You Don’t Have to Give Up Your Career Ambitions For Your Personal Life. Here’s How to Balance Them.


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In a recent Reddit post, a woman solicited advice: She and her partner, a tech CEO, were expecting their first child. She had proposed to her partner to take four weeks of parental leave. He said it was impossible. The comments were unsurprising. Hire as much help as possible! Outsource everything! This is part of the package of marrying someone with that much ambition.

It got me thinking about whether career ambition and personal life are truly incompatible for entrepreneurs. Many of today’s professionals seem to think so. A 2024 Express Employment Professionals-Harris Poll survey found that one-third of employed U.S. job seekers (34%) report having to put starting a family on hold due to a lack of work-life balance.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Leaders are responsible for establishing clear boundaries between work and personal life. In my experience as CEO and founder of Jotform, I’m convinced that maintaining a work-life balance and knowing when to step back can help you do your job better — and make your company even stronger. Here’s why.

Related: 15 Ways to Better Manage Your Work-Life Balance as a Parent and Entrepreneur

Delegating makes your vision clearer and your workflows more efficient

Since founding my company, we’ve grown from one to 660 team members, with over 25 million users worldwide. At the same time, my wife and I have grown our family from zero to three children. I’ve learned invaluable lessons along the way. One that stands out occurred as we were gearing up to welcome our second child. I decided to take three full months of parental leave. I didn’t realize how much it would benefit my company, too.

Tasked with delegating almost every aspect of my job, I had to take a step back and analyze my workflows. It helped me to spot unnecessary steps and tasks that could be automated or eliminated. It also made it clear that I was handling tasks that could be better and more efficiently handled by other team members. Our director of product design, for example, took over private messaging design reviews of product changes — and was able to dedicate even more time and attention than I had been able to.

I also instituted the habit of reiterating our company vision during weekly all-hands meetings, sharing forthcoming updates and plans and connecting shorter-term team goals with our greater mission. This helped keep team members’ eyes on the prize while I was away and made daily tasks feel more meaningful. In fact, research shows that ensuring employees feel valued and core to the company’s vision is a “significant driver of reported increases in revenue.” It’s a benefit I wouldn’t have discovered had I not handed over the reins.

Related: The Ultimate Guide To Achieving Work-Life Balance

Prioritizing your personal life sets a strong example — and attracts talented people

People no longer want to work for aloof, unrelatable leaders — nor do they want to watch unrelatable protagonists. This year, a survey commissioned by think tank New America found that 84% of U.S. adult streaming viewers wanted to see more depictions of work-life balance (as well as gender equity and family caregiving), so much so that honest depictions drove viewership and engagement.

The takeaway: People are more interested in experiences that resonate, rather than impossible aspirations. That’s why I regularly talk and write about my trials and tribulations with finding a work-life balance. I want our team members to know that I understand the challenge of carving out time for their personal lives, but that I also think it’s essential for long-term personal and professional growth.

What’s more, research shows that today’s talent pool cares about work-life balance — even more than compensation. This year, a study by Randstad of over 27,000 workers across Europe, Asia-Pacific and the Americas found that whereas 57% of workers would not accept a job if it negatively affected their work-life balance, 55% would decline if not offered significantly higher pay.

Bottom line: Leaders who value their personal lives signal that they also care about their employees. Leaders who don’t risk losing out on large swaths of potential hires.

Related: Work-Life Balance Is Possible — And It’s Not as Hard to Achieve as You Think

Work-life balance reduces job hopping

It’s no secret that the economic climate is challenging for job seekers and employers alike. Nevertheless, the Randstad study found that 37% of respondents would consider quitting if asked to spend more time in the office. This is a critical insight for leaders as they rethink WFH policies as we transition into another “new normal.”

Some experts, like Stanford University economics professor Nick Bloom, say, “Return to the office is dead.” But I think the reality is more nuanced. Returning to the office isn’t necessarily the problem. It’s giving up the work-life balance that felt somewhat more attainable when no one was going to the office. To keep employees satisfied and keep job retention from plummeting (and also, prevent quiet quitting), it’s important to demonstrate your commitment to work-life balance even if employees are returning to the office.

At Jotform, employees are back in the office five days a week. But we also encourage managers to be flexible with personal life requests and responsibilities. We have a clear communication policy — except for emergencies, employees are not expected to be available around the clock. We want everyone to have rich personal lives and sufficient time to pursue their non-work interests. With explicit examples of how to prepare for vacation (communication, preparation, delegation), team members feel comfortable fully checking out during time off. These practices have helped our company’s continued growth, even as we transition to fully in-office work.

There’s no hard-and-fast rule, no precise percentage, for striking the right work-life balance. It depends on each employee and company. It’s a bit of a push-and-pull for every team member. The best a leader can do is to make it clear that career ambition and personal lives are not diametrically opposed. You don’t have to choose between family planning and productivity. If the right practices and procedures are in place at the office, both can be priorities.

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