While writing this blog post, I am preparing myself to represent Finland at a panel discussion about work-life balance in Berlin. Titled “Work and Family in the Rush Hour of Life – Gender Imbalances in the Nordic Countries and Germany” the panel discussion will be held at the Nordic Embassies in Germany. Quite frankly, I never thought I would be called upon to speak up at a diplomatic venue about parenthood and my role as a father. Nevertheless, finding the recipe for a healthier work-life balance should be at the top of the political agenda across Europe. Here’s two takeaways from my cookbook – Culture and Leadership – in my mind key ingredients in building a family-friendly workplace.
Culture. I will never forget my very first encounter with the founder and chairman of our company. I was picking him up on my family station wagon – backseat full of raisins, dried apple peels and empty juice boxes – feeling somewhat embarrassed to welcome this internationally acknowledged business executive to my messy car. As he sat down the front seat, I caught myself articulating an excuse along these lines: “I didn’t have time to clean up the car after a weekend trip with the three chipmunks…” He calmly looked over his shoulder to the backseat, smiling: “You know, there’s an old Irish proverb for fathers with many kids saying: You might live like a pig, but you surely die like a king” We both shared a good laugh. From that moment, I was confirmed that the family friendly corporate culture, rooted in our company, comes from the very top.
Kuvateksti: At Oxford Research we believe that it is indeed possible to combine a challenging job with parenthood. We try to support our employers’ diverse family situations for example by flexible working hours.
Leadership. As managers of the companies in the modern age, we face an increased amount of responsibility not only towards our shareholders, but also towards our stakeholders and society as a whole. Business leaders must understand their role in building working environments that bring significance into the lives of our employees and create value to society beyond the financial returns to investors. This requires constant reflection on the decisions we make. Having an aligned set of values and turning these values into behavior is critical in leading organizations towards a healthier family-work life balance. In our company, conversations and an open dialogue (starting from the top) about these values is highly appreciated and cherished.
Kuvateksti: I’ve learned a great deal from my fatherhood in becoming a better business leader
There is no single recipe for a healthy family-work life balance. Much of it comes down to individual decisions. As we try to juggle through the rush hour of life as parents, employers and employees we must all work together in supporting family-friendly decisions. Finland and the Nordics are well suited to become the global advocates for this cause.
The author Jouni Eho is a father of three, an entrepreneur and CEO of a Nordic Consultancy Oxford Research. Jouni has a BA in Political Science from Davidson College and an MSSc in Sociology from University of Esatern Finland. You can find more about Jouni’s thinking on the daily challenges of combining work and family life here.