This is my public service announcement before the fall semester kicks off: Please, exercise your best judgment regarding work/life balance. In higher education, especially student affairs, we will often end up working evenings and weekends. However, as many others have reiterated, we need to take care of ourselves so that we can serve others to our best ability. Here are a few of my thoughts and life lessons regarding work/life balance:
- When You Go Home, Go Home:
Once upon a time (aka a year ago), I started my job as an advertising consultant after working in student affairs during graduate school. During my first week of work, I kept checking my email after I had went home for the evening. To my surprise, I did not receive a single email.
Later in the week I mentioned this to my supervisor. He stopped, looked at me, and bluntly stated “We pay you from 9 to 5. When you go home from the night, go home for the night. Seriously, go golfing or something.” I was in shock. It immediately occurred to me that working in student affairs had conditioned me to believe that I was always on the clock, and needed to respond to things as quickly as possible.
I never checked my email after work for the duration of working there, and even now I rarely respond to an email after I leave campus. Sometimes we leave campus but don’t really leave campus. Every once in a while, we need to set our smartphones down and walk away slowly. Maybe go golfing or something.
- Develop a Culture that Values Work/Life Balance:
Throughout graduate school, I was used to the other staff and graduate assistants answering and sending emails at all hours of the day and night. We would stay late at events even though we didn’t even need to be there—mostly out of social expectation of peers and superiors alike. At one point, the graduate assistants would talk to each other like the vultures from the Jungle Book:
Graduate Assistant #1: It’s 10 pm and the event is wrapping up, should we head home?
Graduate Assistant #2: I don’t know, what do you want to do?
Graduate Assistant #1: I don’t know, should we go home?
(This cycle is rinsed and repeated at least three times.)
When I started at Benedictine College, I expected the same thing to happen. However, my coworkers and supervisors encourage a healthy work/life balance. We may scurry around campus documenting events and diligently design marketing materials, but the expectation is set that we take care of ourselves when needed.
It isn’t a policy, it isn’t a verbal dictate; we hold each other accountable for self-care and life balance. How will you hold your colleagues accountable?
I will fully admit that I tend to be pretty stressed out—I work full-time, balance a plethora of personal commitments, and I’m currently planning my wedding. However, I put my weekends to good use—I reboot and recharge. I reboot by picking outfits for the week, meal planning for the week, and cleaning my apartment. I recharge by going to Mass and going to Vinyasa yoga every week.
I’ve learned the value of having a routine of self-care. I don’t have time during the week to do certain things, so I make time for them on Sundays. I set the foundation for my week, so that I’m able to efficiently go through my week with fewer chances of getting overwhelmed. Everyone has different responsibilities, so I challenge you to find one or two things a week that help you set a solid foundation as you move throughout your day or week.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Conor McLaughlin on SA Work-Life Balance