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ARS Home » Plains Area » Bushland, Texas » Conservation and Production Research Laboratory » Livestock Nutrient Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #362599

Research Project: Improved Practices to Conserve Air Quality, Maintain Animal Productivity, and Enhance Use of Manure and Soil Nutrients of Cattle Production Systems for the Southern Great Plains

Location: Livestock Nutrient Management Research

Title: Balancing personal-professional responsibilities

Author
item Sengupta, Aditi - Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
item Waldrip, Heidi

Submitted to: CSA News
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/10/2018
Publication Date: 12/6/2018
Citation: Sengupta, A., Waldrip, H. 2018. Balancing personal-professional responsibilities. CSA News. 63(12):36-38. https://doi.org/10.2134/csa2018.63.1226.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.2134/csa2018.63.1226

Interpretive Summary: Technological advancements, such as email and cell phones, have provided employees with the option of staying connected to the workplace at all hours and every day. These days, "work" is no longer inaccessible after 5 pm or on weekends: many employees are theoretically “on call” all of the time. This connectivity may result in increased stress and burnout among professionals. The phrase “work–life balance” was coined to arrive at an unspoken rule that there must be an invisible middle ground where time is balanced between job-related activities and personal time outside of the office. However, this abstract concept of work-life balance fails to adequately acknowledge that work is a part of regular life, particularly for scientific professionals. To address this issue, five early career scientists were interviewed about their approach to work–life balance. We observed numerous central themes in the responses, which were largely focused on a few key points: 1) priorities, 2) flexibility, 3) time management, 4) self-bribery, 5) forgiveness, 6) communication, and 7) vacation days. While there is no “one size fits all” approach to attaining work-life balance, it can come with practice, adjustments, re-evaluations, and the specific phases of our careers and lives.

Technical Abstract: Technological advancements, such as email and cell phones, have provided us with the option of staying connected to work 24-7. Now work is no longer inaccessible after 5 pm or on weekends, and everyone is theoretically “on call” all the time. This has resulted in increased stress and burnout among professionals. The phrase “work–life balance” was coined to arrive at an unspoken rule that there must be an invisible middle ground of balanced time spent at work and personal time outside of the office. At best, this is a precarious balancing act that paints a lopsided picture, essentially making the statement that work is not part of regular life. Moreover, the pursuit of balanced personal–professional lives leads to perpetual exhaustion due to the underlying assumption of a feasible middle ground for “balanced individuals,” be it at home or at work. What is often not explicitly discussed is how this balance is achieved: what aspects need particular attention? Where is training needed? What can/should be adjusted as roles and responsibilities change both in an individual’s personal and professional lives. In this article, five early career members of our Societies were interviewed about their approach to work–life balance. The questions were directed to get a general sense of hours typically worked per week, availability of flexible work hours, work responsibilities (e.g., research, teaching, extension, and mentoring), and caregiving/parenting responsibilities. The respondents were also asked about the initiatives they have taken and support they have received from work and family. Finally, the questionnaire included initiatives that can be promoted by employers and professional societies to develop a healthy work–life balance. All respondents shared that personal and professional lives have to be emotionally fulfilling and intellectually satisfying. A sense of accomplishment and purpose of getting both little and big things done is critical whether at work or at home. The central theme of the responses focused around the following key points: 1) priorities, 2) flexibility, 3) time management, 4) self-bribery, 5) forgiveness, 6) communication, and 7) vacation days. While there is no “one size fits all” approach to attaining work-life balance, it can come with practice, adjustments, re-evaluations, and the specific phases of our careers and lives. The balance does not lie in getting everything done; rather, it lies in being smart and strategic about what gets done.