Forget work-life balance. Think work-life integration

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Triple Aim CIO Interview with Igor

A conversation with Paul Brady, Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Arbella Insurance Group and Enterpriser.

THE ENTERPRISERS PROJECT (TEP):  A lot of IT executives struggle with work-life balance. You were brought in to help turn around IT at Arbella and yet you have a young family. How do you manage it all?

BRADY: I read an article recently about work-life integration, and they referenced it in a negative light. I see all this stuff that constantly talks about how we’re always attached to our BlackBerrys or iPhones and how that’s a bad thing. I won’t disagree that there are negatives, but I look at it from a positive side. I think that work-life integration—to use that buzzword—provides an opportunity to still be productive, to still serve as a CIO, to still be a part of the executive team, but without sacrificing your family and your other commitments. Does that mean you have to maybe look down at an email during your child’s sport events? Yes. But does it mean you’re actually at the sports event instead of sitting at your office until ten at night? Yes.

TEP: So you’ve made peace with the intrusion of work technology into personal life?

BRADY: I would say ‘merger’. Technology has pushed work into our personal lives but at the same time provided us with opportunities to get home at 5:00 or 6:00 at night and have dinner with our families. And then you can remote in after hours, or you can catch up on your email on your phone while you’re watching TV. So is that better or worse than being in the office until 10 or 11 at night? Personally, I think it’s better. At least I’m sitting on the couch with my wife and we can both take a pause and talk.

I would say 20 years ago executive CIOs—whatever the level—would be in the office until 9, 10, or 11 at night more frequently than they are today. We definitely have merged our work life into our personal lives, but we’ve also done the same with our personal life. I come into work Monday, Wednesday, and Friday after I drop off my daughter at school, but I check my emails before I go in on my iPhone. It’s not a bad thing. I think it’s a better reality. Personally, we have three children all under the age of four, and I missed one doctor’s appointment during my wife’s 122 weeks of pregnancy. You have to make your own work-life balance, and it does mean you sacrifice some things, but I think technology has enabled us.  

TEP: With that being said, what do you think of a recent piece called Should CIO Be a Part-Time Job? This article makes the case for a new ‘CIO and­–’ position, like CIO and SVP of Operations, for example.

BRADY: I’m not sure if I should be concerned about it or not. Formally I wear one hat, but informally I think I’m responsible for running an organization. I’m not the CFO, but I look at my IT organization as if I am. I’m not the COO, but I look at my IT organization as if I am. I try to run my IT organization as if it’s my own company. I can see the ‘CIO and–’ idea happening at other companies, but I hope that the CIO is showing their value and showing their contributions to the extent that their role isn’t going to go away. Maybe they’ll take on more responsibilities, but I don’t see them moving into an infrastructure and operations role. If they do, they’re not going to have a seat at the executive table anymore.  If they’re simply running the infrastructure and the operations, that’s not a C-level position, in my opinion.

To find out more about work-life balance, read this free Harvard Business Report, "Make Time for Work that Matters."

Paul’s responsibilities at Arbella span infrastructure, application development and IT core services. Paul previously spent 10+ years at Liberty Mutual where he was the Senior Director of IT. He has particular expertise in the design and delivery of cost-effective, high-performing information technology organizations accountable for providing applications and infrastructure to support business strategies. 

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