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Work-life challenges arising from role stress most probably have been a reality for every adult who strives hard to manage work priorities and non-work priorities. A “role” is an individual’s response to fulfillment of expectations. When the expectations are ambiguous or in conflict with another role; the individual often experiences role stress. The question is are you losing yourself due to role stress or are you losing your mind while juggling between work and non-work life? Striking a work-life balance or integrating work and non-work life is an arduous task for all kinds of professionals but moreover for academics. It costs an individual his/her energy, time and mental space to attain a balance or else it may lead to stress, dissatisfaction, absenteeism and disturbed social behavior.

Aspirants choose the noble profession of teaching over many other professions because it is perceived as less demanding and less strenuous as compared to other professions. This false notion, apparently, leads to an assumption that academics may probably have a higher work-life balance as compared to other professions. An academic, primarily, is involved in laborious tasks such as teaching, grading, conducting research; followed by additional roles of academic advising, developing of curriculum, designing learning modules and syllabi, exam supervision, record-keeping and documentation; finally to ensure that learning is transferred successfully by the learners to real life settings. Academics’ main challenge is to manage time and distribute time across above mentioned tasks. While doing all that, also cater to the institutional expectations of conducting top-class research and furthermore actively participate in institutional programs and events.

The work-life imbalance is a result of playing many roles at the same time, which may lead to role stress. Many a times there is an information overload in your brain (also called as mental clutter) causing fatigue and leading to no further processing of information; similarly if you have a role overload it leads to role stress leading to a competition between roles; ultimately leading to unequal distribution of personal resources such as time, energy, concentration and mental space across all domains of life. Through these multiple roles, multiple sources of job satisfaction, need for achievement and overall happiness can be created. One way to deal with role stress is to positively connect work and non-work lives.

Work-life enrichment is one way of connecting work and non-work lives. It means experience or participation in one role increases the quality or performance in the other role, leading to satisfaction in both (or multiple) roles. Academics can consciously transfer positive experiences from work-life to non-work life. For example, communication skills are a pre-requisite to deliver a lecture successfully. An academic delivers the said content with appropriate emotions and also uses humor as a technique that engages the students. Then he/she assures that students have fully understood the content. At the end, he/she receives a positive feedback about the lecture. This positive experience be transferred in his/her non-work life. The ways of communication within a family can definitely benefit from such an approach. Clear and structured communication with appropriate emotional weightage may actually resolve a few communication problems within the family. In fact, initiative to communicate and actual efforts taken to communicate with family members could have positive influence on the familial relationships. Having a positive feedback at work resulting into positive mood could be consciously utilized to enhance familial relations like having a heart-to-heart conversation with your partner or reading a story to your son/daughter leading to work-to-life enrichment. Similarly, some important research competencies such as ability to assess, analyze, holistic thinking and project management can be effectively transferred in non-work life. If an academic is involved in social service for example, he/she can transfer effective way of managing projects, looking at social issues from a holistic perspective in the social organization or assess the challenges faced by the social organization is a systematic way which will help in resolving the challenges.

A positive transfer of skills and perspectives can also happen from non-work life to work life. The skills and perspectives that one has gained in the non-work life e.g. planning and time management skills learned from a parent not only leads to efficient management of household chores, but if consciously utilized in institute/college/university by meeting deadlines, coordinating effectively within team; which shall enhance the performance at work leading to life-to-work enrichment. Being open to such enriching experiences and consciously transferring positive experiences from one area to another can be learnt.

Internalizing one’s work-life enrichment could prove to be beneficial in handling role stress, thus improving efficiency, aiding in managing time and priorities and all this ultimately leading to the “me-time” each of us is longing for! In reality we may not always win by having a pertinent balance but at least let us not lose our minds balancing work and life!

 - Prof. Shalaka Sharad Shah, Assistant Professor – Psychology.

*Views expressed are personal.