From the Northeastern Section of the ACS, focusing on career management and development

December 2021
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Career and Personal Life Balance
Filed under: Position Searching, Mentoring, First Year on Job, Leadership, Mature professionals
Posted by: site admin @ 7:51 am

At a wonderful experience last week with two
dozen graduate school chemists, one of the
speakers, an expert in the field, spoke about
work/ family life balance.

This is a complicated subject that has as many
viewpoints as there are answers.  It is hard
to be an expert on all topics.  To say the least, I
learned a lot.

However, my only claim to this topic is as
one who has experienced it personally and
observed many others anecdotally (meaning
in partial context) and read deeply on the topic
(however only non-professional literature.)

In some contexts this is called the “2-body
problem” and in other contexts this is called
the “working care-giver dilemma.”  There are
common elements and many different elements
to balance in work/life, however, it is very
curious that most talks, books and articles
usually do not talk about both.

One did.  It may be worth sharing.

What balance is not…
an “equal balance of hours, activities, meetings”
a constant disciplined distribution each day
a perfect, one size fits all striving

The authors simplify the core of effective
work/life balance as achievement and
enjoyment.  These core elements answer
the question, ‘why?

Following this introduction to work-life
balance issues are comments on
 -  impacts of poor balance
 -  2-body problem considerations
 -  working care-giver considerations
 -  infringement of workplace into family

4 Responses to “Career and Personal Life Balance”

  1. site admin Says:

    Impacts of Poor work/family life balance:

    1.  Deterioration of personal health. Irregular routines,
    challenging deadlines, demanding clients leads to a
    general lack of attention on your health.

    You never fully appreciate your health until it’s
    gone and you’re suffering. The question is, how
    much do you have to suffer and how many signs
    and symptoms does your body need to give you
    before you’ll listen and take action?

    Some signs your body is not a happy bunny and
    you should start focusing more on your health:
    • Fuzzy head and spacey feelings
    • Cravings
    • Poor sleep
    • ‘Niggling’ aches and pains
    • Constant headaches
    • Digestive problems
    • Unwanted weight gain or weight loss

    It’s an age old battle - getting the balance in your
    work and life that creates the optimum experience
    for everyone.

    2.  Presenteeism
    From Wikipedia:
    “Presenteeism is the opposite of absenteeism.

    Presenteeism represents the problems faced
    when employees come to work in spite of
    illness, which can have similar negative
    repercussions on business performance.

    It can also refer to the expectation of
    employers for their employees to be
    present at work regardless of whether
    any work is available or accomplished.

    Presenteeism is widely thought to be
    caused by a fear of loss of income or
    employment on the part of the employee.

    Critics,…, allege that presenteeism has
    developed as a result of a gradual relaxation
    of employment protection laws and
    reductions in benefits, most notably sickness

    In the United States only half of workers
    have any paid sick days. Presenteeism can
    have catastrophic effects on a company’s
    output and can present hidden long-term
    costs, and can present wider social problems
    beyond the enterprise. An employee who
    arrives at work despite illness may only
    operate at a fraction of his or her normal
    capacity despite requiring the same
    expenditure in wages, social contributions
    and taxes as an employee operating at 100%.
    They may also be more prone to mistakes,
    and in the case of contagious diseases
    (e.g. Influenza), they may transmit the illness
    to fellow employees, causing a larger fallout
    in work efficiency.

    This …concept is considered one of
    the leading threats to employee efficiency
    and workplace safety. In the United States,
    one proposed response has been to require
    that paid sick and family leave be provided
    to all workers.

    In November 2006, San Francisco became
    the first jurisdiction to pass such a law.”

    3.  Overcommitment stress
    The “ideal worker” who is present and efficient
    100% of the time and has no family or
    responsibilities outside of work.  It
    is a myth.

    Employers and supervisors can conflict
    with other commitments in one’s life by
    requests or demands.  This can cause
    all sorts of things from the above two to
     -  road rage
     -  speeding and accidents
     -  taking sick days called ’sanity days
    for no reason other than avoidance.

  2. site admin Says:

    2-Body Problem Considerations

    You know this problem in modern American
    life where two people share their lives but
    have separate careers and career tracks.
    At one extreme they both go their separate
    ways and maximize each individual’s goals
    without consideration of the other, meeting
    when it is convenient for both.

    At the other extreme is total acquiescence of
    one for the goals and desires of the other.

    Another model for descriptive purposes is
    the leader/manager model, where both come
    together to form joint goals and responsibilities
    and support each other.
    It is dynamic, fluid and evolving over time and

    The ‘leader‘ is the partner who determines the
    location, time commitment, and short term

    The ‘manager‘ looks at the big picture , performs
    a “gap analysis” and formulates an integration
    plan to make things “enjoyable and achievable.”

    To help be successful, the ‘leader’ assumes
    responsibilities to maintain and strengthen
    the self-esteem of the manager. The leader
    needs to look out for and assist the
    motivation and personal development
    of the ‘manager.’

    Correspondingly, the manager assumes
    responsibilities to provide feedback, input and
    support for the leader to push ahead even
    when things become hard.

    Together, the successful couple overcome
    the 2-body problem with 4 essentials

    Back-up plans It is true that half the time
    things go according to plan, and the other
    half unplanned things happen. That is if
    you plan. This could be a ‘manager role.’

    Awareness- positive aspects as well as
    the negative things.

    Choice- ability to choose the lifestyle you

    Trust- in yourself and your partner in each
    others commitments. 
  3. site admin Says:

    Working Care-giver considerations

    Some thoughtful concepts can be found in
    an institutes’s blog on the topic.  It will be
    stressful if not impossible to

    impose” a work-life balance, or introduce
    it without consultation and co-operation
    (need for flexibility)

    assume you can target women with children
    or employees with elderly defendants

    limit flexibility to one element or another


    The working care-giver can be a single
    parent, a couple who care for children  or
    elder family members.  People in these situations
    might consider and work with their employer
    on the following

    1. Adapt your lifestyle to your needs and responsibilities

    2. Set personal and family priorities

    3. Share responsibilities, explore options and
    seek help

       - Taking care of the household, children, or
    parents should not be the responsibility of
    just one person.

    Find a sitter for your children, explore options
    for aging parents, and seek counseling for yourself.

    4. Avoid overbooking your time, commitments
    and responsibilities

       - Prioritize
       - Postpone
       - Delegate
       - Be less of a perfectionist on things that
    have small impact

    5. Develop regular motivator encounters
        - Incorporate breaks into daily and
    weekend routines for yourself

    6. Provide enough time or advance-time
    for important endeavors and activities

        - Avoid procrastination, it creates stress.


  4. site admin Says:

    Infringements of workplace into family life

    H. Mederer URI spoke of employer “creep”
    into professional lives. This can involve
    providing employees

    -personal laptops,
    -7×24 access to work and problems via
    electronic media and even
    -serving meals at the worksite to keep
    people on location.

    Employers of the future will need to plan
    for replacing you with a fully trained
    person. giving people time off to be with
    family members, participate in community
    involvements and relieve workplace stresses.

    Where the 20th century family emergency
    was child care which was a more regular
    and within reason schedule-able, the 21st
    century will have this and much more elder
    care which is much less predictable and a
    worsening with time scenario.

    Providing electronic tools will not be enough.
    Offering inducements to keep people on the
    job will be insufficient and more stress will

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