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KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: Today our guest is Jeff Long. He’s got two businesses: Midwest Chaplain Services and Empowering Life Decisions. He’s a workplace chaplain and a life coach, and our topic today is going to be “Work Life Balance for Owners and Entrepreneurs.” Thanks for joining us today, Jeff.
JEFF LONG: Thank you.
JIM WASZAK: So tell us a little bit -- How did you get in such a sort of unique and unusual niche here? I don’t know too many workplace chaplains.
JEFF LONG: Well, prior to starting the two businesses, I was for three years a full time hospice chaplain. And working with not only the patients, but the family members, I would be doing support or providing resources as a chaplain, but also, helping them in life coaching or maybe even what their work because what was happening at home was affecting their work and everything. That’s how I got it started, and I decided they would both work well as a niche.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: So what is the benefit of a workplace chaplain come in and talk to your employees?
JEFF LONG: Well for several things it reduces turn overs, absenteeism. Because they’re getting the support there at the workplace, the morale is better the teamwork. If you have a happy employee, you’re going to get more work done and more productivity. They’re going to also appreciate the management for providing that service to them.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: What does the service consist of? Because I’m picturing you in a little mini cathedral inside of an office building.
JEFF LONG: No. I wear Dockers and a polo shirt. We just go in. No employee is forced to have a conversation with us. We don’t preach religion or anything, but we’re there just to get to know them, to build their support trust. A lot of times the workplace chaplain replaces or supplements an EAP, which is employee assistant program. So a lot of times employees won’t call a number if they are in a crisis or needing to talk. Where with us, it’s confidential. We don’t talk to the management or the owners about our conversations.
For instance, say one of you -- Kevin, you have aging parents, and you don’t know what to do, or you’re needing to find a residential place. You might ask us, “Well, do you know of anywhere?” We can give you some resources. You can check out. You can do your own. Maybe one’s having end of life issues. Maybe hospice -- You may need to talk about it, but also need some resource available: We do that.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: You come into the workplace and basically whoever wants to talk to you -- Do they book a time to talk to you or do you come in and out like when we used to go to confessions?
JEFF LONG: Well, it depends on the employer -- how they want us in the company. A lot of times we can walk by their work places, stations. They have a moment. They’ll just say hello and talk a little bit or on break or lunch. But this takes care of the employees and actually their families too for 24/7. They can call us and schedule time to meet with us after hours.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: So you really develop a relationship with all the employees.
JEFF LONG: Right. It’s a trusting relationship you’re building with them.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: So let’s talk about work life balance. I know that’s something I struggle with. And everybody –
JIM WASZAK: If we could -- Before we get on with that, Kevin -- Excuse me for interrupting, but I did have one question based on what you just said.
You go in there with this notion, like you just described, people are having problem with a sick loved one or something like that. But if you go in there and people start telling you that there’s a management policy, that’s really problematic. Don’t you get caught in a dilemma where you should tell the management that this is an issue, but then you have the confidentiality with the individual? How would you handle something like that?
JEFF LONG: Well, that part, we would not break their trust or anything. We would listen to them hear what they’re saying, maybe ask them if they’ve done this, this, and this -- suggestions. Also, when we’re talking to the owners, or HR, or something, we can just say “Well, what are your issues?” and see if maybe they’re the same. And work like that.
JIM WASZAK: You have to kind of finesse it.
JEFF LONG: I’ll give you a totally different thing. It’s not with the work place, but hospice patients sometimes would talk to me about dying, but they didn’t want to talk to the family members to upset them. The family members would be telling me about the dying: that they didn’t want to bring it up the patient. I’m like you two just need to talk, and so work it out that way.
JIM WASZAK: Sorry, Kevin. Back to your question on the work life, because that is an issue.
JIM WASZAK: I’m assuming as a life couch you talk to a lot of business owners or entrepreneurs about how to balance the time they spend on their business and the mental energy they spend on their business versus being present with their families when they’re with their families and having enough time with their families. What issues do you see there? How do you counsel people in that department?
JEFF LONG: Well, initially, and first of all, the individual needs to have a change -- be willing to want to change. Because if they’re not going to want to do that, then you can do everything, talk all you want, or make a goal, and nothing’s going to happen.
But initially, they try various things: maybe allocating little extra time in the evenings or on the weekend for their family. Or say during supper hours the phone is on vibrate, or it’s in the other room; I won’t pick it up during my meal because even sometimes that takes away from your family time and your personal time. You can’t have a full conversation especially if you have teenagers because they’re constantly in and out of the house. Sometimes you need to have just those two to three minutes to talk to them and stuff: see what they’re doing, what’s going on with their lives.
