Finding Harmony: Strategies for Work-Life Balance in the Global Workforce

Michele Brescia - Mar 18 2024
Published in: Mobility
| Updated Mar 18 2024
Exploring the strategies and practices necessary for creating equilibrium between career growth and personal life in the dynamic realm of relocations and global assignments with HR 

 Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of WERC.

In today’s interconnected world, the demand for skilled professionals willing to undertake relocations and global assignments continues to rise. However, amid the excitement of new opportunities lies the challenges of maintaining a healthy work-life balance. 

To delve deeper into this topic, I had the pleasure of sitting down with seasoned relocation industry expert Holly Clontz, HR manager of Albemarle. In this interview, we explore the strategies and practices necessary for creating equilibrium between career growth and personal life in the dynamic realm of relocations and global assignments.

Michele Brescia (MB): Taking on a global assignment, no matter how familiar, can be daunting for a working parent who is pulled in many directions. How do you prioritize your various roles as a full-time working mom, homeschooling parent, spouse, daughter to aging parents, and boss? 

Holly Clontz (HM): I wish there was some magic solution to this, and I wish I could say I’ve perfected it, but I believe it’s simply being present and limiting distractions and disruptions during the time I play these various roles. I may only get a few hours a day with my son, but I try to be fully focused on him during that time. For example, at 4 p.m. when I end my workday, I leave my phone on the kitchen counter and try not to look at it again until after 8 p.m., and I pretty much ignore my phone on the weekends. I find my phone is my biggest distraction, and it always remains on silent and face down. 

A few years ago, I would have laughed at the thought of being a caregiver to aging parents, but it has become my reality. Caring for my parents would be the biggest driver for me in deciding to accept a role that required me to relocate. They live with me, so I now understand what others have gone through and not only have more empathy, but if I was still managing a relocation program, I would make changes to benefits to include these types of dependents who aren’t dependents in the traditional sense.

When I think about moving out of the country and the support that is required, some of the best benefits to support transferees and their families are often not utilized or have been reduced for cost savings but have such a long-term impact on the success of the move. I’m of the opinion that companies should mandate cultural training and destination support should be a little less about home finding and more about helping to support the acclimation of both the employee and family. There’s a reason why families unable to acclimate often leads to a failed assignment. Knowing what I know now, I would consider mandating this in my relocation policy.   

MB: Relocating is one of life’s most stressful events. Couple that with trying to create work-life balance, and it can be a daunting task. What strategies do you employ to maintain a healthy balance amid such a busy schedule? 

HC: This is probably a nontraditional answer to the question, but one of the biggest impacts for me was to turn off the TV. I don’t watch TV, movies, news, etc. I had to assess what was eating up time and then remove this distraction from my life to have the time to do the other things that matter. People don’t realize how much time this takes away from their day. I also avoid most social media platforms outside of Facebook and LinkedIn, and my time on those two are limited. I think it was you, Michele, who tracked your social media time one week and realized you were wasting six hours and could use that time for something meaningful, like going back to school. 

MB: That is sadly true! I don’t have as much time now that I am spending my free time working on my master’s degree, but when I do spend time on social media, I’m focusing on learning something versus just aimlessly scrolling. 

MB: Support systems for relocating families are so important. From candidate assessments, to settling in services, to career transition and schooling support, these offerings can sometimes be the difference between a failed assignment and a successful one. What support systems or resources have been instrumental in helping you navigate the demands of both your career and personal life? 

HC: There is such an upside to having your parents live with you. My mom helps so much with my son. This is one of the ways I’m able to balance the demands on days when I need to work more than nine hours, or I need someone else to cook dinner. I also believe in talk therapy, chiropractic care, hiking, and many other activities to help keep me sane. 

From a relocation standpoint, I really feel like spousal assistance is an underutilized benefit. It can be so much more than just job finding. Companies really need to encourage use of this benefit to help support the trailing spouse. 

MB: Such great points. As someone relocating to a new area, I can imagine finding those resources would be daunting. Having good health benefits in place to support self-care needs, as well as the resources available to help with networking and finding care, are crucial.

MB: What advice would you give to other working parents who are striving to advance their careers while maintaining a fulfilling family life? 

HC: It’s OK to have goals, but it’s also okay to step back from those goals for the right reasons. Only you can decide what goals matter and which ones don’t. I believe that somewhere along the way we lost the definition of success, which isn’t only about advancing your career, what kind of car you drive, or how much money you make, but instead how fulfilled are you every day? How healthy and happy are your children? Stay true to who you are. Recognize how important your tribe is in balancing your life and what you and your family need. 

MB: I couldn’t agree more! 

MB: What workplace policies or accommodations have you facilitated to help your employees have work-life balance? 

HC: I’m lucky enough to have a hybrid flexible schedule and permit the same for my team. I work from the office when necessary, and this is key to my balance. We are in a weird time right now where companies are either mandating you come back to the office or eliminating office space and forcing you to work from home. It will be interesting to see what the norm becomes and the long-term impact on the relocation industry.

MB: What would you suggest companies consider when trying to balance assignee/transferee needs for work-life balance in their relocation policies? 

HC: None of my suggestions are groundbreaking but could have a major impact on the experience and the need to balance. First, I would consider designated days off in addition to normal paid time off. A lot of employees find this difficult to navigate during the physical move or during home finding. Most only need a few days. It also may help for the relocation team to step in and coach managers who haven’t had an employee relocate before and explain why an employee may need time away to focus on their move. 

Second, I would consider highlighting the already provided employee assistance program (EAP) for the entire family. Since a lot of organizations already provide EAP support there isn’t any extra cost here but just another way to recognize the stress of moving and the available support. 

Third, and this pertains to employees with family members they generally care for daily, consider some additional dependent support like covered childcare during home finding or during the move itself. 

It’s evident that fostering work-life balance for relocating employees and those on global assignments requires a concerted effort from companies. By implementing supportive policies, providing resources for family support, offering flexibility in work arrangements, and fostering a culture of understanding and empathy, organizations can empower their employees to thrive both personally and professionally, regardless of their geographical location. Recognizing the unique challenges that come with relocation and global assignments, proactive measures taken by companies can not only enhance employee well-being but also contribute to increased productivity, retention, and overall success in the global marketplace. 

Michele Brescia brings over 25 years of experience in the relocation industry to the table. Currently serving as the director of strategic business solutions at Cartus, her extensive background spans various key areas including account management, operations, implementation, consulting solutions, cultural and language solutions, and business development. Through her journey in this dynamic field, she’s gained invaluable insights into the challenges and opportunities surrounding work-life balance in the context of relocations and global assignments. It is her hope that the discussions shared here will provide meaningful guidance for professionals navigating similar paths in today’s interconnected world.