Andrea’s Story

The Road to Work-Life Integration — Reducing the Risks

So you want to live an integrated life. What steps can you take to start putting these ideas into action today?

At the end of this post there is an inspiring YouTube video you can watch with 3 different stories:

  • Tonya – a successful professional who learned how setting limits at work helped her work smarter
  • CJ – a father who switched to a 4-day work week
  • Beth – a leader who helped her whole team set better boundaries at work

Or read on to meet a parent who always knew she wanted to craft a life that supported time for both work and family, and learn why thinking about money was an important first step in her work-life integration journey.

Andrea was always clear she wanted to live a life that included time for both work and family. To accomplish this, fresh out of law school, she began taking a number of important steps to help her achieve this goal.

Andrea began her journey by securing a position at a large law firm. While there, she had three goals: (1) work hard, (2) gain experience and respect, (3) save as much money as possible in order to gain some financial freedom.

Unlike some of the other newly hired lawyers at the firm, Andrea lived well below what she earned as an attorney and put all her extra savings towards paying off her student loan.

Andrea was learning how being careful about spending was an important ingredient for expanding her options to integrate work and family.

Once debt free, Andrea then kept up this modest lifestyle in order to build a nest egg that would fund a year off. Ultimately, taking this time off would play a crucial role in her ability to search for the ideal firm that would be in line with her longer term goals.

After working long hours at the large firm, Andrea first needed time to relax. But then she began looking for a new place to work. While being interviewed she was open about wanting an integrated life. She also looked at how people were living their lives.

Did people have children?
Was life outside of work important to them?
Could people work reduced hours?
She also looked very carefully at the leaders. Were some of them role models for the type of life she was looking for?

During her job search she turned down opportunities where an integrated approach was not encouraged or otherwise feasible. Eventually she found her current firm – a litigation boutique that felt very aligned with her vision.

When Andrea began working at her new firm, Andrea worked full time. She also got engaged, married, and then began looking for a house with her husband. While doing this she saw it as another opportunity to think ahead about their future goals. For example, she advocated for a house that would support a short commute. She also knew the importance of finding an affordable house so they could cover other important expenses like the cost of day care and her goal to work reduced hours when they started a family. Soon after this was all put in place, they got pregnant. In fact, they learned they were going to have two children not just one!

After the birth of the twins, Andrea began experimenting with working flexibly and reduced hours. The benefits of a reduced schedule allowed Andrea to take off most Fridays for almost 2 years. When the twins were in preschool, she continued with an 80% schedule and flexed her hours for different family responsibilities, including helping out at their children’s co-operative pre-school. When the twins entered first grade, Andrea went back to full time hours, though she continues to flex her hours as needed for family responsibilities.

Andrea’s determination to live out her dream informed her decisions early on. She made financial decisions that allowed her to significantly reduce her debt and save up the necessary funds to hunt for a firm that embodied her vision of work life balance. Many of her fellow employees and leaders have families and work flexibly themselves. She also sought out a life partner whose goals for work and family were very similar.

What are your goals for an integrated work life? What steps have you taken, or need to take, in order to get closer to your dreams? Check out our new book, The ThirdPath Leader, to see how all the different pieces – work, money, partner and family – can fit together to support an integrated whole.