Stuart A Nicklin BSc (Hons) PhD, Reader
1: How did you achieve your career having a work-life balance?
When I was working on my PhD and post-doc posts (before family) this was not really something I thought about. The work in the lab was just sort of part of everything I did, including socialising with lab mates...... The hours in the lab in the evenings and at the weekends was work I enjoyed and wanted to complete and therefore it just seemed to fit naturally around football, the pub etc! It is so important to be working on something that you are engaged with and enjoy. Once I had a family of course this became more challenging to balance (plus the pub visits became a lot less frequent!) and I've found that everything has to be planned carefully and you have to be very organised. The key is to ensure every aspect of family life is also captured into your work diary (which has every aspect of work life in it!) so that you always know where you need to be and when and for whom! Of course a supportive family is also very important! Now work at home in the evenings is done much later after catching up with the children's day, their clubs, homework, dinner and baths- this is important time and they grow up all too fast.
2: Have you found it difficult to share your attention between work and personal life?
Yes, on occasions, although I think everybody has. Lives are generally very busy for everybody now. However much you plan and try to coordinate both aspects of life there are inevitable demands and deadlines (from work and the family!) and it can be challenging to balance all of this. Sometimes the email has to be switched off, however scary that might seem.......
3: Did your mentors or supervisors have a good understanding about the work-life balance in order to help you to find the best way to have success in your career and personal life?
Yes, I have been lucky to work with people who have recognised that getting the best from their team means knowing that there is flexibility required to meet the demands of work and home life in order to be successful at work. I think it is important that there is recognition that these two areas of life aren’t mutually exclusive and that flexibility and support is required in order to be successful.
4: How do you organize annual leave in order to have the best moments with your family, but also keeping the work progressing?
My annual leave is now organized around school holidays so I basically plan out most of my year at the beginning as much as I can, with extra days saved for unforeseen events. However, the most important thing to keep the work progressing during this time are the very important members of our research group, who not only keep the lab work progressing but are also on hand to coordinate visiting student projects, help each other and generally ensure the lab keeps running smoothly. I also have some great colleagues on hand who are also able to offer a helping hand / advice to junior lab members should there be something needing to be dealt with when I am away. These aspects are so incredibly important to the success of the group and also to enable me to relax with my family when on annual leave!
5: Could you pass on some advice for young career researchers regarding the best balance to have a healthy personal life and achieve success in their careers.
Enjoyment is the key thing. Science needs to be something you enjoy and are passionate about so you look forward to doing it. Ensure you work on topics in labs that you enjoy and with supportive mentors that will help guide your career. Equally, though work/ life balance is key. You have to be organised and work hard during the time you are in the lab, plan everything you can as well as you can so that you don’t feel guilty about something you haven’t done. Then when the time you have saved for your life outside work comes you will be able to enjoy it fully focussed on the important events/ hobbies/ activities and people in your life without feeling distracted with what you might not have completed at work. A healthy personal life outside work is important to also ensure your career is successful.