Being busy doesn’t mean having to feel overwhelmed. It’s all a matter of balance and keeping things in perspective.
That was the message of the recent Wellness Lecture Series event titled “In Search of Work/Life Balance” held at Lipsett Amphitheater. Four NIH officials—Randy Schools, president and CEO of the R&W; Christine Major, director of the Office of Human Resources; Dr. Eric Green, recently named director of the National Human Genome Research Institute; and Maureen Gormley, chief operating officer of the Clinical Center—shared what balance means in their lives and urged everyone to find what works for them.
“Work-life balance is not a recipe,” said Gormley. “What works for me is not necessarily the same thing that’s going to work for other people.”
Green, who juggles work responsibilities with those of his home life—including being photographer for his daughter’s soccer team, coach of his son’s baseball team, timer for his children’s swim team and primary food shopper for his household—shared a similar sentiment.
“Don’t think for a minute that anything I’m going to tell you will apply to you or will apply to your family,” he said. “I think these things have to be defined in your own context.”
Balance, the panelists said, looks a little different for everyone. Some people need to exercise every day or meditate. Others may need to weigh in the responsibilities of caring for young children or aging parents, while still others must factor in time for academics, as Gormley does. In addition to her work at NIH and her home life as a wife and mother to two young children, she’s also working toward a Ph.D. in human and organizational development and enjoys running.
It would seem more than enough to make anyone’s head spin, but Gormley takes it in stride.
“For me, balance is really an active presence, thinking about who and what is most important to me and how can I honor that on a daily basis,” she said.
One way Schools and his wife—who also keeps a busy schedule working at Georgetown University Hospital—manage to carve out time for each other is by building it into their schedules.
“Sometimes…we get out our appointment books,” he said. “We make time for each other as a couple because we know it’s important.”
Major, whose three sons are now in their 20s, said she has always made it a point to work in places that support family life.
“While at my job I will always give 100-plus percent, my family’s important too,” she said. “And if you find yourself not in that kind of environment, maybe that needs to be an internal thought for you.”
Major also stressed how important it is to be in a job you enjoy, a sentiment that drew the assent of other panelists.
“We spend a lot of time at work, and if you don’t enjoy what you do, that’s not good for you,” she said.
Green said there are plenty of tools available now, courtesy of technology, to make working smarter and more efficient—even while away from the office. He is a big proponent of teleworking, flexible schedules and using cell phones and laptops to keep tabs on work while on the go.
However, a big part of maintaining balance, said Green, is outlook.
“Having learned only a few days ago about my new position, you are looking at somebody who at this moment in time has the most imbalanced work-life situation, yet I’m smiling and you’ll see I’m in a great mood,” he said. “But it illustrates what my view is on all of this. You can be in a situation where you’re completely off balance, but if your family is supportive and if you have the right attitude about it, you will adjust and it’s fine.”
The Wellness Lecture Series will hold its next event on Wednesday, Jan. 20. “Be Happier & Healthier in 2010—Throw Away Your New Year’s Resolutions: Tips on How to Make Positive Lifelong Changes” will be held at Rockledge II, Conf. Rms. 9100 and 9104. The speaker is Terry Bowers, personal trainer and group exercise instructor at the R&W Fitness Center.