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Is work-life balance a one-way street?


Saskia Schwarze
13 September 2022
Career at Swisslog Healthcare
Reading Time: 5 min.
Everyone is familiar with the traditional idea of work-life balance: work and personal life should be in harmony. This can be difficult for many employees, especially when not only their personal lives, but also their family lives, must be balanced with their work. But who is responsible for ensuring that these two aspects of life are aligned and do not conflict with one another? How do Swisslog Healthcare employees combine their personal and professional lives?
Illustration of Work Life Balance

Julia Kahraman, Head of Marketing EMEA/APAC & Global Brand and Communication Manager, shares her thoughts on work-life balance. Spoiler ahead: her view differs a little from the theoretical understanding of the concept.

Julia, you are the Marketing team leader at our organization. Many people do not know that you are also the mother of a kindergartener. What is your experience with the two roles?

My former employer told me shortly after the birth of my son that certain projects were better suited to colleagues who did not have a double responsibility. I had never asked for such a “relief”. Yet, it did show me that there are perspectives within the company that I struggle to connect with my inner feminist.

In short, it's not about juggling roles for me, but about how open my company is to my family life model, which defies traditional role patterns.

Mother and son at the beach

Genuine feedback: Where do we stand at Swisslog Healthcare in terms of work-life balance, and how much do we foster the compatibility of job and family?

At the risk of being digressive, I'd like to openly respond to the question. I'm annoyed by the buzzword bingo, which offers everything from work-life balance to balancing career and family to female leadership. None of this is wrong. The theory is thoroughly worked out, and there are ideas and instructions for action.

Anyway, I dare to claim that juggling a work and a family is misleading since it is conceptualized as a one-way street. Can we take on a position and expect a family to adapt to the circumstances?

This specifically raises the following concerns for me:

  1. Why is the job listed first?
  2. Why do we seek to connect a job, a role, with a community, a family?

 

Compatibility of family and employer would be a lot more suitable in my opinion. The emphasis in this formulation is on two complementary communities. It's vital to me that my family maintains an open culture of conversation, accepts different points of view, does not live a gender-specific role model, and looks out for one another—and I want the same from my workplace.

With the birth of my child, it became clear to me that compatibility also means that there is an intersection of family and employer-related views. Instead of a match based purely on talents and job description, the end result is long-term mutual commitment and understanding.

Julia Kahraman

To what extent do you believe we as a company align with your personal values? Is this a balanced match for you?

I'd swipe right instinctively. As a member of the leadership team, I am probably not the best person to take a legitimate stance on the openness of our conversation culture, because I can only speak for all employees to a certain level.

Within my team, however, I can confidently state that there are no topics on which we avoid open discussion. It's particularly important to me that every team member, whether a intern or a Senior Marketing Manager, is willing to discuss openly about difficulties as well as new ideas. That often means disagreeing with me. As we know from home, expressing different points of view can also open the door to conflicts. This is beneficial to everyone on the team, including me, because it lets us grow. We learn to put ourselves in the shoes of others, which is a key skill in marketing.

Defining role models based on talent rather than gender takes me back to my inner feminist, and to clarify, I do not preferentially look for women. I also do not preferentially hire parents. However, I would not hire someone who thinks female coworkers are less competent than male coworkers or who believes parents are less capable on the job.

My biggest interest is my colleagues' mindset and whether they add character traits to the team that we haven't yet covered. Is this consistent with the values of Swisslog Healthcare? Definitely. Fortunately, due to males on parental leave, women in management positions, and, most importantly, a well-thought-out and adaptable SMART Work program, this is not even a topic that needs to be explained in such a long paragraph.

Where do we have room for improvement?

For a company of our size and with a mechanical engineering background, I believe we are already a big step ahead with our SMART Work program, strong performance management, and flexible office formats.

In the future, I want us to have an even more flexible job profile. I’m not thinking of engineers working as designers, but the possibility of a lateral move as part of personal development.

Why can't someone from field sales work in a different area, such as recruitment, if their family situation changes? They do have the core competency of persuading people. Tools and processes are always new and can be learned.

Before you started your purple journey you worked at KUKA. Why did you switch from KUKA to Swisslog Healthcare?

Pure gut feeling, which was reinforced by two situations I encountered prior to my change:

  1. Instead of questioning whether I could handle the forthcoming work while being a mother, I was asked in what ways Swisslog Healthcare can support me.
  2. I got to know the product development team for software and application. Both Product Management and Development teams were led by women. To this day, I’m proud to be working for what appears to be the only company with women in top roles other than HR and Marketing. I never imagined I'd be influenced by role models, but I am.

 

Thank you, Julia, not only for your time and insight into your work and private life, but also for inspiring us to reconsider traditional concepts.

Do you want to be a part of our team? Discover more about Swisslog Healthcare as an employer and our open positions.

About the author

HR Manager Northern Europe & GCC Saskia Schwarze is in charge of all people and culture issues in her segment. She fosters the development of our employees so they can grow and become more and more successful and satisfied in what they do.


More about Saskia Schwarze
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