1. John Tuttle said:

    I read this blog frequently and every so often there is an article about work life balance and inevitably it is written by a graduate student or a post doc. Achieving a work life balance will never be possible until PIs accept it as a priority. We need to hear from successful scientists in faculty positions and how they feel about achieving a work life balance not graduate students and postdocs.

    1. fred flintstone said:

      I’m a PI with several students and postdocs.
      My first advice to them is – enjoy your science. If you’re talking about work/life balance, the implication is you don’t enjoy the work and you do enjoy life outside work. If that’s the case, do something else, you’ll be better paid and enjoy it more. Science is a great occupation for people who really love science, but a useless career if you don’t.
      My second advice is – when you can, work hard, and when you can’t, go away with a clean conscience. If working on Saturday (or in the evening or whatever) allows you to get an experiment done, do it! In exchange, if you want to take a day off or enjoy your holidays or take your kid to the baby gym in the middle of the day, do it! I did. Too many correspondents treat work/life balance as a one way thing – “I will not work weekends, it is unacceptable to my work-life balance” but “I have to take Thursday afternoon off to take my kid out”. The thing about science is you get judged by the amount of success, not by the hours you work, so if you can save 10 hours on Monday by doing 1 hour on Sunday afternoon, that’s great! Go in on Sunday! And do something fun on Monday. THAT’s work/life balance. Not refusing to work at particular times.

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  2. Olutayo Oluokun said:

    John Tuttle ,i believe post docs and Phds are also “working“and if they are married then there will be a work life balance beyond them are the terminals of the academic career.

  3. Marco Emanuele Favretto said:

    Work/life balance in science is possible, and it is all about the researcher. I have been successful so far, I definitely could have done more, but I am a happy person. The secret? Tell your boss that you want to have a life and you can’t dedicate yourself 24/7 to science, or you will burn out in a few months. It may be difficult as a starter PhD and let’s admit it, early stages of PhD are fun, but it is rule #1 when you do your post-doc.
    You are not a slave, you are not a robot. As long as you agree with your boss/employer what to do and how to do it, then time management is your responsibility. Planning is also key, an accurate preliminary planning with contingency plans may save months of burden.

    Rule #2, never bring work at home. Work 9-5, and that’s it. You are not payed more money, and no one will tell you anything good, you won’t have any gratification from that. However, if you live for science and research, then spend as much time as you want in the lab, but remember it is YOUR choice.

    Now, as a PI life is much easier. I have fun, I have my private life, I finally had some time to record my music album, I go to the gym, I go on holidays, I eat good food. But the key is the same, time management. I still see colleagues getting crazy, not sleeping at night, being all over the place, though. And you know why? They don’t plan.

  4. Thomas Backhaus said:

    The term “work-life balance” is really a misnomer.

    It implies that one gets out of bed, goes to work – and life only starts afterwards. Which, especially for a scientists, isn’t really how things work. Let’s talk about balancing intellectual work with physical activity, solitude with group activities, colleagues with friends & family, career advancement with the latest season of Game of Thrones, labwork with reading & understanding – or simply labwork with baking… ;-)

    To me that distinction is more than semantics. “Work-life balance” really sets your mind towards contrasting work with life, i.e. you either work or live. But especially for scientists, the activity that we summarize as “work” is an essential part of our life. Which can be as much fun as a barbecue with friends – or as much as a root canal treatment.

  5. Ana Jimenez Orgaz said:

    Once one of the best PIs at my former research institute give a talk about her career. About the question of how she managed, she said that she had to renounce to somethings. She said she had no hobbies. She has a family so her hobbies were to spend time with her beloved ones. That surprised me but I kind of understand that one has to choose what wants to do out of the lab and give up other things. Either if you are PhD, PostDoc or PI. But be sure you love what you do in the lab!! And enjoy your experiments!