WIT Connect: Finding Your Work-Life Blend

The Stanford Women in Technology group gathered on April 2 for a conversation about strategies and resources for juggling work and life, using a values-based approach. 

Although the topic of conversation was planned months prior, it came at a perfect time given the current shelter-in-place order due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Guest speakers, Caitlin Azhderian of Stanford’s WorkLife Office, and Fatimah Al-Ismail, Stanford doctoral student in geophysics, shared stories, tips, and tricks for achieving personal wellness — an increasingly important message as our normal daily routines are changing. 

Work-life blend

Move over, work-life balance, it’s time to embrace “work-life blend.” Caitlin believes work-life balance to be unattainable because it calls for perfectionism, a concept that should be thrown out. 

Caitlin shared a quote likely to resonate with many of us: “We are not working from home; we are home during a crisis, working.” She followed that up by asking us to practice loosening expectations. 

“It’s okay to give your children more screen time right now. It’s okay to adjust productivity and shift the hours you are working. It’s okay to have a discussion with your manager about adjusting expectations,” said Caitlin.

“This is an opportunity,” she explained. “We should be having deeper conversations around values and what matters most, and use those as drivers for decision-making.”  

Caitlin continued by putting a positive spin on an otherwise difficult moment in time. “COVID-19 has actually shed a light on the imbalance in our work and personal lifestyles,” she said. Her hope is that we’ll all come out on the other side in a better place. Her advice? Build new routines, cultivate strong networks, practice self-care, and build flexibility.

Caitlin wrapped up by sharing some of the many resources available from the WorkLife Office:  

Learning your values

As the author of the blog “PhD Momma,” Fatimah is well-versed in sharing the difficulties of managing work with personal life. She attributes her “tipping point” to the book, “Designing Your Life” by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans.

Also offered as a university course, this concept of “designing your life” made Fatimah re-evaluate the things she could control in life, and let go of those she could not. She started new routines, including:

  • practicing morning meditation,
  • journaling for reflection five-minutes each day,
  • joining a new research team that more closely reflected her values, and
  • finding a stronger support system among friends, family, and colleagues.

Similar to Caitlin, Fatimah believes we should toss out the notion of perfectionism: “Being good enough is liberating. Imperfection is part of the human experience. It has made me grateful for the good days and helps me find self-compassion in the hard days.” 

To learn more about Stanford Women in Technology, visit https://itcommunity.stanford.edu/programs/ideal-it/wit.

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