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Balancing Work and Life
Balancing Work and Life
In a 2010 survey of 7,277 Stanford faculty and staff, over half (55%) of respondents felt they were meeting the demands of work and life very well or extremely well, 38% felt they were somewhat meeting the demand, and 7% felt they were doing a poor job with the demand. BeWell spoke recently with Teresa Rasco, Director of the Stanford WorkLife Office, about how she views these statistics and what they mean for all of us as we continually aim for a better balance between our work and our lives.
What is your reaction to those numbers?
My reaction is mixed. On the one hand, you see a glass half-full because more than half of respondents are feeling okay, and isn’t that good? But if we consider the glass nearly half-empty, we become much more reflective about what the other 45% need; how do we reach them? The good news: research shows that when employees feel they have better work-life balance, they tend to work 21% harder and are more productive.
Is there a secret to managing a work life and a home life successfully?
A secret, no; a goal, maybe. I think the goal in both work and life is to be fully present, or engaged. This concept means different things to different people. For some of us, it’s having reliable child care. For others, it’s the flexibility to accompany elders to appointments, or work from home. For others still, it’s having opportunities to exercise, or learn a new skill professionally or personally.
What are the most common issues for people who contact your office?
Dependent care issues are most common. Care-giving support — including child care, parenting, eldercare resources, backup care, flexible options, financial assistance — is one of the most daunting concerns.
Any special advice for caregivers?
Coupled with the responsibilities of work and life, care-giving can deplete and exhaust even the most energetic individuals. People with care-giving responsibilities have a long list of “must-dos.” Adding themselves to that list is probably the best advice. Care-givers should:
- Make a plan
- Identify their support system, and use it!
- Recognize when the stress is toxic
What incremental change would you recommend for improved work-life balance?
While incremental change is the key to long-term success, no one change “fits all.” It comes down to individual values and priorities. If I were to make one recommendation for improvement in your work and life experience, it would be to take time to reflect on what is important to you and make those concerns your top priorities.
What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned in your career?
I have worked with some amazing undergraduate parents who have managed to do well at Stanford and successfully navigate parenthood at the same time. I am in awe of their perseverance and resilience.
Interview conducted by Julie Croteau and edited by Dorothy Lane Ryan.