Work-(Real)Life Balance

In this HR for Humans story, Chris Bohannon, Director of Presales at Namely, shares how he has achieved real work-life balance. For more stories at the intersection of work and life, follow @namely_hr. You can also submit your stories here.

 This is how a good day starts for me. I wake up at 5 AM, check my email, and wish my team a good morning on Slack. I then work my way downstairs to have a Bulletproof coffee sitting at my kitchen counter, check more email, and scan the headlines from my phone. I head out to the gym (which is always a battle to just go sit in the sauna), complete my workout, and am sitting at my desk by 7 AM.

 I tackle my day by calendar blocks, and whenever I have a free spot I work on a personal objective to add to the culture or the bottom line at Namely. I thank everyone for the great day, spend the evening with my family, and walk my dogs to some relaxing music to wind down. This version of my day happens as much as it can, unless my son Grayson has other plans.

Grayson is on the spectrum, and sometimes his days don’t go as cleanly. He will wake up in the middle of the night with night terrors. Screaming. Either his mother or I will have to crawl back into bed with him, rub his back, and sing him songs until he calms down and goes to sleep. My wife is up at 6 AM to get ready to drive Grayson an hour down the road so he can participate in therapy starting at 7. Grayson waking up is typically easy, considering he’s usually ready to party around 6 AM or so. She gets him downstairs and makes him toast and some Honey Nut Cheerios. We then battle to put shoes on because of sensory issues. From there we have to use some form of jiu jitsu or bribery to get him into the car seat.

Grayson then goes to therapy, kicks absolute butt, and then gets back in the car. He eats his lunch in the car, and is then taken to preschool so that he has the opportunity to be around standard developing kids. Jessica (my wife) then comes home, cleans what she can, and does random chores. She picks him up at 3 o’clock. He then gets to sit with a book or a plant (his favorite!) until dinner time where it’s a small miracle if we get to cook one meal.

Raising kids in general is a wonderful experience, but requires patience because it can be incredibly time consuming. Every parent experiences a lot of the items I outlined, so I wouldn’t want to take anything away from that. In my own examples, there is an extra level of difficulty because Grayson isn’t speaking full sentences yet. We really have to troubleshoot and figure out his basic wants because of his limited communication. Often times we don’t even know if he is sick until he has visible symptoms. We love our child with every ounce of our being so we commit to his success, but as you can imagine it can be overwhelming at times.

I am a career-minded person who wants to grow at Namely. I am also a loving father and husband who is extremely committed to his home life. My family are my favorite people in the world, and I would never want them to feel abandoned because of my career aspirations. Luckily, it’s my own stupidity that gives me any of those fears.

I started to broach the subject of committing time to my son at our company sales kick-off in Las Vegas. We had Carl Eschenbach (who is a Partner at Sequioa Capital) speak and he immediately inspired me. Carl told stories of being inspired by his dad who used to sell Christmas trees and come home with pine needles stuck in his skin. He was above and beyond my favorite guest speaker I have ever heard at an event. He’s an extremely hard working lunch pail guy that totally resonates with me. I always followed the philosophy of asking for advice from someone who has something you want, so I raised my hand during the Q&A.

If you don’t know me you might not know that I don’t need a microphone. I am pretty loud and pretty blunt. Today, my amplified voice was helpful because it was extremely nerve wracking to peel back the layers and ask a question in a public setting.

The question was simple. “How do you balance work and home life?” The response will stick with me forever. He told me, “If you’re a hard worker you can go to leadership, confide in them about the balance you need, and they’ll make it work 100% of the time.” Later in the evening, he came up to me and reiterated, “I promise it’s true. You reach out to your leadership and they will give you balance.”

I report to the VP of Sales, Judson Griffin, on the West Coast. He’s a very focused individual who knows human capital software like the back of his hand. Just in case you ever report to Judson, I can give you some pointers. First, schedule your meetings at the beginning of the month. We’re in sales, so month-end is crunch time, and this is a universal truth for all sales leaders. He will give you both ears and a smile, hear what you’re asking, and help you execute. Second, if you get into the morning routine of calling Judson on his ride into work the call will drop once. Always. At this point the dead zone is no different than a speed bump in a parking lot. It’s going to happen. He did not just hang up on you. Lastly, Judson will absolutely take care of you. He cares about the present and future of all the people that report to him, and will help you maximize your satisfaction not just at Namely but in life.

It’s easy to write that in hindsight. Leading up to the call I was extremely anxious about his reaction as I felt a level of guilt. I wasn’t even asking for specific days off, I was just asking for an afternoon off here and there to share some of the load with my wife. She does amazing work with Grayson but she needs breaks. I gave him a call and explained that I need to assist with appointments and occasional trips down the highway to therapy. Before I could even finish he interrupted me.

“Of course.”

He went on to make sure I knew I was an important part of the team and that he’d make it his priority to make sure I can do what I need to at home.

That was it. Months of build up. I just asked and it was over and it was positive outcome. I get to take Grayson to therapy and work from a Starbucks from time to time. I get to be there at the doctor appointments with my wife. I get to be there. I get to be in the moment. The guy who checks work emails within 30 seconds upon my alarm going off. My wife knows I am being present and my son gets to know me as his Dad. I couldn’t be happier.

It’s pretty simple really. I get to do both because Namely set up a culture that made this possible. I come to work as a contributing member of the team, and they go the extra mile to take care of me. They put as much value on my desire to be a good dad and husband as I do by allowing me the work-life balance to be home when I need to be. I think that’s special and Namely’s emphasis on their values is something I will not take for granted.

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