America is a global business leader, driving breakthroughs and disruptions that have shaken up a countless number of industries across the world. Too often however, an argument has gone hand-in-hand with this success that to sustain this pace of progress, we all need to be working long days, putting professional achievements above more important personal priorities. Our idolization of hard work and long hours as a country has often come at the cost of family, personal well-being and happiness, which should always be more important.
Building Credit Karma over the last eight years into a company of more than 350 employees, I've come to feel strongly that America needs to change its cultural attitudes around work-life balance. There is no clearer sign of this problem, nor a workplace issue more urgently in need of addressing, than the lack of priority given to work-life balance in America.
CEOs and business leaders are on the front lines of this problem and can play an important role in making positive changes: setting policies for employees that allow them to prioritize family if needed, take time to get healthy when sick, or take a moment for themselves when exhausted; as well as creating company cultures that let people know it's okay to make use of these policies.
It is an argument that makes both business sense and human sense. The lack of a healthy work-life balance will eventually take its toll on your employees and result in lower productivity. CEOs are kidding themselves if they think otherwise. Employees are more productive when they are able to focus, comfortable that it is okay for them to take care of what is important and when they know that their standing in the workplace is safe.
The other side of this is a place you don't want to be as a business. For instance, if people on your team are worried that taking time to tend to a sick child might be seen as lazy, you're on the wrong path--your culture is having a damaging influence, workplace morale is going to slip, and both will take productivity down with them.
Employee well-being should be just as important as your day-to-day business, because your day-to-day business depends on your employees. Crucially, when you create room for your employees to both take care of themselves and be effective and valued at work, it becomes easier to recruit and retain more experienced talent. Most companies cannot get by only with workers that are okay working much longer hours.
The most obvious step in achieving this shift is to put the creative benefits in place that show this support. Until these policies are in place, collective attitudes around work-life balance can't change. This policy change needs to go hand-in-hand with changes in personal priorities.
The right priorities have to be modeled at the top of every organization. I have been guilty personally of setting the wrong example over the last eight years. I've told everyone on my team that I want them to take time off to be with their families, when I only took one day off when my first child was born. I've since developed greater clarity around where my priorities lie, and now with the recent birth of my second child, I've made it a goal to spend more time at home. I wish I had this clarity with my first born, but these sorts of lessons in themselves are important to experience and share. They can encourage others not to miss out on the joys of family and children.
Being a good CEO means building a company that can run without you, not building one that relies on you daily. Similarly, the best leadership is one that leads by example. Company leadership must take the time to be with their families, and therefore build a company and infrastructure that can keep producing results in anyone's absence.
I encourage fellow CEOs and company leadership to build policies and internal cultures that encourage and promote nurturing personal lives. Naturally, companies must manage potential financial implications or resource strains on the company, but when feasible, these sorts of benefits should become more like baseline practices. It should be a priority rather than an afterthought.
People should always put their own happiness and health, and their family's health, before their job. Employers are pivotal players in helping our society support this change.