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Why businesses must help employees strike the right work-family balance

Achieving a work-family balance is trickier than ever. Economic pressures mean that work often takes precedence, whether we like it or not. So how can businesses offer the support people need to get this right?

We speak with Karen Sullivan, VP Product Group Risk and Compliance at Paysafe and the global lead of our employee-led Family Network, about her experience of striking this balance.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your family set up?

Karen: I am the VP Product, Global Risk & Compliance and the Global Lead of the Family Network, as well as a wife, mum and step mum for four children aged 12, 13, 14 and 15 years old. We are an extended family, with me and my two children, and my husband and his two children.

Co-parenting can be challenging, but we’re lucky that we get on with our ex-partners, so it’s like having four parents looking after the children. But this does require project management skills, with colour-coded calendars explaining who’s where, when, and what they need, as well as which adult is dropping off and picking up.

Now the kids are growing up and spending more time with their friends and attending after-school clubs, you can also add taxi driver to my CV.

In your experience, what have been the challenges of striking a work-family balance?

My direct reports are my work family, so you want what’s best for them -- to see them do well, work hard, grow, and shine like the stars they are. As a manager it takes a lot of time and effort to help someone’s career grow, while managing workloads and my own career aspirations.

Then there’s home life on weekdays, where my kids say I’m always on the phone, laptop, or travelling abroad, and that I care more about work than them. Typical teenage drama: the parent guilt-trip conversations I’m sure we all have.

Then there’s the weekends, holidays, and quality times I get with my family. Here we just catch up, enjoy each other’s company, get the cuddles in and do things together.

The challenge is being there for everyone, and not feeling guilty when you take time just for you. As part of Paysafe’s Family Network, I realise everyone has challenges and no one has it easy. There’s no magical lesson to be learnt, you just have to do what works for you and your family.

How important is it to get this balance right?

It’s super important for physical and mental health. If everything is good at home, you can focus 100% and do your best work. The Families@Paysafe network was founded to support and empower colleagues across all types of family structures, driving discussions, awareness, and promoting changes in our HR policies. Being an international company, we have held many global panel discussions online, as well as local events within our regional offices. The network is available to everyone within Paysafe.

How has Paysafe helped you achieve this balance?

Paysafe is an amazing company to work for! We have something called ‘Summer Hours’ which means on Friday we can leave 2.5 hours early to get the weekend started. It’s a brilliant way for our leadership team to give back.

This initiative started in lockdown, where we were encouraged to get out and go for a walk or do something enjoyable with our families. It took the pressure off, when many of us were trying to home school and work at the same time. We’re thrilled this has continued, and I know many people have said being able to pick the kids up from school on a Friday is a treat for them, as well as the kids.

How can employers support workers to better manage a work-family balance?

Encourage openness and communication, and be flexible. If a member of your family needs help, you wouldn’t think twice about grouping together to help them. Paysafe does the same thing for its employees. If I need time off for the family, I have it. My team can cover for me. When they need support, I’m there. It’s give and take. One company, one team. It’s in the culture and filtered down from the top.   

What tips do you have for others who may be struggling to manage this balance?

Something I’ve mentioned to several women’s networks I’m involved in: if you are a full-time working mum, you feel guilty for being at work all the time and not being there for your children. If you are a part-time mum/part-time employee, you feel guilty for not being able to do both jobs full time. If you are an at-home mum, you feel guilty not earning money.

There is no right or wrong answer. You have to work out what’s right for you and your family, and be comfortable with that. Once I accepted this, I was happier.

The pressure I felt was what I put upon myself. I looked at other female leaders in my company and wondered how they could manage to do everything. I didn’t realise they were struggling the same as I was. Just think about everything you’ve accomplished in one day, then tell yourself: you’ve got this.

If you’d like to learn more about the culture at Paysafe, head here.