Here are three quotes on work/life balance:

· “Employers in the accounting profession have become more aware of the work/life issues that face their professionals and many have developed innovative and creative arrangements that can help employees balance work with their particular life situation.” – the AICPA’s Young CPA Network primer on work/life balance.

· “One thing that impressed me about this company was how long many people have worked here.” – a new executive hire in our sales department taking her maiden tour of our offices, upon being told I’ve worked for Practical Accountant for 10 years.

· “Leave [Alex] here. He can help us.” – my boss Howard, to me, nine years ago.

Firms have tried a lot of tactics to help staffers – at least those staffers they want to keep – balance work and life: flextime, work-from-home, perks like daycare and concierges. Good ideas, but don’t forget simpler ones.

Alex, my first child, was born two months after I was hired on this job. He was premature, weighed 21 ounces at birth, and was to spend all of the first year of his life in two different hospitals. The ordeal certainly introduced unexpected imbalances for my wife Jill and me.

Nor had Howard hired me, I’ve always imagined, expecting that within 10 weeks I’d disappear in the middle of afternoons for endless consultations with doctors, or have to dash out the door every night at 4:55 so I could have a few hours holding the hand of my baby the patient.

“Just call in, that’s all, if you can,” Howard said after one such afternoon.

Alex was about seven months old when I showed Howard his then-latest picture – cute baby, cuddly blanket, nasal-gastric tube – just before an editorial meeting, and as the meeting began I moved to put the photo aside.

“No, leave him here,” Howard said, setting the picture front and center on his desk. “He can help us.” I’ve never felt so needy as an employee as during that period, and never so valued as an employee as at that moment.

Sweet it would be to report that Howard’s creative and innovative – not to mention just plain nice – work/life policy regarding me continued to the end of my family’s struggles. His policies haven’t really had a chance to yet, however, since Alex has been diagnosed as autistic. You wouldn’t spend much time around Alex, his endless Elmo or his diet of crunchy crap interspersed with a cup of yogurt or a glass of chocolate milk (which he can finally mix himself!), without agreeing that I continue to have a complex job balancing my particular life situation. Most employees at my company, incidentally, still don’t know about Alex.

My situation, or one similar to it, as a landmine for a staffer’s future with your firm? Consider some of the recent findings of Easter Seals’ and Mass Mutual’s “Living With Autism Study”:  Nearly four out of every five parents of children with autism worry about their child’s future independence, employment, quality of life and financial well-being. Fewer than one in five such parents believe their children will be able to make their own life decisions, have friends, marry, ever have adequate insurance, or be valued in their community. I agree with all of the above. I also think that many special needs and other chronic pains in some lives carry similar weight.

I further agree with three more statements related to work/life:

· Some worries in life transcend the headache of running a practice in this economy. Economies get better.
· Some of your staff –you may not even know who – have worries capable of impairing, if not destroying, an employee. Don’t automatically be shy about offering help. Often, the worst thing about a bad situation is feeling alone.
· Probably nobody you want to keep would lightly dump a boss who’d do that with a child’s picture.

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