January 1st came and went; many student affairs professionals assuredly made a resolution to achieve “life/work balance”.
Maybe the resolution should be reconsidered and clarified:
Do we actually work more/less than other salaried professions with comparable educational credentials? Teachers? Association executives? Nonprofit community leaders?
Are we looking at a definition of balance that is based on the myth of a 40 hour work week for those in salaried positions?
What is it that consumes our time? How could we approach our work differently to properly influence the lives of our students and complete the duties of our position in 40-45 hours?
In the course of your day, how much time do you spend on Facebook? Twitter? Walking to get coffee at the student union? How much time are you WORKING vs. BEING IN THE OFFICE/ON CAMPUS and what is appropriate in terms of expectations of WORK?
Do you fit in time during the work day to participate in professional associations? Listen to webinars, read journals, etc for your professional development?
Do you appreciate what is likely a good 20 days paid-vacation a year off between holiday breaks that many in the private sector don’t receive?
Are you happy in your work and willing to make the concessions of time and income to stay in student affairs? If not, what needs to change? If your skill set was applied in some other career would you work less/make more?
Does your environment feel healthy in general and is there a sense of collegiality and support for achieving the level of balance that works for you? If not, what needs to change?
In my dissertation research, one participant talked about an “integrated self” in her description of life as a student affairs professional. As a graduate student she knew that others around her saw her as inbalanced, but she believed in the work she did. She was partnered and had other things to do, but checking her email at 9 at night was something she believed she needed to do to maintain some sanity. Good or bad, she recognized student affairs was a profession that required her to integrate her personal and professional selves rather than hope they could remain compartmentalized.
There’s a lot of literature in student affairs and other professions that address productivity and issues with salary/hours work conflicts. There’s resources such as PayScale that can help you to understand salaries of professions and how we compare. Ultimately, student affairs is about reconciling expectations (of success, influence, economic security, etc.) with realities (we will often fail and be frustrated, we won’t be paid what we think we’re worth).
Additionally, the life/work balance we all want should be driven by our individual goals; not someone telling you what is and is not appropriate. If you are convinced that you’re off balanced because of what YOU believe to be your professional goals and values, then it’s time to reconsider the resolution to be more balanced and figure out what needs to change to allow it to happen.
What would life/work balance mean to you?