By Chelsea Beser
The topic of “work-life balance” once again found its way into the press this weekend as The New York Times published an article titled When the Work Life Scales are Unequal.
This time, the Times focuses on the workers who cover for those with flexible work arrangements and notes that “one person’s work-life balance can be another’s work-life overload.”
When I worked at a firm, I, like Jessica Kornberg, one of the attorneys featured in the story, didn’t mind working in the office while a mother of young children worked from home, or a father left early to attend a school concert, or even when another associate needed to leave early because they had concert tickets. I didn’t mind because I knew that at some point I would have children and I wanted to be part of a work environment that was supportive of this milestone (I also knew I would want to attend some concerts, so was happy to have cover for that as well!). One of my favorite parts of working at a firm was being part of a team, and I liked knowing that the people I worked with were people, who were just as invested in other facets of their lives as they were in their work. To me, the best lawyers are the ones whose lives are interesting. They are equally passionate about the case they are working on, the group they volunteer for, their child’s science project, and the gourmet meal they prepared for their parents. Their experiences outside the office allow them to better understand and communicate with others, including their clients.
Perhaps that is why I’ve always struggled with the term “work-life balance.” I view “work” as one part of “life.” “Life” includes work, family, and recreation. Too often “work” and “life” are seen as competing forces. Perhaps balance can be better achieved if both businesses and employees accept work as an integral portion of one’s life.
For businesses, this may mean implementing some of the ideas set forth in the Times article – such as increasing communication between those with flexible schedules and those who are more frequently in the office, and allowing flexibility for all employees, not just parents. It may also mean continuing to come up with creative solutions to better help their employees achieve balance when the workload is particularly busy. One of the reasons I joined Montage is because I believe that experienced freelance attorneys in particular can help firms by stepping in to help with projects that might otherwise stretch a firm to its limits, without the long term costs of hiring another attorney.
For workers, it may mean accepting that work is no longer relegated to the hours between nine and five. Technology has made it possible to work remotely. Work can be done after the children are asleep or before going to the gym in the morning. As the Times article explains, flexible work arrangements allow employees to work differently.
The issues surrounding flexibility and balance are not going away. American businesses will need to continue to negotiate how to retain the best talent and accomplish the best results with workers from dual income families with small children, aging babyboomers with parents who need to be cared for, and Millennials entering and moving up in the ranks of the workforce, who have been raised on computers and technology, and who will likely resist sitting in an office all day when they know a significant amount of work can be accomplished remotely. These issues will continue to evolve and the discussion of how best to adapt will continue: I’m excited to be part of this conversation.
Chelsea Beser graduated cum laude from Columbia University in 2003. She received her Juris Doctor from Fordham University in 2006, where she graduated magna cum laude and Order of the Coif and was an Associate Editor of the Fordham Law Review. Chelsea began her career at the New York office of Heller Ehrman, where she was a litigation associate representing clients in complex commercial litigations, securities actions, government investigations and insurance recovery matters. Chelsea then joined Boundas, Skarzynski, Walsh & Black, where she focused on business litigation and insurance coverage matters involving professional liability insurance coverage, with a focus on director and officer liability. Chelsea joined Montage Legal Group in 2012 as Lead Attorney for New York.