Exploring Work-Work Balance and the Academic Department Chair

Credit: iStock.com/nortonrsx

One refrain I hear repeatedly from the faculty and leaders I work with via coaching, workshops, and virtual retreats is that there is simply too much work for one person to ever realistically complete. Junior professors struggle with how much time to give to teaching new classes and managing students for the first time and setting up research activities crucial to their promotion. Clinical educators juggle not only the traditional teaching, research, and service but also responsibilities to patients. Department chairs wonder how they will ever go up for full professor when their administrative and service duties take away any and all time for even thinking about research. Throw in a pandemic, and even more work arises under even more difficult conditions.

How do we as faculty, and especially as leaders such as department chairs, have time to think and focus on our most meaningful work, whatever that might be, in the face of so many competing yet simultaneous priorities? As I was exploring the literature in search of some answers, I came across a new-to-me idea that deserves more attention: that of work-work balance. We’re all familiar with the debates around work-life balance, or integration, or fit, or whatever version is popular now, so I won’t go into that here. But what exactly is work-work balance, and why should we be talking more about it? This article is a gentle exploration of the term.

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