The most challenging part of working in Student Affairs on a university campus is trying to develop a healthy work-life balance. I love my job, my coworkers and the students I advise but it’s challenging because I have to schedule activities around students’ academic classes. This means my coworkers and I not only work 9-to-5 in the office but we also have meetings after dinner and events on the weekends. As a mother, this can be hard on my family so I feel additional pressure to create a healthy work-life balance. These are five tips I have learned the hard way through my years working in this field.
Realise you don’t always have to be there
This was one of the most important lessons I learned. Since I enjoy my work, I was always on campus. It didn’t matter if I was responsible for the event, I was there. This led to a near burn-out. Once I convinced myself that I didn’t have to be there all the time my outlook on work started getting better. Also, from a student development standpoint, my students realised that I trusted them to lead events and programs on their own.
Going hand in hand with the realisation that I didn’t always have to be at work after hours, I learned to delegate. This was a struggle. Not because I didn’t trust people to do the job right, I just thought it was easier and quicker to do certain tasks myself. Then a student came to my office asking that I give her tasks to do so she could learn how to do them well. Wow! Here, I was working in an institution that focused on educating young adults and I was prohibiting that. By learning to delegate, I released some of my workload by letting students take it on and I created more time to be at home.
Create boundaries with students
At first, I thought this would be a challenge but I was very open and told my students that there were boundaries to when they could call me. By being open, they in return showed a lot of respect and phone calls in the evening were limited to emergencies. The biggest step, however, was to stop answering emails at night. When talking to a representative of our Faculty Staff Assistance Program, I told her that I wished students would stop expecting me to answer emails late at night. She asked me, “But do you answer them?”. When I said “Yes” she made the point that as long as I continued to answer emails; they would continue to expect me to do so.
Focus on goals
Whenever I start to create a new project that will add work to my load, my director always asks how this will help us meet our goals. I have found that by focusing on the outcomes we wish for our students and the office, I have more of a vision and can cut out the “fluff”.
Incorporate family in special events
One of the best parts of working on a university campus is exposing my preschool daughter to the many different cultural and service programs. By inviting my family to take part in these special events, I am able to support the students I advise and provide an educational experience for my daughter.