Photo courtesy of Brittany Palubiski
Most of us have found ourselves wishing, at some point or another, that there were more hours in a day. Between work, family, and (maybe) a little play, packing it all into 24 hours can feel like a tall order. And oftentimes, that prospect can feel even less feasible if you work for an employer that doesn’t get the meaning of work-life balance.
Thankfully for Brittany Palubiski, that isn't the case at her company. As an Assistant Director of Global Culture Transformation at General Motors, Palubiski is fortunate to work for one of the most family-friendly employers in the industry.
Under the leadership of Chairman and CEO Mary Barra, employees at General Motors are encouraged to grow their lives both professionally and personally; as one FGB’er put it, “Each manager I have seen here truly values work-life balance and understands that life is a part of work, and that we have families and commitments outside of the workplace.”
For Palubiski, that level of support is paramount in making a career that takes her across the Canadian border to GM’s Detroit headquarters each day. She recently shared with Fairygodboss just what that looks like, and how she gets it all done.
Who: Brittany Palubiski
What: Assistant Director, Global Culture Transformation at General Motors
Where: Detroit, Michigan
My alarm goes off. Ugh. I’m an avid “snooze button” enthusiast, so I hit it twice and wake up at 6:00 a.m., do a few quick stretches (years of tennis and dancing have now taken their toll on my 38-year-old body) and roll out of bed, cursing myself for day #450 that I didn’t get up early and run or do something mildly related to exercise.
Now that I’m ready, I grab my phone and check for any emails I may have missed overnight from my global team or anything urgent I need to attend to before I head into the office.
I forgot to pack my boys’ lunches last night (good intentions, right?), so I grab their Star Wars lunch boxes and do my best to quietly prepare so they can sleep a bit more until their dad wakes up. I’m lucky that my husband is an amazing partner. He gets the boys (ages 6 and 4) ready in the morning and I pick them up in the afternoon.
I give all three of my boys a kiss goodbye and am off to work. Shoot. I realize it’s recycling day and we haven’t taken our bins out. I run back inside and grab the heaping container that we said all week “we should probably take out” and bring it to the curb. I get into my car and realize my phone isn’t syncing to the Bluetooth, which can only mean I left it in the house. I run back in, grab it, and three more hugs before I’m on my way.
Coffee in hand, I make my way to the Canadian/US border. I live in Canada and commute my short nine miles to downtown Detroit, where GM’s Global Headquarters is located. The border is always a roll of the dice, and today, cars are backed up as far as I can see. I have a commuter pass, meaning I avoid some of the traffic, put on my favorite podcast of the week and sip my coffee as I wait… and wait. Thanks to the technology in our vehicles, I make a hands-free call to one of our HR directors. We are running a pilot of a workshop we’ve built on GM’s cultural behaviors at one of her plants.
Thirty minutes later, I have driven one mile but made it through the border and arrive at my parking garage. In about seven minutes, I’ll make it to the 35th floor where my office is.
I get to my office and do a quick email scan/reply and catch up with my team. They’re often facilitating various innovation and culture workshops across the company; however, today we have an all-team meeting, so most of us are in the office which is well-needed.
I head to the visitor’s desk to welcome some vendors we are working with to design a new leader development program. It’s a half-day session we are building to help employees “think customer” even when they can’t see the customer. We spend the better part of the morning talking through how our behaviors directly tie to our business results and our company’s vision of a world with zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion. Sessions like these where we are designing, ideating and building are my favorite.
I get a call from my daycare. They’re calling to tell me that my 4-year-old cut his hair with scissors while doing crafts. Perfect. He starts junior kindergarten next week so I’m certain this will be great for his very first school pictures. I text my husband and head back to my meeting.
I head to my team meeting. Our team’s work is very project based, so we are typically not all in the same place. Half my team runs human-centered design sessions. That can range anywhere from design-thinking sessions to cross-functional team integration sessions. Today, I provide a quick business update, then go around the room for the team to share headlines of the work they’re doing to inform and connect to the rest of the team. We end with drawing names to pair up as “party partners” – since we don’t see each other often, today the team agrees that we need to have a monthly team outing to team build and connect and have fun.
I head back to my office and inhale a handful of almonds. I have a meeting with a few of our senior leaders next, so I review the materials we sent them both last week in preparation. They’ve been working very closely with us on the cultural work we are rolling out across the company, and today we’re meeting to review the updated plan. Our first pilot of this work rolls out in one week!
I finish up with emails, pack up and head back over the border to pick up the boys. I fly through today and make it to them at 5 p.m. on the dot.
Thanks to the marvel of order-ahead groceries, I pull up to the grocery store and pick up my order. These time-saving exercises are a blessing. I try to find these wherever I can.
I unpack the groceries and, while cooking dinner, do one final scan of my emails to see if I missed anything late that would be easy to respond to. Once dinner starts, it’s my time with the boys. We eat dinner together every night, doing our best to talk about what we all did that day – lately it’s a bit of that, and a lot of “please finish your dinner!”
Tonight, it’s beautiful, so after dinner on the deck we go for a bike ride. My oldest just learned how to ride on two-wheels and our little one just got a new “big boy bike.” It’s nights and moments like these I do my best to remind myself of when an email comes in late in the evening, or I get a phone call. Some companies will take 24/7 from you without thinking twice. Before kids, I would have been on email all night long, neglecting my health, my husband, and my sanity. General Motors and my leadership, however has never — not once! — given me an impression that my family doesn’t come first. Quite the contrary. Now, I do everything I can to disconnect from work from the time I get home until the boys go to bed. The work will be there when they’re asleep, or better yet, tomorrow.
Time for our bedtime routine for the boys. Bath, PJs, toothbrushing and stories. I love how one sentence makes it sound so orderly – it can be chaos! Tonight, like many, the boys want a dance party. We put on our favorite playlist we call “fam jams,” and the boys run around the kitchen doing their best to get their last bits of energy out before bed. Usually I’m so tired by the end of the day that I just sit and watch and smile and take a picture or video. I can’t help but be energized by them today, even if only for a moment, so I dance along with them. After the second song, I end the party and get the boys to bed. My husband and I tag-team stories and the boys are finally asleep.
Tonight, I don’t forget lunches. I pack them quickly and head to the living room to catch up on some of our favorite shows with my husband. We should be picking out backsplash for our kitchen that has been pulled apart, but we don’t. During commercials, I fold the laundry that has been sitting in the dryer for 1.5 days and run another load that I can take out before we go to bed.
After falling asleep on my husband’s shoulder watching TV, he gently wakes me up and we head to bed. I’m a zombie at this point, so I pick out my clothes for the next day, check the calendar for what I need to be prepared for tomorrow, give the boys one last kiss and set my alarm (which will undoubtedly be snoozed again in the morning).
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