Juggling a high-ranking corporate leadership job while raising two young children is all in a day’s work for Hope Gurion, CareerBuilder’s chief product officer — but she doesn’t do it alone.
Read on as Hope dishes on work-life balance, leadership, productivity and more.
CB: What does your morning routine consist of?
HG: My morning routine involves getting on a conference call relatively early — because the people I work with are either on Central or East Coast — or occasionally doing international calls. On the days I’m fortunate enough not to have an early phone call, I’ll try to exercise — those are the two things you’ll most likely find me doing early in the morning.
I work from home, and we have a live-in au pair because both my husband and I work intense jobs, and we have two young children who need to get to school in the morning and we need to make sure they’ve got their homework and lunches and all that. She’s a dream helping us with that. Having people you can rely on both at work and to help you manage at home has certainly been helpful for us.
CB: What does work-life balance look like in your world?
HG: One of the things I really appreciate working at CareerBuilder is that people tend to stick to working during the week. Any time it’s bleeding outside of work it’s largely initiated by the individual. I think that has a major impact on making work-life balance achievable.
There are certain days or times that are busier than others, but as a company when we’re on vacation or when work is done, there’s not an expectation of emails being answered within an hour or anything crazy like that. That’s a great thing and I try to make sure that if I’m sending emails, I don’t expect that my team will answer immediately.
For me personally, my days might be jam-packed with meetings and discussions but I try to keep it within the work day and that enables me to spend time outside of work doing the things that I love with the people I love.
CB: You bring up an interesting point that, as a leader, if you set the example of ‘I’m not going to be responding to emails at all odd hours of the day’ and set the expectation for my team to do that, that’s huge. If you feel like your boss is online the entire time, there’s a certain amount of pressure you feel to respond in a timely fashion.
HG: I actually am online a lot largely because I don’t ever want to be a bottleneck. I want to be able to respond to people quickly, but I don’t think there’s ever been a time ever where I’ve said, ‘I can’t believe you didn’t respond to my email in an hour’ or whatever. I’m just a terrible sleeper because I start the day early so I do check and respond to emails at all crazy hours.
CB: We live in a 24/7 technology-driven, plugged-in world where you have your phone handy even on an airplane, for example, which was inconceivable even a few years ago. Do you feel even more pressure to be connected (“I have to be on because everyone else is”) or is it something you take on by choice?
HG: I think it’s a good thing. I work from home, which is not usual, so it’s important for me to be accessible to other people. There are video chats and many other options that enable people to live where they want to live and [still attend] parent-teacher conferences or doctors’ appointments or whatever. I don’t think that’s nearly as disruptive because of all the capabilities that our connected technology affords.
CB: Did you take time off (maternity leave) after your children were born?
HG: Oh sure, the full maternity leave [available].
CB: What was your life like during that transition coming back? What’s your advice to other women taking time off and transitioning back into the workforce?
HG: I think it’s important to take the time if your company offers it. Some people feel they have to come back in six weeks, but if you’re known for creating value, people can tolerate you being gone for the full 12 weeks of maternity leave [that CareerBuilder offers] because they know that when you get back — even if it’s different projects because certain things happened while you were gone on maternity leave — they know you’re going to come back and add value with whatever the next important thing to accomplish is.
The other thing about being a leader, and this is also a secret to productivity, is you’ve got to have a team of people that can rely on one another and cover for one another because everyone is going to have situations — whether it’s maternity leave, a health issue, a parent issue — there’s always the potential for something to be disruptive in your life that’s going to take you away from work. But if you have a team of people that’s supportive and capable, it doesn’t matter and it’s not that disruptive.
CB: That’s a good point about teamwork and having each other’s back. Do you have any other productivity tips that have worked well for you?
HG: I used to do one-hour one-on-ones with my direct reports and that was our time to catch up with issues, make sure we were communicating what was most important and I actually cut that back to 30 minutes and I have found that time restricting it to 30 minutes forces both of us to focus on the most important things.
I’m also a stickler for agendas. I think that anybody requesting a meeting or hosting a regular meeting without a clear agenda — what’s intended to be accomplished or decisions that have to be made during that window — I find it disrespectful if they don’t have that, so that’s something I try to model and I expect from my team. I make a point of mentioning it every time there’s a meeting requested if there’s no agenda. That’s the only way everybody has a chance to be productive and have their time used in the best possible way and for people to opt out and say, ‘You’ve got this covered.’
Sometimes there are people who want senior people in the meeting maybe because it’s an important decision or they don’t want decisions to be second guessed. But if it’s not critical for me to be in the meeting, I have enough trust and confidence in the decision-making capabilities of my team that if they need to need to loop me in after the fact because there is an unresolved issue that they will do that, and that I don’t have to be present in every single meeting.
You only have 40 hours in the week — you’ve got to make sure you’re making the best use of that time.
CB: Some CEOs are taking steps to ensure that their workforce sticks to a 40-hour work week — that will assist with work-life balance and being more productive during the 40 hours.
I think it’s good; it helps people to hold each other accountable — let’s make our working time as efficient and productive as possible and then have a life outside of work. I’m also an avid reader, so having the time outside of work to read things that are inspirational to you personally or that give you the opportunity to learn how things are working in other companies and other businesses — that’s a very valuable use of time, and it’s hard to make time for that within the 40-hour work week, but then you could be bringing those ideas into the next 40-hour work week.
CB: What tips do you have to help other working parents maintain a healthy work-life balance?
HG: This is not a revolutionary tip, but it’s one that rings true for me: I make sure that everything I’m going to do during the day is in my calendar. [For example, if] I’m going to go to my son’s school for an event in his classroom, I’ll block out that time; I’ll block out the travel time. I want to make sure that I’m really intentional and [outlining] the day in the calendar helps me do that.
This is the third in a series of blog posts featuring CareerBuilder executives discussing everyday topics to help you live a better life both at and outside of work. Topics range from work-life balance tips to productivity hacks. You can read about secrets to a productive day here and secrets to a great morning routine here.