Balancing Work and Life in the IC

November 5, 2020

From financial classes to farmers’ markets, the IC makes work-life balance work.

If you think the term "work-life balance" is a hollow cliché, you haven't met Jeanne Matotek.

Matotek and her staff of seven work 40 hours a week with a single goal: to provide programming, referrals and consultation to help employees achieve the work-life balance they desire.

"Our programs help employees integrate the dual agenda of individual and organizational success," she says. "We want people to come to work and be fully present and focused on the mission, not having to research childcare options."

Want to get a flu shot or fill a prescription? You can do it on campus at NSA. Do some banking or get a haircut? Check. Take care of your dry cleaning or renew your vehicle registration? No problem.

And this just scratches the surface. The list of amenities and programs for work-life balance in the IC is so long that it can't all be covered in this article.

Matotek works her magic at NSA specifically, but all other IC agencies focus on work-life with similar zeal. It's part of an IC plan to make sure all employees are happy, productive and fully focused on protecting the nation.

Let's start with flexible scheduling. Depending on which agency you choose, your program will offer different options. For Matotek's agency, employees can work four 10-hour days and have the fifth day off, or they can customize a schedule to make it fit their own lives.

What's certain is you won't be spending your evenings doing office work from your dining room table.

"Because much of the work done in the IC is classified, employees cannot take their work home," she explains. "This results in a much cleaner division of work and home. For the most part, when your work day is done, it's done."

To take advantage of those off hours, the IC offers free tickets to movie theaters, amusement parks, D.C. area museums and sporting events. That includes hot tickets to big games, like Baltimore Ravens games, which are strictly first-come, first-served.

"People line up to get them and when they're gone, they're gone" she says.

There’s also a farmers' market that sets up in the NSA parking lot in summer months with fresh produce, food trucks, honey, jewelry and a variety of other food and non-food items.

One of the most popular amenities is the fitness program, which allows people to visit the onsite fitness center for up to three hours a week. (Yes, you get paid to work out.) You can lift weights, run on a treadmill or take part in group fitness classes.

As every parent knows, it's difficult to juggle childcare and work demands. The IC has an answer to that. The childcare center at NSA is a thriving community of agency children in a facility that was once the largest childcare facility in Maryland. Parents simply drop their kids off when they arrive, pick them up at the end of the day … and visit whenever they want in between.

On the flip side, employees can take advantage of a dependent care program that helps them manage the challenging task of taking care of elderly family members.

"When you become a parent, you have nine months to prepare," Matotek explains. "With elder care, you have nine minutes if a family member falls and breaks a hip."

The agency helps employees quickly locate resources for elder care, provides a support group for those taking care of older relatives, and offers one-on-one counseling.

Agency employees can also take advantage of financial management classes and workshops.
"Most people did not get financial education in school," Matotek says. "Some didn't get it at home. So we help."

Example classes include budgeting, home buying and basic investing. The agency also hosts financial experts to give talks on finance related topics.

The benefits of financial management classes go beyond helping employees better manage their budgets. One of the primary drivers of espionage is money. Employees who find themselves in difficult financial situations are more susceptible to bribery than those who are financially fit.

All these work-life programs and so many more in the IC help improve workplace productivity, reduce absenteeism and empower recruitment and retention. They are part of a culture that reinforces work-life balance from the very top.

"Our leadership encourages people to take time with their families, and they walk the talk," Matotek says. "A lot of them tell personal stories about their families and the importance of family."

If work-life balance is important to you, check out our Careers section to learn how your skills fit in the Intelligence Community.