DAILY INSIGHT: Work-life balance is an attainable goal

Don't live at your job. 
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Don't live at your job. 

By Steven M. Baule, CIO Advisor

About 15 years ago, when I was a relatively junior administrator, one of the building's more senior teachers came up to me as I was getting ready to leave the building on a Friday afternoon about 20 minutes after the students had departed. She told me she was glad to see I was leaving. I believe that the look on my face probably said, "but I will come back Monday, this isn't a permanent exit, so no reason to rejoice." She immediately regrouped and clarified, "No, it is nice to see an administrator actually leave at a reasonable time and not live in the building. Most of your colleagues live here and I don't think that is healthy for them and it sets a bad example for young teachers" (most of whom rushed in every morning to see who could be first in their department office). Over time, I realized she was truly sincere. In the same district, one of the department chairs articulated that he was always too busy to have time to eat lunch. The superintendent basically told him that was a time-management problem and not a workload issue.

It seems that it is important for the psyches of many administrators and IT staff to feel that they are indispensable cogs in the organization's gears. However, that is neither healthy nor true. A wise high school government teacher told my class "cemeteries are full of indispensable people." I have learned he was accurate. IT people seem to have a disposition towards this indispensability complex where they must stay at the job extra long hours. I have had at least three IT people in my career keep a sleeping bag in their office for nights when they had something to do that required them to just work through the night. It is important for everyone's well being that staff don't live at school and that they have outside interests and hobbies so they don't become burnt out. Our jobs are difficult enough without the added burden of viewing oneself as indispensable.

Make sure your staff knows that they are encouraged to take vacation and the number of weekends they come in to do a little extra work shouldn't be the department yardstick in which to measure good employees. There aren't many summer days left, so make sure you and your staff get out of the office at a reasonable time and enjoy the last few days of summer. Then continue the habit and ensure you have a balanced life so both your employer and friends and family will be able to appreciate you.

Steven M. Baule is superintendent of North Boone CUSD 200 in Poplar Grove, IL. He has written several books on aspects of library and technology management and planning. Follow North Boone on Twitter @NBCUSD200.