think you got it because, it’s about being thoughtful, both to be present and, getting the things done at work. But then it’s also being present with your family and in your personal life. And I think that’s tough for, gah, I can’t speak to military life, not being a veteran, but, I can tell you that’s tough for me – is putting down that phone and being with the kids and having the discipline to not look at that phone, until the kids are in bed. And so I think it’s just like you said, John, it’s really being selective on where is your time and attention going, and then what are the things you’re, you’re truly not going to do? And letting those things go away; I’ve had coworkers say, “I stopped playing golf when I had kids,” “stopped playing golf because I don’t have; I can’t dedicate that much time to it.” So I think making some of those choices, very thoughtfully, is the way to have something that, you know, we may call work/life balance.
JS: So what kind of resources can I use? I mean, of course, internal resources, maybe your HR, department and things like that but, what else can I do? Maybe I don’t want to talk to my HR BP about, you know, my, my you know, my financial woes right now. Right? Or whatever it may be. What do I do? What is there?
AL: At my company, we have a EAP program.
JS: What is it?
AL: An employee assistance program. It is a free service for the employees that they can get counseling. That they can get counseling on budgeting, on child care, on college, on even trying to find a home or something. They have that benefit available to them. And it’s free.
JS: And usually these are anonymous and they…
JS: …you know, it’s a benefit for all employees, not necessarily who’s on the health care package, generally.
AL: That is correct, sir. That’s correct, that’s correct. Anybody.
SD: Yes, and I think EAP, we have a similar employee assistance program, and I think it’s both for – you get some financial counseling. But there are other things, especially in a pandemic. But when this ends, and we go back to normal life, you can still use EAP for counseling services, because there are things in life, like if you have aging parents, that can be that can be tough. So we try to have, again, it’s that employee value proposition, that full benefits package, where you can absolutely, should, take advantage of these if, if they can help you, or if they can help someone in your family. Because, oftentimes these services are open to spouses, or adult children, to, to use as well.
JS: So one thing, that I’m going to, I’m going to kind of, the last topic I want to bring up, and this thing, can “blow up,” depending on who you talk to you about it. But, social media, “This is my private life, and I’m going to talk about this company any way I want to,” right? Or, “I’m going to use these platforms to do and say, whatever I want.” Can that affect you in the workplace?
AL: Absolutely. It could absolutely affect you. I encourage my employees – during orientation process – I tell them, your Facebook page is your Facebook page, or whatever social media you use, I just wouldn’t connect my job to it. Again they’re going to do what they want to do, but I encourage them not to connect their job to it, because it could come back and bite you.
SD: Yeah, I, I agree. I think you know, for sure, you can have a personal presence on social media, and I would say as best you can keep that separate, from your professional presence on social media, because if you remember, we, we talked about anything you put out there, it’s out there forever. And so I think being really thoughtful about, you know, you have social media accounts that are used for personal opinions, that you share with your friends. And then separately, you may have a LinkedIn profile that you keep professionally, or you dress a little bit different in your picture.
SD: So I think that’s the way to, to, to really do that.
JS: From a health and wellness perspective, just curious you know, what, what kind of things can you do to stay healthy, stay fit, after, not only after the military, but, you know, again, I’ve moved into a new organization. You know, what can I do to, to really keep myself aligned with the person that I was, maybe while I was Active Duty?
AL: So we talked a little bit about the EAP, but I think it’s important to get involved in your wellness program if your company offers one. Seeing where companies offer an incentive if you get a physical every year; you may get a discount on your benefits for the following year. So definitely seek that out. Or better yet, just go for a walk on your lunch break. I find that very refreshing for me, to get away from everything, just to kind of take a break, is to go for a walk or even when you get home in the evening you know, make sure you decompress there – you know, go for a walk or, I just happen to get this really cool tool. You know, it’s mounted on my wall at home and I see myself exercising, so it’s really cool. So you have to – I said the word before, “intentional” – you have to be intentional about it. And that’s just for your mental, for your mental health right? Because we take so much in – so you’ve got to be able to, decompress.
SD: And I think, you know, I’ll be curious if you both felt this, too. There was a time early in my career where, I think the philosophy was you could, compartmentalize. So you could compartmentalize your personal life, and you could separate that from your work/life. And so you’d hear things like, you know, “Whatever’s happening at home, you leave that at home,” or, “I leave that at the door when I walk in.” And I think that’s less and less true. Or maybe it was never true and we’ve just realized it that, that you really can’t compartmentalize. If you think about those tough days at work, sometimes that comes home. And if you think about those tough interactions with your spouse, with your family, sometimes that, that goes into work. And so I think we’ve at least really stopped talking about, “How do you break those apart?” and instead started saying, “Hey, we want you to bring your whole self to work, whoever you are.” And that’s, you know, if you’re a veteran, bring that, bring your whole self to work and if there’s struggles, we all have struggles. We’re all human beings. And so, I say that because I think there’s a whole lot of folks now who would say, there’s help available if you’re having a tough day, and if it’s more like a tough week or a tough month, there’s things like EAP available or employee assistance available. But at the very least, there are folks, coworkers who are going to lend you a hand when you need it, and in particular, you’ve got your veterans – so many businesses have veterans’ networks I know. I know GE was, does, but this is not only a General Electric resource group. So really leveraging those folks to help you out when you’re having a tough time, because you know what? You’ll do the same for them when they’re having a tough day.
JS: Yeah, I think finding veterans in the workplace that you’re at, is, is essential. I think, again, they’re allies, at least they should be, from the very beginning. And if, and if an organization doesn’t have that – it’s not organic – create it. I mean, you wouldn’t sit on your hands when you were in the military, right? You would just make it happen. And that’s the same for a wellness group. And wellness and fitness doesn’t necessarily mean I’m out there running three miles every morning, which, I can barely do any of that stuff. But that doesn’t mean I can’t do whatever it is that I can do, and include everybody in my organization regardless. Some of the things that we do involve physical activity, but those that cannot do the physical activity, they may do something, maybe charitable, or something else that, you know, that maybe again, aligns with what they want to do, but they’re still participating. And so I think that, you know, nothing is off the table really.
JS: And nothing is really off the table when we were in the military. So nothing wrong, it’s -nothing’s really different in the private sector.
SD: And John, your, your HR folks, you know, we’re there, to help them out. We’re there to help our employees. So I know, at times, there’s, there can be a little bit of stigma about reaching-out, if you’re, whether it’s to find out about health and wellness programs, or mental health programs. But look, your HR professionals in your business, are absolutely there to help you navigate that, and help you take advantage of the benefits the company has to offer and, we’re happy to do that.
JS: Well Alicia, Steve, it was great joining you guys again for, for Section 7 [Editor’s Note – This section was changed to Section 6]. You know, we got to talk about the work/life balance, we got to talk about communication in the workplace; some of these tools and some of these things that will make us successful. Again, I appreciate you participating in this. We want you to, look at those worksheets, look at those handouts, look at those things that we’re going to be using, and, and don’t just take what you find in your business as your, as your only resource. Look at the resources that you have in your community. No matter where you’re at, there’s always a veteran organization that can help you. Again, don’t hesitate to look at some of the organizations in your community, whether they be nonprofits or for profits, they’re there to help. And again, thank you for joining us for Section 7 [Editor’s Note – This section was changed to Section 6].