sparkly shoes drum a click-clack beat as I run up and down the
stairs, through the maze of knowledge workers, sprinkling my
special pixie dust around the office. “Here comes Amy,” I see
in their eyes. “What irreverent comment or razor-sharp insight
will she have for us today?” “What project is she plotting that
requires my attention?” “What change is she hoping to effect
and what does she want from me?” I read the thoughts as I approach…
And of course, I will not disappoint. I’m up for the challenge.
Playful banter and clever cajoling are the tricks of my trade.
After all, I am Start-up Girl! Don’t expect anything less!
may think that “Start-up Girl” is one of those clever (yet annoying)
titles made up by some 24 year-old-founder of a “dot.gone,”
but no. It’s not a title. It’s a way of life for me—a Gen-Xer
trying to make my way in the New Economy, born and bred in the
age of the start-up, where electric ambition, entrepreneurial
spirit, and Olympic-like endurance are at the top of every successful
employee’s competency model.
have to go no farther than the front page of the business section
to see the values driving the Start-up culture. They scream,
“Create shareholder value or die.” But, to create shareholder
value in this increasingly complex and competitive marketing
place, companies must create more for less, and do it faster.
who is responsible for making this happen? We, the Start-up
workforce: the Human Capital of the New Economy. We are asked
to be more creative with our ideas, our resources, and our time.
Return on the
Balance Investment (ROBI)
on any investment is important in every economy, but particularly
so today. We have learned through the dot.com revolution that
business decisions based on metrics such as the “coolness quotient”
or the “fun factor” don’t fly in the long run. Every dollar
counts so it had better have a return or it shouldn’t be spent.
following numbers might help motivate you to make a healthy
change in your life or, at the very least, support work-life
balance in your workplace.
Institute for Employment Research and IFF Research (PDF), in
a recent report on the value of work-life balance practices,
found the following:
72% of workplaces reported that work-life balance
practices fostered good employee relations
43% of respondents cited the main advantage of
work-life balance is having happier staff
58% of respondents said that work-life balance
practices improved staff motivation and commitment
those statistics are still too “soft” for you hard-core marketers,
how about some data from the SAS Institute Inc., makers of the
statistical analysis software— software for number crunchers.
They touted in a recent Fast Company article Sanity
Inc. that their work/life balance practices have a bottom
line impact to the tune of $67.5 million a year. These cost
savings are attributed to saved recruiting costs. In their estimation,
a company of their size typically loses 1000 employees with
a cost of between 1 and 2.5 times the average annual salary
incurred to replace them. Because the SAS Institute is a great
place to work, they only lost 130 people last year—that saved
them the cost of replacing 900 employees or $67.5 million! Ch-Ching
now that I have your attention, where to begin?
Learn to Juggle
Jones put it best when she wrote in her diary: “It’s a known
scientific fact that when one part of your life is going well
another part falls famously apart.” If
you buy into Bridgets scientific belief then the way to
avoid a total meltdown when something in your life falls apart
is to have lots of stuff going on. (That way, if say, you are
laid off or your stock crashes from a high of $210 to $1.50
the disappointment won’t leave you in a state of paralysis.)
Here in Silicon Valley I’ve seen many people crash and burn
in the last year because of the aforementioned scenario. The
start-up work force made the conscious decision to put their
life on hold and live their job in the hopes that in a few years
the payoff would be so great that they may not have to work
another day in their life. Well, guess what…they worked more
for less, stopped going to the gym and meeting for happy hour
and got….laid off.
know that many of you have a family, multiple community service
projects, and don’t need any more to juggle. But my experience
tells me that you’re not the majority. At least once a week
a friend or colleague comes to me with furrowed brow, depressed
about the state of the economy, their company and their job.
Not consequently, these are the same people who live their jobs.
The advice I give them is the same that I will give you—integrate
multiple activities and passions into your life—not just work.
Here are some ideas:
Work the Perks
the SAS Institute, many companies go to great lengths to make
sure they get as much out of their human capital as is humanly
possible. Lunch is provided in the office so we don’t have to
take time out of our day to go out to lunch. Learning is offered
on-line so we can fit a little skill building in while we eat
lunch at our desks or have an hour of “down-time” to spare.
Even showers and on-site gyms are available so we can go for
a quick run at 6:00 before it gets dark and then return to work.
All these amenities are offered because good companies understand
that employees who live a balanced life perform better, and
more positively affect the bottom line which all adds up to….increased
unfortunate reality is that many people don’t take advantage
of these amenities. Often, overworked employees don’t view these
perks as an opportunity to integrate balance into their work
environment but rather as shackles to the desk, ways of keeping
them at work longer. Well show them you’re no fool—work the
perks. My company pays for a gym membership, which I use religiously.
Some days I’ll even take off a lunch and go for a swim. I come
back refreshed and ready for battle. In fact, I end up organizing
my time better and being more productive at work in my effort
to fit in a mid-day workout. Work the perks and turn them it
into a win-win situation. Companies can provide the foundation
but we, the workforce, have to take advantage of the resources
and shape our lives in a way where we find our own balance.
Just do it!
