THE BLOG

Making Work-life Balance a Reality

03/14/2013 02:54 pm ET | Updated May 14, 2013

By now you have likely heard of Facebook powerhouse Sheryl Sandberg's new book and website encouraging women to "lean in" and get what they deserve in their careers. While making the rounds in the press to promote her cause, Sandberg mentioned on Katie that establishing your career before motherhood can help you leverage flexibility later.

Couric brought up the point that "woman aren't going for opportunities because they're afraid of the work-life balance they'll ultimately face. So they keep from going for big jobs." But by going for those opportunities and leaning in, Sandberg contends, "You might get promoted. You might make enough money to afford childcare. You might even have a more interesting job. You might get promoted to a level where there is more flexibility. And you might have the leverage you need to make demands so that your work actually compliments your family life." Amen!

This timely advice comes on the heels of Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer now famously cutting that company's telecommuting program entirely. Sandberg offers a welcome relief to Mayer's step backward when it comes to promoting better work-life balance. Fortunately, with the exception of Best Buy announcing their attempt to better manage their telecommuting program (though not eliminate it), other companies are not following Yahoo!'s lead.

In fact, more and more employers are opening up to the idea of workplace flexibility, job sharing, part-time hours and the option work from home even just a day or two a week. We've seen this loud-and-clear at FlexJobs, as we continue to receive more listings for these types of job opportunities. What Mayer is missing is evaluating how her staff is managed as a whole. Whether a person is in the office or not, face time doesn't improve productivity in and of itself. Instead, managers need to build better accountability measures. If an employee isn't producing, that is the problem, not their location. The same amount of effort it takes to supervise an employee in house simply should be applied to an off site employee, ultimately letting the work speak for itself no matter the location it's being done.

I fully agree with Sheryl Sandberg that woman, especially those early in their careers, but really at all levels, need to lean in and take charge of their careers so that they have leverage to demand flexibility when they need it. By establishing ourselves as valuable, indispensable members of a team, we'll position ourselves to successfully petition for flexibility if and when the time comes. As women, we unfortunately don't have the luxury of waiting until later in our established careers to start families, so it's important for women to constantly evaluate their values, needs, and goals in life, whether those goals are work or family or something else entirely.

During this time of technological advancements that make telecommuting easier, Sandberg's encouragement of women, knowing that flexibility can help advance a career while supporting parenthood, is a definite relief. Of course, many employers still have a long way to go when it comes to work-life balance, but it is refreshing to see the cause supported, complete with a place for community to join together to advance it on LeanIn.org. For this, I must salute Sandberg and enjoy seeing both career and motherhood being encouraged together.