To recruit and keep the best talent, you need a culture that engages employees and encourages them to have a life outside their (remote) offices.

That was the heart of Santiago Jaramillo’s advice from our last Unvalley virtual conference. 

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Santiago is the CEO and co-founder of Emplify, an Indianapolis-based company that helps business leaders and HR leaders create better, more engaging workplaces. Our Unvalley attendees got to ask Santiago questions about how leaders can support workers in their quest for work-life balance in a remote world.

Quoting leadership coach Jerry Collona, Santiago said, “Good leaders need strong backs and open hearts.” They need the ability to connect with people and lead authentically, but they also need to practice fiscal responsibility and make sure roles are well-defined.

For today’s employees, having meaning in their work is also critical. Workers want more than just a paycheck, so tech leaders must help employees connect with why their work matters in the world. 

Here are some quick work-life balance tips for tech professionals and managers:

  • Map out time on your calendar for work – but also for social time, exercise, hobbies, and family.
  • Schedule recurring social activities, like a regular dinner with friends or a book club. 
  • Even if you’re working remotely, plan what your working hours will be and stick to that schedule. At the end of your work day, close your computer and walk away.
  • Don’t have enough PTO for a week-long vacay? Take a day off mid-week, or plan for a long weekend.

Get more tips and ideas for promoting work-life balance in the full Q&A session with Santiago.

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How to Balance Work and Life in a Remote World

What are the benefits that remote first cultures have over in person first cultures? And how can companies make sure they maximize those benefits? 

Yeah, it’s a great question. And thanks for having me, Matt, loving the events and what you’re doing powderkeg? It’s a fantastic question. So the obvious benefit is, companies hit the ground running that had remote work. First, they found that ways to synchronously collaborate and communicate and they were very ready. for for for this challenge. I think some of the benefits we spoke about earlier is that true clarity on outcomes versus output, it’s less about the time spent in front of the desk and putting in FaceTime at work. It’s a lot more about what are the results and clear outcomes. And so we find that some of the benefits of remote first culture sometimes tend to be clarity on the scoreboard, and a deeper emphasis on a really great strategy building process that creates true alignment, and clarity of what success is. 

Maintaining Human Connection in a Remote Workplace

There’s obviously, I think one of the challenges of remote workforces is the human connection. I don’t know about you, but if you remember, like in the first five minutes of most in person meetings, there’s this banter, there’s this human element of like, hey, how is your computer has your kids and for whatever reason, zoom or hop in or Google Hangout or whatever, it seems to sort of get us down to business and have very transactional meetings right away. Sure. And, you know, we like to think many times, especially in tech, that, that we think of humans is like, primarily intellectual and rational creatures, that at times behave emotionally. And the reality of human nature is that we’re actually like, deeply emotional beings that civilizations has, at times helped us think rationally and logically, and that human connection really matters to too many people, especially extroverts, they’ve been really hit hard.

This year, folks, they get a lot of their life energy from interacting with others. And we know that so much of communication is nonverbal. And in a lot of that can get lost with the poor connection or lack of video. excetera just the feedback is, is very, you know, very different if we were in person and be, you know, drafting off all of your energy. And right now, the attendees are, you know, a question in the chat box, right. It is, it is it is different, right. It’s juggling a lot. Sorry. No, it is. I was just wrapping up. Yeah.

So I know we have a few more questions coming in. I personally want to know, and I’ve heard this a lot. And I’m just curious, what, what things can leaders do to put their employees or their team members in a position to succeed? is there is there for a formula that you utilize to do something like that?

How Leaders Help Employees Succeed


That’s a great question. I think, from a leadership perspective, it’s kind of a leadership answer and a management answer. From a leadership perspective, You know, I’m a big fan of Jerry Colona, his company that he co founded called Reboot, and it’s kind of leadership development and he talks about the definition, kind of the definition of a leader. Two important qualities, central qualities of a leader are a strong back and an open heart. Strong back, open heart. If you’re an open heart, but not a strong back, people, you’re gonna have really great people connections, great loyalty, but representing the business side and getting things done might be difficult, and the other way around, if you’re strong back and you can make good decisions on the business side, but don’t have a heart, For people that that, that can be challenging as well on the other end, so I love that definition, of those two things needing to be present at the same time the strong back of a leader to make difficult decisions that many times leaders need to do with an open heart. 

And a different way of doing that is the Marines. Some, some groups in the Marine talk about “Mission first, troop always.” This idea that the mission of the mission is really important in central but the troops always matter. So what do you do when there’s a man, you know, in the field and do go back for them and, and, you know, the risk of the mission, etc. So I think from a leadership perspective, as balancing those two things that I’ve realized that many leaders come at it naturally from one way or the other, some have open hearts, and they need to grow in their back strong back and then others. You know, the opposite way from a management perspective, is making sure that the role is defined clearly that the person has the skills and resources to be able to do the job, that the results and outcomes are clear, and that they’re having regular one on ones to keep communication flowing and adjust the process along the way.

You know, I think a different way to describe this, as McKinsey has this model of the progression of leadership through the ages. In the industrial revolution, you just had to have IQ, that was all you needed. You just needed to organize bits and pieces and resources and people into predictable business outcomes. You just need an intellectual quotient.

Changes in How Leaders Lead

In the 1960s, the frontier of leadership, not only became IQ, but also became EQ, emotional quotient, you had to have some amount of emotional intelligence to be a good leader, a good manager. 

And now the frontier of leadership is MQ, meaning quotient. So how does a leader create a sense of meaning in the work itself? How do how does a leader help a person who’s toiling all day in front of a screen, let’s say, connect to why that work matters more than just a paycheck. We want we as humans want to work for more than just a paycheck. And that didn’t always used to be the case. 30 years ago, people stayed 30 years at GE GM, for job security and a pension. And now people rate leadership and management growth opportunities and work life balance is all more important than paying compensation. 

I’m not saying that pay doesn’t matter. But I’m saying that most people will leave a good paying job and take a small pay cut to go do work they love. Sure. And that is a new phenomenon that’s really been happening the last 10 years, you can see that in Millennials. Millenials have an average of 1.8 years per job before they switch, because they’re looking for their work to be more than just a paycheck. They want their job to have a deeper meaning. Because the many reasons and we’re not going to get into what makes millennials, millennials, and what motivates them. But I think those are some of the interesting elements around this question.

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