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Balanced start to 2017?

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IT is the time of year when it's traditional to make New Year resolutions. Among newspaper-published lists of the most popular resolutions is one to improve one's work-life balance. As 2017 begins, how many vets will have resolved to do so?

Searching for the phrase ‘work-life balance’ in Veterinary Record over the past year finds it appearing in pretty much every section of the journal, reflecting the importance of this issue to the veterinary profession. However, the challenge of achieving a work-life balance is not exclusive to the profession. Over Christmas, one of the guest editors of BBC Radio 4′s Today programme was Helena Morrissey, a mother of nine with a ‘pretty intensive City career’, and a campaigner for greater gender diversity in the boardroom. In her programme, broadcast on December 28, 2016, she chose to include a discussion of work-life balance.

Mrs Morrissey examined the way that society – and the media – treats mothers and fathers when it comes to combining family and career. As part of the programme, men with high-powered jobs, as well as women, were asked how they did it. The men were said to have been surprised by the question as, although they all had children, they had never been asked about it in an interview before. Conversely, Mrs Morrissey said she had been asked the question in every interview she had ever given.

There may therefore be a perception that ‘work-life balance’ is more of an issue for women than for men. However, a survey in 2016 by Family Friendly Working Scotland found that just 12 per cent of working parents, regardless of gender, felt their work-life balance was ‘just right’. 1 Respondents wanted their employers to be more flexible, compassionate and understanding.

It is, of course, not just parents who seek work-life balance, and those without childcare commitments also want a balance between their working lives and their lives outside of work. In the report of the BVA/RCVS Vet Futures project, published in November 2015, the remark was made that there is a need to consider not so much ‘work-life balance’ as ‘life balance’ and, rather than focusing on balancing the difficulties of work against the positivity of life outside of work, work should be viewed as an enjoyable and rewarding part of life.2

There is no doubt that life balance will continue to be discussed in 2017. As with so many challenges, a willingness to be flexible is key to achieving a satisfactory solution.

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