Work–life balance re-imagined

Career Manager By Richard Bradley Rzendzian, PharmD, MBA

The term “work–life balance” has always frustrated me. Other people often speak as though achieving this balance is no more difficult than opening a can of soda pop. Few mention the pressures applied by bosses, co-workers, and society as a whole, nor does anyone seem to address the imminent doom I feel when I am away from my workplace.

So, when the topic of work–life balance was broached during the APhA2018 New Practitioner Network session “From New Practitioner to Engaged Practitioner,” my first reaction was a deep eye-roll. What came out of the discussion, however, was not the typical jargon and buzz words used to describe this mystical state of being. Instead, real people described how they eliminated the frustration through the simple repositioning of the phrase.

As panelist Michael A. Mone, the Vice President Associate General Counsel for Regulatory Affairs at Cardinal Health in Dublin, OH,  explained, “One can only be great at work if they themselves are feeling great.” He then described a scenario in which a teacher who was ill came to class to teach. Inaudible from a mix of coughing and sneezing, this teacher was unable to provide any instruction to his students. Instead, the class was no smarter than the day before, and many of the students got sick themselves. Michael explained that we need to feel great at the office, otherwise our work and the people around us will suffer. So, when Michael decides to take a longer break at work, go on a much-needed vacation, or spend some alone time away from his family, he does so to feel great so that in return he can be great.

A second panel member, New Practitioner Jon Lee, PharmD, Pharmacy Manager for My Express Care Pharmacy in White Plains, MD, agreed with this notion and added his thoughts on how to feel great. Jon explained that the key to being happy is set and meet your own expectations.   

When taken together this panel helped me a ton. First, Michael’s “”teacher” anecdote provided me the perfect justification for taking some extra time away from work. At the same time, Jon taught me that the only person who can dictate my happiness is me.

“This is what I want”

My last example of work–life balance comes from a discussion I had with a co-worker working in France. From an American viewpoint, the country has odd work laws, including a 35-hour per week limit, no work e-mails after 5:00 pm, and a complete shut-down of government agencies for 3 weeks during the summer. As my co-worker was about to leave for her extended vacation, I asked the simple question, “How do you live with yourself being away from work this long?” She replied, “The company will still be here when I get back.” With a wink and a smile, she was gone. 

The term work–life balance is individualized to every person and to their own expectations. No matter what that balance looks like for you, you have to be able to reflect on it and say, “This is what I want.” By turning your work–life balance inward, you can achieve greatness.