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YPs seek to keep work/life balance even as they advance

From a child at home with the flu to a snow storm to having an appliance delivered, millennials, like their older counterparts, are bombarded with life’s little interruptions. But as young professionals climb the corporate ladder and gain more responsibility at work, many are finding innovative solutions to balancing home with work.

But it doesn’t happen without a great deal of support from their employers.

Jeffrey Smith and Joshua Baer

Jeffrey Smith and Joshua Baer

“Last week we had a snow day so my wife and I split the day. I worked here a little bit and then went home and logged on for a bit,” says Jeffrey Smith, employee communications specialist for ESL Federal Credit Union’s human resources & community relations department. “So that’s been a huge help for me to be able to be both a husband and a father and certainly continue to grow in my career.”

While working remotely is nothing new—often in old films we see the family patriarch bring paperwork home to work on in his den at night—the way in which millennials and their employers approach working from home has changed.

“Technology has really blessed everybody in giving us things like Skype for business,” says Community Bank N.A.’s director of marketing Abha Bowers. “So I can connect and do video conferencing as well as Skype, and of course conference calls. The nature of the game for Community Bank is we have many regions and we’re in many states as it is, so having that nimbleness is standard.”

Working flexible hours also has become standard practice at many firms, where young employees’ desire to raise a family, socialize or be involved in community organizations has taken a front seat to being chained to a desk all day.

“I’m a husband and a father, so the work/life balance for me has been really important with flexibility,” Smith says. “Currently my daughter has swim team practice during the week. I volunteer at her school, so ESL is key about providing that flexibility for me.”

When Smith wants to read to his daughter’s class, ESL allows him to leave early, come in early or work from home as he sees fit.

“As long as I’m meeting my deadlines, they’re perfectly OK with it and support me,” he adds.

And making time for his family is not holding him back in his career, Smith says, because there is a mutual trust at the company.

“I’m taking evening classes at Nazareth to further with master’s classes, so ESL has been supportive of that and even has financial help to support that as well,” says Joshua Baer, ESL’s communications & PR coordinator. “Last week there was a group project that was meeting in the middle of the day and I was able to go and meet with that group.”

In fact, ESL has put together a Young Professionals Program Team, Baer says, that holds employee events to connect staffers, encourage teamwork and improve morale. Last year the group participated in an escape room event, as well as a couple of Flower City Habitat for Humanity days and rented the party deck at a Rochester Americans game.

“One of the new things this year where we’re really trying to help align the work/life balance is expanding our volunteer program to allow employees to volunteer where they feel comfortable during their work hours,” Baer adds. “So that means Jeff could read at his daughter’s school and get paid. Each employee gets eight hours per year of paid volunteer time.”

In addition to its Young Professionals program, ESL offers its staffers massage therapy, discounted ticket sales and area-wide discounts, a free fitness center, dry cleaning services, manicures and pedicures and free downtown parking.

The credit union’s efforts to help millennials balance work and home has paid off. ESL ranked 30th on Best Workplaces’ Great Place to Work for Millennials 2017. Some 96 percent of ESL survey respondents said ESL’s facilities contribute to a good working environment, and Best Workplaces found that 85 percent of millennial employees at the winning companies say they plan to stay at their companies long-term.

For Heather Buske, a manager at the Bonadio Group, having flexibility at work helped her manage her time and learn how to balance work with home while her sister was gravely ill and living outside of Rochester. It wasn’t something she was able to do on her own.

Heather Buske

Heather Buske

“The Bonadio Group is really wonderful with encouraging and embracing balance and flexibility. It’s really engrained in the culture here, which is really great,” Buske says of the financial services firm. “And when I was going through that, they allowed me the flexibility to work when I could. I didn’t have the traditional Monday through Friday, eight to five. They allowed me that balance.”

In the last year, the Bonadio Group has administered an unlimited paid time off policy, Buske says, that’s geared toward flexibility for its staffers, particularly those who work long hours during tax season.

“The flexibility really allows every individual to use that policy to their own benefit,” she says. “During busy season I work most of my nights from home and they’re totally fine with it. As long as there’s communication, which is always huge, there are usually no problems.”

Buske sees the work/life balance as a two-way street.

“If you find you’re one of those people that needs that balance and needs that flexibility, it’s really important to work for a company that also believes in the balance and that way of life, that has that culture,” she explains. “Internally we have what we call the Bonadio Promise. Each letter in ‘promise’ stands for something, and the ‘m’ stands for maintaining balance. That’s why I love working here.”

Kristen Bridenbaugh is a wife and mother of two small children who also coaches gymnastics, has board commitments and travels a good deal for her job. Part of her work/life balance strategy is about keeping it real.

Kristen Bridenbaugh

Kristen Bridenbaugh

“My husband and I are lucky enough to have most of our family local and in town, which has been an unbelievable help to us and a huge crutch that we lean on,” says Bridenbaugh, who serves as the account director on the Xerox Corp. account at Partners + Napier. “I’m constantly thinking to myself, I don’t know how we’d do it without them.”

In addition to the support her family offers, Bridenbaugh says Partners + Napier also helps out when it comes to work flexibility.

“If I do have to leave unexpectedly, they’re very good about being open and I never feel judged,” she says. “It all boils down to being able to trust employees and I feel like Partners has a high level of trust that their employees are doing their job when they need to do it and things are getting done.”

Bridenbaugh says that trust and flexibility benefits the company because it lowers the level of stress and anxiety employees might feel. Bridenbaugh also says that millennials intent on finding a work/life balance sometimes have to just give themselves a break.

“You can really get caught up in trying to be this perfect, all-pulled-together parent, business professional, friend,” she explains. “Sometimes when things start to get a little more chaotic I literally just sit back and think to myself, are my kids healthy, are they happy, are they safe? Because at the end of the day, if all those things are all working then I feel like I’m doing a good job.”

Abha Bowers

Abha Bowers

Similarly, Community Bank’s Bowers, also a wife and mother of two young children, found that in order to balance her work life with her home life she had to conscientiously let go of some of her Type A personality traits.

“I take pleasure in setting schedules and planning ahead,” Bowers says, noting that while she’s learned to let go she still gives it her all no matter where she is. “So when I’m at work I’m work Abha, and when I’m home I’m mom Abha.”

What she has come to terms with is that not everything should or will be perfectly planned and she has gotten better at letting go and going with the flow.

“Take a moment to be in the moment and enjoy it,” Bowers advises. “Bob Marley said it, ‘Every little thing is gonna be alright.’ Wise man.”

vspicer@bridgetowermedia.com / 585-653-4021

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