Work Life Balance in Online Education: How to Rescue Your Weekends

Last updated on: October 10, 2023

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The primary advantages of online education – such as working at your convenience and from your own home—are often overrun by the main disadvantage: working where you live.

Teaching online from your home can make drawing a tangible line between work and life difficult. As professionals, students, parents, friends, and spouses, working and living in the same space can strain your ability to balance and determine “work time” and “downtime”, often leading to an insufficient work life balance.

For me, a simple fix to this problem was to set clear boundaries and expectations for work time and downtime. I set my schedule to work Monday through Friday, 9-5pm, with one late-night lecture per week. I will sometimes catch up on work, but only after my children are asleep. I find that this allows me to continue having devoted dinner and weekends with my family.

I implemented this schedule in the online environment by setting expectations early in the introduction phase of the course. I let my students know how important I believe work life balance is and that, as adult learners, I treasure their time with loved ones as much as I treasure my own. I made it clear that I answer emails sent after 5pm first thing the next business day. Accordingly, I also extended their deadlines from the preset Sunday evening to Tuesday at midnight. This allows them an extra day and a half to complete assignments after the weekend, and it allows me time to answer emails sent over the weekend – the highest email traffic point—on Monday morning.

It may seem like a small fix, but for me it has been an important one. It allows me to fully be “at home” when I’m “out of the office” because I am not worried about an important email I might be missing. When I am “in the office”, I am fully engaged, and when I am at home, I make the same commitment to my family and friends. Just because the internet is up 24/7, doesn’t mean that we need to be as well. It’s time to take back the weekend and strike a happy work life balance!

For more online teaching tips and recommendations, visit the Resources page to choose from a variety of online teaching topics.

Authored by Susan Cheng

Assistant Professor & Department Chair of Public Health at Benedictine University & Wiley Fellow
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