To the Power of Availability and Choice

Balancing Well-Being and Work in the Construction Industry

I was listening to a radio station recently when they were discussing a mom who afforded her now high school-aged daughter starting in middle school to have a day a month of the daughter’s choice to stay home from school. You can imagine the comments flying in. Thankfully, from multiple perspectives. The mom explained it did not extend past one day unless it was because of illness, when the school would send her home anyway. It did not get her daughter out of doing her assignments or showing up for exams.

The negative comments were primarily focused on lying to the school about being sick (although the mother did not say she told the school her daughter was sick). Other comments included that the young lady would grow up thinking it’s okay just to take a day off from work or other responsibilities. The biggest were those telling the mom she was coddling the daughter, others that she was being erroneous—or was she?

Effective Communication When Balancing Well-Being

The mother shared that, over time, her daughter went from just feeling like she needed a break to being able to define why she needed a break. She could also discuss how the particular day she chose might affect the days that followed and her family, teachers, and friends. She said there were several months during the school year that her daughter did not take the day off from school despite having it at her disposal. The mom was proud of how her daughter could now effectively communicate the balance she required for her life to stay physically and mentally at her best. The mom felt her daughter was more aware of her mental health.

My daughters are grown now. I was one of those moms who would encourage them to go to school, and if they couldn’t make it through the day, they could ask to go home. We did have times when we took them out of school, and it was not sickness, yet we did not say it was. The commentary to a radio call-in and social media posts rarely afford the person bold enough to share in the first place any grace, assuming they are illogical and possibly even dishonest. Whereas, who is to say the one making the comment is ill-informed on the subject at hand or that each case is different? I don’t recall the schools my daughters attended ever asking why a child was absent; moreover, they just wanted to make sure we, as parents, were aware of the absence. Now, I do recall the classmates wanting to know why their classmate was not in school for the day if it wasn’t preannounced.

The workplace can sometimes be much like middle and high school. Every company has different policies, different leaders, and all types of employees. The amount of structure, chatterers, and grace that abounds can vary when it comes to asking questions and balancing well-being. What if by the time everyone entered the workforce, they, like the daughter, were advanced in the ability to recognize when they needed to recharge for a day and choose and communicate the day that might be the least harmful for everyone with whom they would normally be present?

Tools for Effective Communication at Work and at Home

Unlimited Paid Time Off Policies in Construction Companies

A few weeks ago, I wrote our blog about the growing trend in the workplace of unlimited paid time off. Setting expectations around implementing such a policy is important. Whether unlimited PTO or other ways, each week, we hear from companies regarding the need and desire to offer choices and empowerment to their employees to support their individual needs while ensuring the business is operating effectively and efficiently. The pundits inside and outside organizations often deter employers from testing new programs because they cannot trust enough to roll out the new and wait and see the result before assuming pessimism.

Leading teams of people in the workplace is much like parenting. Those who grew up in multiple-sibling households or have multiple children know that you will have children who are rule breakers, rule makers, rule enforcers, and rule-oblivious individuals, so every policy in place at an organization is tested. The question becomes not how to make everyone happy but how to keep those quiet who speak too soon and with the glass half empty instead of half full.

Start With a Trial

If you are thinking about moving to an unlimited PTO policy, you could start by adding two PTO days of an employee’s choice to the calendar. See how well they handle the request to use them, schedule with their teammates, and get their work done anyway, whether present that day or not.

Conduct a Survey

Often, asking questions about what would make a difference in someone’s work schedule to help them better manage their overall well-being and relationships helps your company to be progressive and retain top performers. If you are a “must arrive by and stay until a certain time” company, possibly even on a timeclock, those questions may include:

  • Would the ability to come in earlier or later a day or two a week—as long as you complete your forty hours a week and work deadlines—change your opinion of your workplace for the better? Y/N
  • Do you feel comfortable requesting a day off other than for illness or preplanned vacation? Y/N

Empowering Construction Professionals to Make Well-Being Choices Wisely

I am not a fan of the saying “work-life balance” as I believe work is part of your life, and balance should be a healthy body, mind, and spirit inside and outside work. You carry stability of balance or the need to rebalance with you wherever you go. You should have the option and ability to recalibrate when life inside or outside your time dedicated to work needs to look different to be in balance during the time not dedicated to work.

That young lady who learned how to use her floating day off from school wisely and when needed proved the critics wrong. If your employer gave you an open door to take extra days off, would you feel impelled to use them? Would you be like some people who have money in their pocket and feel the urge to spend it as soon as possible?

The most recognized employees are not there all the time or less often than the rest of the team. That is unless they are part-time employees to begin with. They are there when they are needed, and they are not there when they are not the best they can be. The best part is they, like that little girl, can process wisely.

To the Power of Availability and Choice,

Suzanne Breistol




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