Work-Life Balance

Queen's University

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Work-Life Balance

girl reading

Is it even possible to achieve a perfect balance?

Having worked for Arts and Science Online for several years and taken online courses myself, I always thought I had a pretty good idea of the types of difficulties that our distance students cope with on a regular basis. It wasn’t until I moved provinces, and then countries, that I truly understood the complexities of distance learning.

Based in England, I am supervising our mentor program which is run out of Kingston, ON. This means that I am always five hours ahead of the majority of our mentors, mentees, and my fellow staff members. Scheduling Skype meetings has become difficult, and something as simple as responding promptly to an email takes on a different meaning for me. I pride myself on being prompt and efficient, but the physical and temporal distance separating me and my workspace makes these qualities harder to achieve. I question myself much more than I used to when I had a physical office space.

One of our mentors recently submitted a response that I think sums up the challenges that each online student inevitably faces:

We spoke about how with distance learning, the student has no geographic separation from studying, and so every aspect of the student’s life becomes rolled up into a singular identity; by virtue of being at home, one cannot separate the academic self from the domestic, which in turn can make prioritizing studies problematic.

The academic self and the domestic self: I think most people would agree that taking your work – whether it be office work or school work – home with you can create a toxic and dangerous environment at home. In an ideal world, home would be restricted to family, friends, and relaxing. In reality, our other obligations tend to follow us home. Finding a suitable study or work space is crucial.

In order to prioritize your studies, try to find a place and time that are dedicated to academic work. This could be a desk in your house, a favourite coffee shop, or a number of other spots. Once you choose a spot, you are creating a connection to your work, and you are simultaneously separating your work from other aspects of your life. This is an essential step towards maintaining (or attempting to maintain) a healthy work-life balance.