I have been in the clinical technology field for over 30 years. Most of my friends are also health care professionals. It became apparent to me early on that health care people are a special breed. My experience is that we frequently have a different view of working hours and off hours. Many of us carry pagers or cellphones that connect us to work basically 24/7. Many of us understand that we have a career much more so than a job. Our individual contributions are mission critical, and this mission is very important. We contribute directly to the healing ministries of our workplaces by ensuring the important technology they use is safe and in correct working order.
This is why I have a great feeling of satisfaction when I consider my career.
I love being a part of such a noble industry. But with this great sense of responsibility can come the challenge to balance our connection to work with our need for personal time. It is tempting to do a value comparison between what we accomplish and contribute in our professional life to what our home life requires. And that is precisely what goes sideways for us when we attempt to divide our time.
Here is what I believe: Living holistically at home and leisure is as important to our career as our daily work requirements. Beyond the obvious, as human beings and adults, we need to take care of our loved ones and seek to be good citizens. We must also consider our own mental health. Burnout in the health care setting is particularly destructive. Most typically, our shops are staffed very lean; we have specific areas of specialized skills that are not duplicated within our work group, and we have very little supervision. These are great motivators and satisfiers in our industry, but with the wrong mental state, they become damaging, if not dangerous.
As a manager of a shop, and over the years in leadership, I have seen the onset of burnout in the best of us. Techs lose focus, and PM performance falls off. Normal shop banter turns sour and people retreat into their own heads. Our shops are typically so much like a family, and that family can become dysfunctional. Conversely, if we don’t focus on our personal time as well, we can see difficulties at home. Our spouses and children might not understand our level of connection to our job. I know I never got into the habit of discussing my workday with my spouse or children; I never felt it was necessary. That was most likely a mistake on my part, and now with lots of business travel, I am a bit of a ghost at times. I have to resist the temptation to try to fix all the things I wasn’t a part of while I was gone, or critique their survival methods in my absence.
Who knew life would be so difficult? I will admit, I draw more wisdom from observing others than I have gained on my own behalf. I have been exposed to people who do a great job with work life balance. So, how do we combat all these potential pitfalls and learn how to create work life balance?
1. Don’t pretend you are two different people divided by a time clock. You can use your technical skills for hobbies, missions, or volunteer work. It’s always good to go with your strengths.
2. Look for ways to knit your family relationships into these activities. You can’t have real balance without including important personal relationships.
3. Consider your own health. Hobbies that are physical in nature can give you a double win. As we grow older, we need to make a greater effort to maintain our health. Good health opens up the door to much more activities to feed our need for fun and adventure. Just don’t get too carried away like I do. My mountain bike helmet has the scuffs and dents to prove my fool hardy sense of adventure can get out of hand.
4. Encourage your co-workers. As I mentioned, my co-workers are my primary source of friendship. I have had the opportunity to do many new and fun things because my buddies at work have hobbies and skills that I didn’t have. Of course, everyone has their own likes and dislikes. My likes tend to run toward outdoor activities. Spending most of your life in a building in the basement can cause a great craving for open skies.
You will be the only judge of what is best for you. If you truly are stuck in a rut and have poor work life balance, you need to make a giant leap and become purposefully intentional. That means sitting down with a calendar and scheduling personal time, and be detailed, “This Saturday I will go …”. If your job is forcing an imbalance in your life, sit down with your boss and discuss the factors causing the issue. A good supervisor will want to work with you to ensure you take the time you need outside of work to be the best you can be at work! Good luck and have a blast!
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