May 23, 2017

Figuring out how to be your best self at work and at home can be a tricky balancing act — but it’s a little easier when your employer is supportive. Athleta’s Sara Thompson took a minute to chat about work-life balance and share a few tips.

Tell us a little bit about your background and what do you for Athleta.

I’ve been part of the Gap Inc. family for almost 19 years, most recently as general manager of the Athleta store in Corte Madera, Calif., before I was promoted to my current job as area manager for Athleta in the Bay Area North/East. I’ve been married for 15 years and have two girls: Paige is 8 and Kate is 3.

What’s been your biggest challenge in maintaining work-life balance?

I think one of the most important parts of finding balance is knowing that it changes: There are times when I have to give more to work and there are times when I need to give more to my family. The challenge is knowing when to make that shift and making sure you have the support to do it.

Another challenge is being OK with not being “perfect” all the time. Sometimes, the laundry piles up and I have to order pizza for dinner. I’ve learned that I need to be OK with that, not beat myself up or feel like a failure as a mom or a person.

Has working at Athleta helped with that kind of flexibility?

Absolutely — I’ve always felt supported by my team and my supervisors to prioritize myself and my family. Some days I need to leave early to pick up my daughter from school or get to a soccer game, and I’ve never felt pressured or guilty about making those choices. It’s actually been the opposite: I’ve been encouraged to make decisions that are in the best interest of myself and my family.

What is it about the Athleta culture that makes balance possible?
The words that come to mind are uplifting, supportive, sisterhood, community. It’s a place where you can unapologetically be yourself, but also be inspired and pushed by those around you to be the best version of yourself. And it’s a place where we really get to know one another on a personal level. Our work selves are just one part of who we are; when we can see the whole picture of who someone is, we’re able to fully support what they need in order to achieve their limitless potential.

What’s your greatest accomplishment?
I’m really proud that wherever I am, I’m there 100 percent. When I’m at work, I’m 100 percent focused on my team and give my all to them. And when I’m at home, I’m 100 percent focused on my family. If I need to do work when I’m off, I try to make it quick and not let it take away from quality time with my girls. Work will always be there tomorrow!

Can you share your best tip for finding balance?
Make time for yourself. This is definitely the hardest thing for me, but I‘ve found that I’m my best self at work and at home when I take time to do what I love. For me, that’s running. If I can squeeze in a three-mile run before I start my day, I know it’s going to be a good one.


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