On Business - Keys to Work-Life Balance

Winter 2012

Even as the one-income family has faded into the past for most people, modern families and businesses continue to grapple with balancing work-life issues, including workers in the predominantly male commercial real estate industry.

In the “Work-Life Balance” session at the NAIOP Development ‘12 conference, senior executives in the industry discussed challenges in finding equilibrium and offered some solutions.

Sabret Flocos

Sabret Flocos

Sabret Flocos, managing principal, Virginia office, FOX Architects, commented that she developed an understanding of where she could create the greatest value within her organization and at home early in her career. “The plan constantly changes, but a plan is definitely needed,” she said.

When Flocos shares ideas with others, people often want to know her strategy so they can adopt it. “There is no one plan, what’s important is that it be personal and then communicated.” Flocos noted that the support of her spouse, family and friends enables her career advancement. Also, she is not hesitant in asking for help when necessary.

Laura Franklin, executive vice president of accounting, administration and corporate secretary, Washington Real Estate Investment Trust, started with the company 19 years ago. At that time, Franklin was in a position that required long work hours and commitment to the organization, while also juggling the demands of a two-year-old, and later, a newborn.

Laura Franklin

Laura Franklin

“A support system is essential to reach any type of balance, so determine where you add value at home and at the office. Being everything to everyone results in burnout and lack of goal achievement,” commented Franklin. For example, at home she focuses on spending quality time with her spouse and children, while at the office she delegates elements of larger projects.

She also recommended finding a mentor at work. “I have had two male mentors, and they both have given me challenges. In working through those demanding assignments, I was able to demonstrate my capabilities. The mentors wanted me to be part of the team and from there, more opportunities presented themselves.”

Other takeaways from the session:

Stay current on everything, including sports, politics and the community. Don’t be a wall flower wondering what is going on — participate.

Everyone needs “me time.” One speaker at the session said her husband plays amateur hockey, while she enjoys having dinner with friends, participating in a book club and going to the gym. Another executive’s version of “me-time” is a 45-minute shower. The key is to consistently schedule time for yourself.

Work-life balance requires careful planning and compromise with your significant other, especially when both people are working in the commercial real estate business and have must-attend evening meetings on the same night.

Make a commitment to the “life” side of the work-life balance plan so that it is not diminished to the point of disappearing. When your child has an important hockey game, schedule work around it.

Maximize the use of today’s technology, without letting it intrude on your life, to achieve greater flexibility.

Acknowledge that attaining work-life equilibrium is never easy.

Be authentic and have a sense of humor.