Conversations about work-life balance seem to be happening all around us. We hear that women should “lean in.” We hear that “women still can’t have it all.” We also know that women aren’t the only ones who want work-life balance. Companies in Silicon Valley are often perceived to be at the forefront of promoting work-life balance. After all, Google is known for offering perks such as access to onsite fitness, cafes, and shuttle bus service (with WiFi) from around the Bay Area. Yet, companies here and everywhere continue to struggle with how to offer work-life balance or perhaps how much to offer. Yahoo! made headlines with its decision that employees needed to be physically present in the office each day, determining that “speed and quality are often sacrificed when [employees] work from home.” But what is sacrificed when physical presence takes a premium over mental and emotional well-being? We at Sliced Bread want to be a part of the work-life balance conversation, because we believe that even small businesses can have a big impact by demonstrating that there are alternatives to the usual sacrifices associated with working and raising a family. We pride ourselves on doing great work while being a great place to work. Julie and Ellen started Sliced Bread with the fundamental belief that work should be rewarding, enjoyable, and compatible with happy lives outside of work, too. Sliced Bread’s commitment to work-life balance matters to all of us who work here – and as we’ve recently learned – many who don’t.
We recently received a friendly email from a woman named Pam living in Massachusetts that reminded us that work-life balance anywhere can be inspirational everywhere: “I just wanted to say that I read an article on your company in one of my parenting magazines and your whole premise truly inspired me. The work-life balance you have created sounds perfect. I am a first-time mom to a now sixteen-month old and returned to work full time after maternity leave. I am starting to realize just how hard it is to juggle everything and have started thinking outside the box. I wish there were more companies with your mantra around here, as I am on the East Coast (Massachusetts). Thanks for the motivation to continue a job search outside the box!” Actually, we should be thanking Pam. Her email made us pause and appreciate the many ways we promote work-life balance at Sliced Bread. Here are a few of our favorites:
- We believe in a comfortable, flexible work environment. Unlike Yahoo!, we believe that we can maximize productivity both in and out of the office. We work out of Julie’s sunny, friendly home office in Mountain View on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The rest of the week, we enjoy an open door policy. Some of us choose to come in to the office on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays while some of us choose to meet near our own homes on those days. Others choose to collaborate remotely those days from within our own homes. All of us do great work Monday – Friday, regardless of where we work.
- We’re respectful of each other’s time. In fact, everyone at Sliced Bread gets to choose their own hours and their own standard work weeks. Many of us work part time – and that can include a creative 26 hour work week, with a daily schedule determined by dropping off and picking up our kids from school. Perhaps even more important, we’re encouraged to work our standard hours each week and not expected to put in additional hours beyond that. Of course, we do have weeks when we all exceed our standard hours, but most often, we strike the right balance.
- We actively create a positive work culture. We also like to eat well. That’s why we enjoy yummy, homemade meals together every Tuesday and fun catered lunches every Thursday – and we don’t talk about work over lunch. No wonder many of our clients like to invite themselves over for lunch just to catch up.
- We take work breaks. We know that we’re more creative, engaged designers because we’re able to take an occasional work break. We go for a quick walk around the neighborhood. We celebrate birthdays and special occasions in the office. We had a temporary halt on all client work to celebrate when our dear chicken Amelia laid her first egg (Yes, we have chickens: Artemis, Daisy, and Amelia. They live in a custom chicken coop in Julie’s backyard, but they are also given free range to explore the yard. Chickens at Sliced Bread enjoy great perks, too).
- We believe that work and life can co-exist and don’t have to be in a constant tug-of-war. At Sliced Bread, sometimes our employees leave early to catch their child’s school performance. Sometimes they leave early to pick up their sick child from school. Sometimes they bring a sick child with them to the office because, heck, life happens and work goes on. Katrina Alcorn, designer and author of Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink, sums us up well: “Everyone is just focused on doing great work, and doing it efficiently so they can enjoy their lives.”
And it's not just moms who value the ability to work from home and build their schedule around the things that matter most to them. In the words of Jesse Day, our token dad: “As a new Dad, I didn’t think it would be possible to find meaningful work in Silicon Valley while still being able to make blueberry pancakes for the family and do sidewalk chalk on weekdays. Feeling blessed!” Jesse also shared that when he made this comment he was actually at the peak of a big project. In fact, he worked 10 hours that day, but he didn’t feel overburdened because our remote working options made it so that those 10 hours did not prevent him from spending precious time with his family during his breaks. At Sliced Bread we believe that what we’re doing is about more than just our bottom line. It’s about paving the way for a new model of work that values the whole individual and prioritizes arrangements that promote mutual respect between employer and employee. When we received that email from Pam, Julie took the time to reply to her personally, thanking her for reaching out and wishing her well on her job search. We sympathize that a company like Sliced Bread is indeed tough to find, but we hope she’ll keep searching for an employer that values work-life balance and keep asking for the kind of flexibility she wants to have in the workplace. We think it’s much easier for companies to be successful with a flexible work arrangement than they think it is. After all, our business is thriving and our clients are happy. So are the people who work here. In fact, we’re hiring – and we’d love for you to join our team! Have your own work-life balance experience to share? Leave us a comment. Tell your story. Join us in the work-life balance conversation. Like Pam, we hope you’ll keep asking for the kind of work-life balance we’re thankful to enjoy at Sliced Bread.