For most high performing executives, at some point during their career, they will experience a trigger moment that forces them to face the hard truths of their current situation and reconsider where they are in their lives…and what they really want.

Trigger moments

mom and daughter talk to dad on USTREAMFor Arianna Huffington, she speaks of the day when she opened her eyes to realize she was lying in a pool of her own blood after collapsing in her home office. The diagnosis? Sheer exhaustion. What did she learn? That consecutive 18-hour workdays weren’t helping her and that although she had reached the traditional, professional definition of success, she wasn’t successful lying on the ground. Huffintgon vowed to change her ways.

For [now retired] Google CFO Patrick Pichette, it was when he was traveling abroad and wanted to rush back to his duties at Google and his wife questioned his decision and asked when it would be “their time.” For Pichette, that was his eye-opening moment that made him reconsider his role and what exactly he was doing with his life. He cited this realization in his recent resignation announcement.

The struggle is real

This work/life struggle is something almost every working American faces. Whether it’s a full-time, high-powered job, or more of a 9-5 that keeps someone away from their spouse or children, most struggle to set and stick to boundaries and find a happy medium. This is due to financial obligations, work requirements, and the volatile economic landscape…and it leads to unhappy employees and family members.

And because not everyone runs a successful 24/7 media company and is financially stable, or has a CFO position at Google that has enabled quitting at age 52, we are brought to wonder if work/life balance is a reality.

Does this ethereal concept exist? Or is it the impossible dream?

The stats

According to a June 2014 White House report from The Council of Economic Advisors, in 2010, 46 percent of working men and women reported that their job demands interfered with their family life sometimes or often. More importantly, a third of workers have passed up a job because it conflicted with family obligations.

These days, most American jobs just don’t have the flexibility or time off that some family responsibilities require and therefore, are not feasible employment options.

So, what needs to happen? Change.

Flexibility and paid leave

Could companies make simple changes to provide flexibility and paid leave options that could be the keys to employees achieving the impossible dream? This is a possibility.

A 2011 Gallup Poll found that having access to flexible work arrangements was highly correlated with greater worker engagement and higher well-being.

The aforementioned White House report also concurs and shows that 9 in 10 Americans believe employers should offer workers flexibility to meet their families’ needs, so long as their work gets done; and 52 percent of workers feel that they could do their job better if they were allowed a more flexible schedule.

The benefits of a more flexible work environment and increased paid leave can benefit companies through:

  • Increased productivity
  • Access to more talented workers
  • Lower turnover and replacement costs
  • Less absenteeism

While workers would experience:

  • Higher job satisfaction
  • Less work-family balance challenges

Next steps

As more Millennials enter the workforce with new priorities and high-powered executives face these defining moments, some companies have caught on and are already making changes, but it isn’t enough.

Most companies haven’t changed and they are soon going to be forced to reevaluate their company infrastructure as it relates to flexibility and paid leave. By companies evaluating the cost and benefits of transforming into a more work/life friendly atmosphere, simple changes to the internal structure can end in big results.

If companies focus on the future workforce and changing economy, the concept of work/life balance may actually become a reality and not just the impossible dream…but we still have a long way to go.