The Road to Work-Life Integration

Prioritizing Life, Improves How We Work

This past June, Karin McGrath Dunn, a long-time member of the ThirdPath Community, contacted us to get support for a summertime goal: she wanted to cut back on her summer work hours to create more time to recharge after an exhausting year responding to the pandemic.

Karin is the president of PRD Management, a company that provides affordable housing to seniors, families and handicapped individuals. As the leader of second generation small business, Karin always has a lot on her plate, even in non-pandemic times.

Karin first connected with ThirdPath over a dozen years ago when she and her husband attended an event for parents. She’s remained involved ever since, participating in our annual events, and a group that meets every other month to support leaders to create healthy and flexible work cultures.

Like everyone else, Karin found herself battling new and unexpected hurdles when the pandemic hit in full force March 2020. Unlike many leaders, we think Karin was better prepared to respond to these challenges because of the years she spent participating in ThirdPath programming.

While the crisis around the pandemic increased, Karin’s first priority was to protect the health of PRD’s clients and front-line property workers. She also transitioned a large number of employees to work remotely, most for the very first time.

To help accommodate these unexpected demands, Karin and her team re-evaluated the goals they had set for the year, “This wasn’t the year for high flying or aspirational new projects,” she explained. “Our job was to keep jobs intact and keep elderly tenants and team members safe.”

Karin and her team took a number of additional steps to support everyone through the pandemic. They:

  • Allowed for flexing of location and schedules, so even maintenance workers could flex
  • Explored creating “core work hours” to coordinate flexible work hours
  • Encouraged the use of an email scheduling tool to keep communication within work hours
  • Took five-minutes at the start of meetings for a more informal exchange to help keep workers connected
  • Instituted no meetings Fridays
  • Increased holiday time…and made sure leaders modeled this themselves by using their vacation time

Did PRD’s efforts work? Karin responded with an enthusiastic “yes.”

I’m proud to tell you that our apartment complexes weathered the pandemic crisis with virtually no staff illness and very few losses of our residents. We came through as a strong, committed team, with low turnover, a high vaccination rate, and a feeling that ‘we have each other’s backs’ – even without seeing each other as often.

“It goes back to how we handled the first few scary weeks and months between March and May 2020. We flexed and experimented in all kinds of ways and asked people what they needed to keep going.

Now in late 2021, we face the new challenge of managing a workforce that has experienced high personal stress and sustained trauma over the past 21 months – people need to ‘recover and recalibrate’ and we are looking at new ways to help them do that.

Despite these excellent results, Karin herself was burned out, which is why she turned once again to ThirdPath.

To help her with her summer goals, Jessica paired Karin with one of ThirdPath’s expert Integrated Life Advocates. Together they defined Karin’s goals, assessed the reality of her work responsibilities, and began to take active steps toward reaching these goals.

Once again Karin learned committing to her life outside of work helped her get smarter about her approach at work. For example, she:

  • Clarified the role of two other company leaders
  • Identified tasks she could delegate
  • Developed a role and job description for a future employee who could help lighten the load
  • Worked with her assistant to carve out unscheduled blocks of time as uninterrupted days to work on big projects
  • Committed to taking vacation time earlier than originally planned

As the summer shifted to fall Karin realized she was not going to achieve her original summertime goal, but she had reduced her work-related stress and identified ways to shift things to help create more time away from work next summer.

ThirdPath’s work with leaders like Karin – leaders who are working hard to model integrated lives – has helped us understand there will always be times when leaders feel like they are failing in their journey. When this happens, we encourage them to see it as a moment in time where they just had something new to learn — something that would also help provide even greater wisdom when working with their teams.

Want to meet more professionals who have adopted an integrated approach?  Listen to our YouTube recording where Leslie Forde shares how parents managed over the course of the pandemic. Then hear from 3 professionals who adopted an integrated approach long before the pandemic. Like Karin, they discuss how committing to their lives outside of work helped them get smarter about how to approach work, and how it also helped them become better managers.

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