Achieving a healthy work-life balance can be challenging for many senior managers and executives in the life science industry. Promotions inevitable bring increased responsibility and workload, meaning more time dedicated to our jobs, and less time for the other important things in life.
What’s more, instant messaging, industry news alerts and workplace collaboration apps can keep work mode switched on 24-7. This ability to stay connected continuously has blurred the lines between work and life. It’s a situation that has left many life sciences professionals feeling exhausted.
Although many organisations have been devoting more time and effort into creating a work environment that doesn’t require this level of personal sacrifice, the majority of employees are discovering their own ways of enjoying career success while making time for their friends and family.
Have a realistic idea of work-life balance
The best place to start is by asking, what defines a reasonable work-life balance for me? According to Xero CEO Rod Drury, your concept of work-life balance should be realistic. While a receptionist or research assistant may be able to go home at the end of the day and ‘unplug’ until next morning, this may not be a realistic expectation for CEOs and senior managers who are often expected to place the company’s interests ahead of their personal time. He recommends greater engagement during working hours, which can reduce the amount of time that managers need to spend at the office.
To define your own reasonable work-life balance, review your situation. How many hours does your particular role require you to put in as per your company’s and the industry’s expectations? Consider those hours the cut-off point and unless there is an emergency, don’t put in additional time. Instead, make your designated hours more productive with to-do lists, reminders, and other tools that assist in organisation and time management.
Separate work from life
While often easier said than done, avoid late nights and weekends when your position doesn’t require you to work them. While ‘busyness’ may seem like a badge of honour, it isn’t. Start by:
- Banishing smartphones and other technology from the table during family dinner time
- Refraining from checking your work emails after you leave for the day
- Snoozing all work-related notifications at night
- Taking your annual leave- you’ve earned it!
When Adrian Tuck, CEO of energy management firm Tendril, has an extra-demanding work week, he still keeps his evenings and weekends off-limits as much as possible. In an article for Fortune.com, he recommends being “productive wherever you are – even if it means working on a plane or at the airport – so you don’t always have to bring work home.”
Tuck even wakes up at 4:30 a.m. some mornings to clear part of his schedule and enjoy some quality time with his children before they leave for school.
If your job requires you to travel frequently, consider bringing your family with you, provided that your schedule doesn’t interfere with their work or school obligations.
It is also essential to learn to say no. This can prove challenging for some who fear they will be perceived as unreliable or not a team player. But stand firm, and understand that a polite refusal will not, in all likelihood, diminish a coworker’s respect regard for you. As long as you’re not rude, saying no is both perfectly acceptable and essential to keeping yourself happy, healthy, and productive.
Identify your priorities
Another critical step towards work-life nirvana is to set career goals that motivate you. Don’t be vague- make them actionable and measurable. If you want a promotion from Engineer to Senior Engineer, learn what professional development course you could take so you understand what that role will entail, both now and in the future.
As you progress, evaluate your performance against the actionable goals you have set yourself and adjust your plan and targets as things evolve. Aim to review your personal goals every quarter.
Evaluate your current role
If you don’t enjoy your job, no amount of personal reflection will make you feel better about getting out of bed and facing the day ahead. That will impact on how you perceive your work-life balance.
Career coach Heather Monohan recommends that you work in a field that you’re so excited and passionate about that you’d do it for free. While this is an ideal outcome, it is possible to find a happy middle ground. You don’t have to love every last aspect of a job, but it should be rewarding enough that you don’t lie in bed every weekday morning wishing that it was the weekend already.
If you love working in the life sciences industry, but your current role is draining and leaving you with little time to cultivate a healthy work-life balance, it may be time to explore new jobs.
Educate yourself on industry trends
So what should that new job be, exactly? It’s likely you will already have some ideas on what themes, trends and technologies will shape the future of your sector, but make sure you take the time to read some industry journals and news resources to get an idea of where the industry is heading in the next few years and what exciting new roles may be available. Check out online job boards or the careers pages on company websites to see if new positions or responsibilities within job roles are becoming more common. And don’t forget to check our own job board too.
Once you have a clear insight into where the future of the sector is heading, you can adapt your skills, CV and gain experience in new practices or technologies that give you an advantage.
Propose Workplace Options
Many progressive life sciences organisations are creating workplace policies that make a healthy work-life balance sustainable. If in doubt, ask your employer as to whether they offer:
- Flexible hours
- Shorter work week
If your company does not have a policy on flexible work, propose one. Discuss the concept informally with business leaders before making a business case; they will advise you how receptive the management will be to change. Providing you get the go-ahead, do some research that demonstrates how flexible working benefits loyal and trustworthy employees while improving productivity.
Find a job you enjoy doing!
A big part of feeling a sense of work-life balance is enjoying the time you spend at work.
By mapping out your ideal position, you have something to aim at and work towards. Update your CV and LinkedIn profile to reflect the type of position you aspire to reach, focussing on new or established skills that are relevant to the position – you never know who’s looking for someone with your background and ability. And if you see a promising position, apply for it!
For more career advice tailored to senior managers and executives…
- Read How To Prepare For A Senior-Level Job Interview.
- Visit our life science job board to start your job search.
* Fraser Dove International is a specialist executive search firm operating exclusively in the Life Science industry. Passionate about people, we take pride in helping exceptional life science organisations source the talent they need to design, manufacture and distribute life-changing drugs, treatments and devices which transform and save patient lives.