Also, to have a plan set, write it down. Small goals like a week or two, then what you’re wanting in a month, three months, and what you’re looking at through your personal work balance in a year. Then discuss with a life coach how are you going to get to those goals: what are you going to do to make those goals happen? Like all of us, a lot of times there’s always one step forward two steps back. But it’s keeping the consistency with that. I would say the biggest struggle most of the individuals I talk with is because all the electronics today. It’s right there readily, so they have to do something to get that away from their hand or something before they can step aside to do the personal stuff from the work-related. Because if it’s right there, they’re more or less going to look at it or answer it or something.
JIM WASZAK: It’s very intrusive. It demands your attention.
JEFF LONG: Exactly. Exactly.
JIM WASZAK: Is there – can you give us a case study -- obviously no names or anything -- but someone that did make a change and what it took to actually accomplish the change.
JEFF LONG: Yes. I had an individual -- it wasn’t a business owner, but it was an employee – and it was one that went above beyond, but those are the kind business owners like because they’re 24/7 and about work. But because of his family life and his marriage, there was sort of an ultimatum. You need to have this, or we need to change something. So that was his motivation to start changing.
What he initially did is he would start not answering the phone during a meal. He also started scheduling at least one night a week -- whether it was during the week, usually during the weekend -- he and his wife would go out to week. And the phone would stay on vibrate in the vehicle at that time. But there was a lot of setbacks because the temptation was always there or – “I forgot to set it aside the phone.” But with him the phone would also be by the bed. So if he woke up in the middle of the night or if the light came on from his phone, he would be doing that. That would wake up or bother his wife. So he learned also how to go through the settings turn off the light and different stuff. Turn the phone upside down, so the flashing wouldn’t go on the phone. That part I don’t deal with: on the phone flashing.
But, yeah. It took I would say a good three to four months to get sort of in a normal pattern. But once he did, their relationship held. Plus, he felt a little better because he wasn’t as tired, and he wasn’t as stressful because he was doing a little bit of both it was personal stuff family stuff besides the work.
JIM WASZAK: I have to ask you a question, because this a topic that I think about at little bit. And as a little bit of an introduction, I was giving a talk once upon a time, and I said, “Today in the modern world we have so many ways to communicate. We’ve got cell phone; we’ve got voice mail; we’ve got fax; we’ve got email; we’ve got texting; in fact, we’ve got so many ways to communicate it’s made communication impossible.” And what I mean by that is people are so caught up. Everything is a text, or an email, or something that. I think we are losing something because we don’t have that personal communication where we see the body language and the whole thing.
Do you see a lot of that in your work coming up with people having those issues? Any other comment you might have on that?
JEFF LONG: Yes, and, also, I know I was talking with a family because their kids, especially at family gatherings, would talk to each other on the phone, texting instead of having an actual conversation or listening to the family traditions or stories. So in talking with this one family, this couple, they decided along with the other adult members of the families -- What they started doing at the family gatherings is they had a basket and everyone put their phones on silence and was put in a basket and was put under one of the adult’s chairs. No one was to get that until the adults were done eating so they had that talk. So just even two family dinners that was. Even the kids enjoyed it because they were paying attention. Also, the adults weren’t getting upset because the kids might be laughing, and they’re not included in it because they’re reading on the phone whatever they’re talking about. But it is because people don’t know how to have a conversation and relate to each other.
JIM WASZAK: I think that’s a big issue especially with the younger people.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: The thing that I struggle with as a business owner is I set my own schedule, and the business is right now doing well enough that I’m a nonessential part of it. But I’m in charge of all the business development. So there’s these limitless to do lists of opportunities. I’m opening up satellite offices in Elmhurst and Naperville right now, and there’s just so much to do there. But at the same time I can easily take a long weekend to spend time with the kids at any given time. So at any given week I have complete control over – “Am I going to make this a 5-day weekend, or am I going to work through the weekend?” And there’s a wide range of being somewhere between a workaholic and being a dad 24/7 that I could pick from.
That leaves me in a situation where when I’m with my family there’s stuff I can be getting done for work right now. I’m not always mentally present because I’m thinking about that. Then when I’m at work I’m like, “Well, the kids aren’t in school right now. I could be hanging out with them, and I’m here working. Am I doing the right thing? Am I missing out on--“
JIM WASZAK: So it’s like the grass and perpetually greener on the other side.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: Yeah. And there’s no right answer. There’s a movie about the making of the movie Mary Poppins; it came out a few years ago. I forget the name of the movie. But Colin Farrell plays the main character’s dad. For the first half to the movie, you think he’s the best dad ever because he’s cutting out of the work all the time and just playing with his kid. After a while he ends up losing his job, and then I think he just becomes an alcoholic. It becomes terrible. But when I was watching that first half of the movie, I was like, “Man, I need to be more like that guy.” Then in the second half of the movie you see: Well, you have to have some sort of balance there.
I always struggled not only with the time that I devote for family versus work, but mentally shutting down and enjoying family time rather than being stressed out or whipping out the laptop when the kids are off playing at the bouncy house; and I don’t feel like they need my direct attention. I’ll often pull out my laptop and work on my website a little bit. I’m trying to train myself when I’m home to be home; and when I’m at work to be at work. And then figure out the right schedule for that.
