One of the last sessions I attended at CLA was part of the continuing series “Walking the walk, talking the talk”. In part III of this ongoing annual session, the speakers focussed on conceptions of work-life balance.
Being known as someone who (ahem…) often takes work home and continues to work on additional professional projects during evenings and weekends, I decided this session could be useful.
Three questions were addressed and brought forward for discussion in this presentation:
Q1. How can we define work-life balance? Is it important to agree on a definition?
Q2. There’s much talk of a “generation gap” among information professionals. How does this related to work-life balance?
Q3. What practical strategies should newer professionals consider in pursuit of work-life balance?
The session consisted of three panellists; all three are highly respected, experienced library professionals who have been in the field for quite some time. It did surprise me that the majority of professionals who attended the session were recent graduates and newcomers in the profession. To me, the issue of striking a work-life balance didn’t come at the very becoming of my career, but several years into it. It’s easy to make resolutions and set goals in the early years. You have less life commitments, endless amounts of excitement and energy, and overall, less responsibility (yes, I’m generalizing here). However, it is the professional who has been working for several years, through their mid-career development that requires the skills and the tools for striking a work-life balance. In some cases, it is during those years that we need to hear that it is okay to strike that balance, to let ourselves go on vacation without bringing our work with us, or to let ourselves leave work on time because it’s a beautiful evening and you want to spend it outside or with your family.
While the panellists provided some interesting anecdotes as well as some ideas into exploring these questions, I was disappointed that there were no mid-career professionals on the panel. For example, professionals who are currently facing the challenges of finding a work-life balance, and addressing the types of considerations, skills and lessons learned that are helping them cope with the demands of being a professional, as well as being an individual “with a life”.
One of the issues that was not addressed is how to balance your full-time professional position with additional professional commitments (writing articles, book reviewing, volunteering in our professional associations) as well as day-to-day family commitments and responsibilities. Many libraries encourage their professionals to volunteer and participate in additional projects, but they do not want this work done on company time. It is then that the professional needs to develop a sense of boundaries and balance that allows for active participation in the profession while still having time for hobbies, friends and family. While much of the work-life balance that needs to be found is an individual pursuit, there are skills and techniques that can be taught to assist in finding that balance.
However, with all of that said, I did find the session helpful, if for no other reason than being provided with questions that I need to ask myself. What is the right work-life balance for me? What does that mean and how am I going to continue to achieve a level of happiness and satisfaction in my professional and personal life? Just having time to reflect on this, while at a conference where excitement is high and ideas are flowing, was helpful and made attending worthwhile.