What to Do If You Do Not Have Super-Human Powers

04 June 2018 Published in News & Updates
Kate Rubalcava, UNA CEO Kate Rubalcava, UNA CEO

Balance. There it is again, that word that we all throw around and discuss as part of our organizational culture. It also somehow seems like an oxymoron because of how hard we work in the nonprofit sector. As a leader in the field, and someone who has been known to overwork myself, I’d like to ask each of us to hit the reset button on our work-life balance. Here’s why: we work really hard in this field. We carry with us the struggles of our clients, the administrative worries of making budget, positively encouraging our staff and volunteers, and making the best decisions at the time with the information we have. And that’s just when we are at work. We haven’t even begun to factor in managing little league games, difficult conversations with our kids, partners, friends and family, volunteering in our communities, and perhaps caring for a loved one. Now ask yourself, “how often you do all of that brilliantly, at the same time?”

It’s laughable I think, to think that each of us have super human powers that make us immune to the challenges of life and therefore eliminate the requirement to figure out a way to balance it all.

I know I talk a lot about balance to each of you when we talk privately about our work loads. I also talk about it with my team. But there may be a balance detail left unknown to many of you: prior to coming to UNA I had a traditional schedule of 4 ten-hour days. I worked those scheduled days/hours AND then put in a 5th day most days of the week while also working many evenings. I was always working. I am the kind of professional that gives a lot to my work so putting in that extra time wasn’t uncommon but it was wearing on me. I was grumpy, wasn’t sleeping – the list goes on. When I accepted this position at UNA, I made the conscious decision to practice more balance and to prioritize what I needed.

The adjustment was hard. Something in my brain happens in the 11th hour of the workweek – my creativity spikes and I am ready to put in another several hours toward a project. I have worked to actively transition that urge and to make sure that I give me – Kate – enough time to be Kate. At first I had to work hard to exercise proper balance but now it comes more naturally. I will factor in time to go for a morning or afternoon run or I’ll set aside time for coffee in the middle of the day with a friend. All of this means that I have to better prioritize my tasks and not take on everything at the same time. It means that I have to work more efficiently. It also means that I sometimes have to say no to requests.

The road to increased work-life balance requires personal commitment but it also requires commitment from your organization and your supervisors. I will be the first to admit that I have a lot of privilege to practice the kind of balance I have described. So leaders, listen up! The best thing we can do for our teams is to encourage balance, to talk about it, embody it, and celebrate it. Here are some suggestions we can make happen as leaders:
• Encourage fresh air and a nice stroll around the neighborhood during the day.
• If projects are complete and deadlines aren’t looming, encourage your staff to leave early on occasion (but make sure you pay them!).
• Provide schedule flexibility so staff can pursue interests that may be out of reach because of their work schedule (therapy, exercise classes, personal development, etc.).
• Provide a self-care day that is outside set PTO/Vacation.

Above all just remember that practicing balance means something different to everyone. Seek feedback from your team and find out what they would like and what they need. Practicing work-life balance requires everyone’s commitment. We are a sector filled with people who work well beyond quitting time and often give more than we have. It causes burnout and unhappiness. We have the collective power, I think, to begin to change that. Balance: one day at a time. Note: Let me know what balance practicing activities are offered at your organization? (Email at: krubalcava@utahnonprofits.org)