JIM WASZAK: Well, that’s the whole notion of being in the moment. What techniques would you recommend for accomplishing that?
JEFF LONG: I would ask Kevin initially -- Maybe say not 30 days, a month, but say look at four weeks. In four weeks you’ve got 20 weekdays: Monday through Friday. And you got four weekends: Saturday, Sundays. Out of that, during the weeks of a weekday, how much is family time and how much in those 20 evenings is work? And in those four weekends right now are work or family? And then just sort of see where you’re at right there. Is it half? And half is it majority of the work and less on the family or more on the family. Then decide how you want to go from there.
Because it looks like you mentioned that you can switch things around, so I would be in a session -- I would just be asking you to relate what are the numbers like. I won’t put you on the spot right now. But that’s what I would do to initially start from there. I would do small steps, because if you set a giant goal, it’s hard to keep; but do the little steps -- Like in the next four weeks this is my time and how much percentage I’m going to work; this is with the family.
JIM WASZAK: Drawing on that line, I remember when I was a kid. We always had things we did that they weren’t big deals. But now in retrospect I remember them so well.
Like back then when I was a kid, cars were a huge thing. On Saturday, you go into the city and the alley -- Everybody’s washing their car, tuning their car, changing oil. Now, cars are like refrigerators; it’s just like an appliance. But I remember things like my dad had his own business. He worked right by our house, but we’d go out in the evening. We’d take a ride and get a hamburger, or get an ice cream, or something, and those were great times.
I think maybe if you do spend time with them rather than do something where they’re doing it, and you’re still alone. Do something that you’re all involved with together. My dad --
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: Make it quality time.
JIM WASZAK: Yeah. My dad was great about coming up with stuff that -- We’re going to see this. We’re going to -- I don’t know. For whatever that’s worth. That’s just some of my experience.
JEFF LONG: And another thing an individual has to also consider is if they’re on call all the time. For being a chaplain, the various chaplains, we’re on call certain times. So then you also have to factor that in because you might not be able to have that certain time. So you have to consider that work time and not personal time.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: The success I’ve had in work life balance -- and I’ve got a long way to go. But what am I able to do successfully -- I’ll get up, because a lot of what I do involves networking. There’s a networking event every night, and there’s always something that I could be going to and cocktail hours and stuff. But I set a rule for myself: I’ll get up as early as I need to get up to go to coffees in the morning, but after I’m home by 5:30 every day; that’s kid time. If I need to go back to the work at 8:30 when they go to sleep, I’ll do that.
Sometimes I’ll pull all-nighters working. But 5:30 to 8:30 is every night; that’s kid time. Every once and a while I’ll make a sacrifice for that, but it’s rare. Then the weekends -- I don’t work on weekends.
So I’ve set rules for myself. You hear me complaining about work life balance, but I’m not working any more than anyone else. But I always had the opportunity to take off Monday and Friday, but when I do, I never enjoy it because I feel like am I letting my business slide.
JIM WASZAK: I’ll share another experience that relates to that: vacation. And I’ve learned eventually that taking the week or two-week vacation -- not the best thing. Yeah, because you get so relaxed, and you get so stretched out. I found I enjoy more a 3- or 4-day long weekend.
Maybe one thing you can think about doing is since you do have this flexibility, just figure maybe one day during the week I’m going to take off from 1:00 to 3:00. Then I’m going to take the kids to the pool; I’m going to go to Santa’s village; or I’m going to take them to a walk. Maybe that break will help you be effective in the business side. But I don’t know. I’m just -- It’s an interesting topic.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: The thing that spoke to me with what you were saying is figure out where you’re at and set – Figure out how many hours you’re spending now and maybe not take leaves like take Monday and Friday off all the time. But maybe say once a month I’m going to take a Friday off and spend time with the kids and just structure it in slowly so it’s not like you feel you’re being negligent in one area or another -- finding that balance.
JEFF LONG: I was hearing you say too that then you’re off, then you’re worried; you’re thinking about work or something. I always have to remind myself too and others, the only person -- Because a lot of people will say I feel guilty, and then I say the only person that can make you feel guilty is yourself really. Then I was told we have to give ourselves that permission to have that work life balance in our lives.
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Kevin owns O’Flaherty Law, a general practice law firm with locations in Downers Grove, Elmhurst, and Naperville, Illinois. O'Flaherty Law's attorneys have expertise in many areas of law including but not limited to divorce and family law; civil litigation; estate planning; business and corporate representation; commercial and residential real estate law; elder services, probate and guardianship; immigration; bankruptcy law; and dui, traffic and criminal defense.
Jim owns Success Enhancement, Inc., which is geared toward helping you solve management problems in a way that is fun and engaging by using improv comedy techniques and role plays.
Participants will see how to behave differently in the type of situation identified as an area for improvement.
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