Something That Has Nothing to Do with Your Job
Zine is a magazine about learning in the New Economy, so if
you are reading this article, I can almost bet that you have
a passion for learning. So, don’t limit learning to your professional
endeavors; put away the latest Harvard Business Journal book
and pick up something that has NOTHING to do with your job (at
I too love to learn, I recently set out to “work a perk” and
take a class using my education reimbursement allotment. At
first, I planned to take a class in advanced project management
but then I decided that I wanted to exercise the creative side
of my brain. I convinced my boss that a class in design was
in fact directly related to my job because the design process
is the art world’s answer to project management. He, an insatiable
learner himself, supported the proposition and approved it.
Let me tell you, it was SO great! I went to class once a week
and worked on art projects for grown-ups. I played with colored
pencils, foam core and clay, and for three hours each week I
entered a dimension of my brain that I don’t always use at work.
Much to my delight, I found that awakening that side of my brain
has helped me in my job as well. I can now look at problem solving
from a design perspective—this new outlook has made my job more
fun and my PowerPoint presentations more visually pleasing.
knows, by taking a class in an outside interest you may not
only improve a skill important to your personal growth, but
you may find a new passion you can integrate into your business
life. It’s all good.
Take Up Yoga
(or Other “Zen” Sports)
achieve balance, one needs to be in touch with reality, one’s
own thought patterns, and internal rhythms. The start-up culture
can be so intense, so physiologically and physically consuming
that we don’t have time to be quiet and check in with our inner
workings. No I’m not getting new-agey here, I’m making an important
observation. Think about it; can you identify a time in the
last week when you were able to sit still and reflect on what’s
going on with YOU. Not with the executive council, the angry
shareholders or the nightmare client but YOU. I didn’t think
didnt fully understand the benefits of internal balance
until I started to practice yoga. In yoga, the teacher is there
to help you focus on YOU. “Come into your body and allow the
breath to nurture every muscle, every bone, every organ of your
body. Allow your thoughts to pass like clouds in the sky…observe
them and let them go.” The first time my yoga instructor said
this, my first thought was…CHEEZY. The hardest thing for me
to learn has been to STOP THINKING and relax. The more I practice,
the better I get and the easier it becomes to call up this altered
state of consciousness on the fly in tense moments. For example,
in a meeting where everyone around me is getting worked up about
some issue that, when put in perspective, is really insignificant,
I can go into myself and check in with my reality. Then, to
their surprise, I may say something like; “Hey guys, at the
end of the day, is it really worth our time and energy to worry
about this?” Then they stop, look at me with blank stares, think
for a minute and then chuckle and say; “Well, maybe it’s not
THAT important….” This type of balance is key in the start-up
workplace because Type-A, over achievers have a tendency to
get stuck in the wrong reality which causes a lot of unneeded
stress in our work world.
those of you who don’t buy into Yoga or have an aversion to
it, all is not lost. There are many other “Zen” sports and activities
that help one to achieve the same benefits. They include: swimming,
running, bicycling, gardening, golf, arts and crafts, and many
more. Try to find some activity that forces you to focus on
you in a way that you can’t in other parts of your life, especially
Your Social Portfolio
social beings, we have an innate need to be connected to people.
It is key to our emotional survival. We extroverts need more
social connections than you introverts but I or E, we all need
a community we feel connected to. I am sure that those of you
married to your job will argue that you have plenty of social
connectivity at the workplace…well that’s all fine and good,
but do you really enjoy the people you work with? Do
they make you laugh? Do they expose you to new things, do they
make you feel good? If you can answer yes to many of these questions,
then you are lucky…but you still need to diversify.
take time and an investment in your precious social capital.
Think of your social time in terms of money. If you spend all
of your social dollars with the people at work, your social
investment portfolio will be high risk. If key people quit,
get transferred or, heaven forbid, turn on you for political
reasons, you are at risk to lose big. Therefore, a more balanced
investment strategy is to spend your social dollars in multiple
sectors: work colleagues, family, life-long-friends and the
ever-important “pal” sector. Pals are the best and you can have
as many or as few as you want—just have some!
have several pals that I spend my social dollars on—and boy,
are they worth the investment! My pals and I typically have
activities in common that keep us connected. I have a yoga pal,
a career planning pal, several travel pals, triathlon pals and
many more. I don’t spend a ton of time with any one of them
but over time my investment has compounded….they open doors
to experiences that I would never have if I didn’t have them
in my life. And they keep me connected to the world outside
of work….they give me balance.
say that you have to repeat something 42 times until it becomes
a habit. Get to it! Get out of the office NOW. Think about the
words of Start-Up Girl and find your balance! If you don’t,
you’ll hear my click-clack beat coming around the corner of
your cube and find me at your desk cajoling you to get on it!!!
Don’t worry, have fun; life is great on this side of balance!
Keill is Manager of Customer Quality and Learning at Saba. When
she’s not working to create a customer focused and balanced
organization, she is training for triathlons, traveling to distant
lands to study culture, cooking for her pals or learning about
something new. She will be returning to school this fall to
pursue a Masters in Organizational Psychology and hopes to study
further the Return on Balance Investment. Write her at email@example.com.