Employees in the digital age often find themselves toeing the line between home and work. With smartphones and Internet data readily available, we’ve cultivated a culture where employees are ‘always on’ — that is, they are one email, one chat, and one video call away for any job-related concern.
Ian Sohn, a single dad of two and president of Wunderman Chicago, a digital agency in the United States, acknowledges that work-life balance is essential for his employees, and he says they don’t have to apologize for having a life outside of work.
“I never need to know you’ll be back online after dinner. I never need to know why you chose to watch season 1 of Arrested Development (for the 4th time) on your flight to LA instead of answering emails,” he says in a LinkedIn post that has gotten over 25,000 positive reactions from other users as of writing. “I never need to know you’ll be in late because of a dentist appointment. Or that you’re leaving early for your kid’s soccer game.”
He adds, “I never need to know why you can’t travel on a Sunday. I never need to know why you don’t want to have dinner with me when I’m in your town on a Tuesday night.
“I never need to know that you’re working from home today because you simply need the silence.”
Sohn goes on to say that he resents how “we’ve infantilized the workplace” where employees are treated like children who feel the need to apologize for having lives.
“We don’t trust adults to make the right decisions,” he writes. “How constant connectivity/availability (or even the perception of it) has become a valued skill.”
In the comments section, he clarifies that what he really meant by the phrase “never need to know” is “you never need to apologize for” having work-life balance, and we can only wish that all our superiors can adapt the same mindset.
In the Philippines, the concept of balance is especially hard for working moms who, despite being amazing multitaskers, still get discriminated for having children and for prioritizing their family. Often, Pinay working moms are made to feel that they are “sayang” or inadequate because they are moms trying to be successful in their chosen career.
According to a recent survey, Filipino parents find themselves quitting their jobs or planning to look for a new job within the next 12 months, despite a rise of flexible arrangements in the workplace. Apart from inadequate compensation, poor work-life balance was among the top reasons why.
The reason Sohn feels strongly about work-life balance is that as a single dad, he also had to make tough decisions between his career and family. “Years ago, a very senior colleague reacted with incredulity that I couldn’t fly on 12 hours’ notice because I had my kids that night (and I’m a single dad. Edit: divorced). I didn’t feel the least bit guilty, which I could tell really bothered said colleague,” he shares.
The dad says knowing his colleague was bothered made him feel horrible, which is why he wants to pass on an important message to other professionals.
“I never want you to feel horrible for being a human being." — Ian Sohn
Unsurprisingly, Sohn’s post struck a chord with employees with more than 900 comments commending him for his inspiring post and sharing their personal experiences.
“This is a brilliant piece. Thank you for reminding us it’s ok to be human,” said one.
“Love it. As a single dad myself I have been there. Kudos to you Ian for standing your ground as you said, we only have this thing called life once, especially with our children, for such limited time,” wrote an IT professional.
“Thank you for stating this out loud,” one mom wrote. “My career is so important but so are my kids.”
“Happy employees = loyal employees,” said another. “Everyone needs work-life balance.”