Finding Work-Life Balance as an Engineer and a Dad

Posted June 3, 2019 by Radford Tam in Engineering
Justworks has several policies that help working parents (and other team members) find more work-life balance. Engineering Director Radford Tam shares what it means to him.

Video conferencing for a meeting can sometimes be fraught with problems. The audio could be too quiet, your internet connection could cause the video to be choppy, and your video feed might even freeze up. Sometimes the video conference software you use could be confusing.

But a few months ago I encountered a very different type of problem. My three-year old son decided to climb onto my lap and insisted on putting his sunglasses on my face.

New York City was expecting a snowstorm and it was announced in the previous evening that schools would be closed in anticipation of the snowfall. This immediately meant that either my wife or I would have to stay home to take care of our son. Having small children at home often means that you need to take a day off or work from home with very short notice. Kids can get sick, their school might close or have early dismissal for the day, or their babysitter or nanny might be unavailable. I have two small children at home, and at least once a month, I would need to either take a day or two off, work from home, or leave work early to take care of them.

Thankfully, Justworks has several policies in place that help working parents (and other team members alike) find more work-life balance.

Workplace Flexibility at Justworks

"Justworks helps me be a better parent... and in many ways, I think being a parent has helped me be a better engineer at Justworks as well."

In a 2017 survey, we found that 42% of employees would actually take a lower-paying job if it meant greater workplace flexibility. Work flexibility isn’t just good for team morale, it also helps companies attract and retain talent.

But allowing flexibility isn’t just a matter of company policy for Justworks. Justworks has built a culture that puts people first, which means my coworkers here are all very accommodating to each other’s personal and family needs. It means that when my team sees my three-year old son in a video conference meeting, they laugh and say hi to him. After all, everything that we’ve accomplished here comes from the people. We are not only colleagues, we are also friends who care about each other. We even have a Slack channel dedicated to sharing pictures of each other’s babies.

My colleague Paul Russo, a software engineer here at Justworks, also appreciates the culture of flexibility:

“I think the schedule flexibility is what has the greatest positive impact on me,” said Paul. “Having twin boys in the second grade, I couldn't imagine not being able to walk them to school before a day’s work. As a dad, it’s probably the single best thing I get to do on a regular basis.”

paul russo and sons

Paul and his sons at the Justworks office on Bring Your Child to Work Day.

Working from Home

Working parents spend a lot of time and energy to make sure their kids are looked after while they’re working. This can mean planning for a babysitter or for someone to be at home on school holidays, or having to work from home unexpectedly.

The engineering team at Justworks is very flexible when it comes to working from home. As long as engineers are getting work done, and that they are available to conference in remotely for meetings, they are free to work from home.

For myself, as an engineering manager, it’s important that if I’m working from home, I am easily reachable to support my team. I have the Slack app installed on my phone, and I make sure to check it often if I happen to be away from my keyboard. My phone number is also in the company directory in case people need to text me or call me for urgent matters. I also make frequent use of video conferencing in order to attend meetings remotely if I’m working from home.

Taking a Day Off

Sometimes a child requires their parents’ full attention, especially when they’re sick. Justworks is very accommodating to these situations. We have a flexible PTO policy, and managers are all very understanding of unexpected family circumstances that require taking PTO on a short notice. A short email or Slack message usually suffices for someone to notify their team that they need to take the day off to take care of family situations at home. Meetings could be rescheduled if necessary, and the person’s immediate team members are always willing to fill in to do any work needed.

Justworks Culture

Justworks has a company culture that puts people first, and it comes from its leaders. Our founder, Isaac Oates, is motivated by the opportunity to elevate others and help them reach their potential. He sees Justworks as a company that helps its people discover and pursue their own potential.

For engineers and parents like myself and Paul, that culture offers many benefits.

“Justworks helps me be a better parent, because it's clear that the company culture understands the demands of parenting and is willing to have policies that work with those demands,” Paul said. “And in many ways, I think being a parent has helped me be a better engineer at Justworks as well.”

At Justworks, we try to ensure that our colleagues are provided with the freedom and psychological safety net for them to do their best work. This can only happen if they are empowered to take care of their own personal lives and put their families first.