A while back, I worked closely with the CEO of a tech startup who managed a remote team across several time zones. As a small startup, creating a culture of hard-working, happy and engaged employees was a frequent topic of discussion in meetings. Everyone on the team dedicated long hours to achieve the company mission that they all believed in deeply. But that also meant that they often felt burnt out, isolated from friends and family and cranky towards their teammates when setbacks arrived - all which affected team happiness and productivity.
It was more important for the team to take regular breaks in order to come back to work feeling refreshed and energized. But with the CEO working endlessly and constantly connected and sending messages to her team, rest was not seen as a company priority. I suggested to the CEO that she set an example for the rest of the team by taking a vacation herself. Or at the very least, disconnect from e-mail and Slack during the night and weekends.
At the time, it sounded like a simple solution to me.
Fast forward a couple years to CatCow. An animation studio located in Madison, WI where I'm the Co-founder and Creative Director...as well as HR, Accounting, Sales, and Marketing. We're small but growing at a furious rate, which requires both myself and the other co-founder, Damian Messori, to work...a lot. Add to the fact that Damian is also my husband, so talk around the dinner table often leans towards work. And let's not forget our team of remote illustrators, animators and sound designers who work under tight deadlines yet still produce marvelous work.
We all love creating art and getting paid for it so it never feels like work in the typical sense. Twelve hour days just fly by. And Saturday morning is the perfect time to catch on e-mails. But when I found myself desperately trying to find a WiFi signal on a recent camping trip to check in with an illustrator who was working on the weekend to finish a project on time, I realized that something was amiss.
We created CatCow to tell an organization's story through mindful and beautiful visual storytelling. We wanted to offer our employees a place where they could feel inspired to create their best work and feel supported by their teammates. As practitioners of yoga and meditation, we wanted to create a workplace that encourages us to work mindfully, creatively and without the stresses that we've felt in past jobs.
Creating a balance between work and life is the first step to achieving this goal.
So, here are some steps I will be taking to improve my own work/life balance and show my team that creating balance is what leads to endless creativity.
Create a schedule and stick to it.
Not only creating a schedule for your workday but what do you do outside of work? I like to sit with my coffee in the morning and read a few pages of a book. But sometimes I feel the urge to log in to my email and start working right away or skip my morning meditation to hop on an early client call.
Carving out time for myself and sticking to it will lead to better productivity for the rest of my day.
Turn your computer off. Take a stretch. Leave the office. If you work from home, like I do, this can be especially difficult. But find a way that you can turn off "work brain" and spend some time with the people (and/or cats) that are around you.
Set an auto-responder.
Even on the weekend. Set an auto-responder that lets clients and teammates know that you're taking the weekend to enjoy the sunshine. Who knows, maybe they'll try it for themselves.
What steps do you take to set an example of creating a healthy balance between work and home life?