Dear College of Science Faculty and Staff,
I’ve never understood the term ‘work-life balance’. Are we not alive while at work? Sometimes this is called ‘work-leisure balance’. For those of you who rush home to the unpaid job of parenting or other caregiving, the notion of work-leisure balance is a bad joke. But there is something important here – a comfortable time distribution between your job in the Northeastern College of Science and the rest – maybe an ‘individual time balance’.
In the odd ‘work-life balance’ term, there’s a ‘work is bad’ connotation, that is wrong for me, and I hope for all of you. I think work is wonderful! What a great opportunity we have – to empower students and to promote the highest quality research in the framework of good Science. Working together, we are building excellence in every sphere. Every job in our College is important, and thank you everyone, for your contributions to meeting our exciting, groundbreaking College and Northeastern University goals.
There is a caution, however. For some COS jobs, the day has defined hours, but for others there is spillage. Grants to be written, manuscripts to be prepared, experiments to be done and supervised, lectures to be planned, exams to be devised and graded, certifications to be completed, on and on, spilling into the evening and weekends. COVID has been relentless, making many of you work without a break for eighteen months. It has been especially hard for mothers, but no one has been exempt from burnout.
So, we must worry about individual time balance. Please take some time off. Please guard against too much spillage. Look after your mental health. Take a little break from parenting. Truly, you need to eat well, sleep enough, exercise in some way, take the long route. And perhaps particularly helpful, do something totally different – drawing, soccer, religious study, bread-making, kicking up the fall leaves. It’s not fluff, it’s a way to stay well. When I was a graduate student at Rockefeller University, and working flat out, I took dance lessons at the Martha Graham studio around the corner. For two hours the teacher would admonish, trying to educate us novices in the elegant Graham technique. For two hours, nothing existed except whether my body was bending acceptably. I would come out with muscles shaking, but totally refreshed and ready to tackle the next gel electrophoresis. It has been an enduring lesson.
I hope you will balance your time this weekend with some fall fun. I’m a fan of Halloween, bar the violent movies, partly because my dog loves to greet visiting children. We will put out a help-yourself table of treats again this year, and Archer will hang out in the garden, paws on fence, ready to say hello to everyone.