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Is Work-Life Balance an Unattainable Goal?

Balancing our personal lives with our countless professional obligations is one of the biggest challenges facing faculty, and striking this balance has become increasingly difficult, especially for women and people of color. While no one thinks they model balance well, we can all learn from one another in this journey. This New Faculty Orientation event provided an informal space for faculty at all career stages to share strategies that have worked for them to attempt to achieve this balance.

Prompts for Discussion in Breakout Rooms:

First Breakout Room Session

  1. Share one tip or strategy you have used to attempt to balance your many work responsibilities with your personal life. (These can range from significant changes to very small, incremental changes.) Summarize your tip at the end of this document.
  2. The past year, we have been faced with a global pandemic, increasing violence and discrimination against underrepresented members of our community, and a changing landscape for women and working parents. How do you, in the midst of emotionally taxing world events, attempt to navigate your professional and personal life while still maintaining some sense of well-being?
    Second Breakout Room Session
  3. For ~5 minutes, reflect on the tips shared in this event today that sparked your interest. Come up with a strategy for implementing one tip into your life over the next 30 days. What challenges might you face in this implementation? Share your reflections/plans with your group.

Tips and Strategies to Attempt to Achieve Work-Life Balance (from Prompt 1):

  1. Schedule non-work activities that you enjoy, use recurring meetings for social get-togethers, schedule time with family and friends.
  2. Schedule in time to walk or engage in some form of self-care.
  3. Flip your schedule: take a walk when you can (say: 2pm), enjoy nature, the sun, then work a little more at odd hours (say: 10pm) to make up for those 30-45 min when you enjoyed your walk. Tell yourself those 30-45 min were not a waste of time.
  4. Try not to answer email at night. Implement an email cut off time.
  5. Implement a no-work zone (Friday evening to Sunday morning or evenings).
  6. Go into the office for the full workday to create a separate space for work, so that work and home don’t mix when at home.
  7. Blending of work and home can be useful to do small home tasks as needed during the day.
  8. Find ways to engage with the groups etc who are trying to change/solve the issues that came to light during the pandemic–find one small thing you can change, where your action makes a difference.
  9. Share/be vulnerable with students so they feel like we are sharing these experiences together.
  10. Going to campus events has helped stay engaged with the campus community and can help with a sense of belonging.
  11. Define goals in work at home – what is essential for those goals? Say no to other things.
  12. If someone asks you to do something, don’t answer right away, sit on it, and ask yourself what will I be giving up to do this? There are plenty of ways to do service at Muhlenberg, so you can try and do something that is meaningful to you.

Resources on Achieving Work-Life Balance:

  1. This Inside Higher Ed article provides four strategies to attempt to recover from the burn-out experienced throughout the pandemic.
  2. The Commitment Inventory: Although this article is not specifically for academics, it provides a strategy for outlining, trimming, and prioritizing home and work commitments, with the hopes of finding time for all of the important parts of life.
  3. This Inside Higher Ed article provides specific strategies for faculty of color to attempt to achieve work-life balance.

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