Series: Tackling Work-Life Balance (22)
Academic Advising Office
Fifteen years have passed since I started working at the university as a staff member. As someone who has always learned from other people’s work styles, I’m honored to have the opportunity to write this essay and look back on my own life as a staff member, including the challenges I faced along the way to attain work-life balance.
My first ten years as a staff member completely centered on work. My first workplace was the Center for Japanese Language, followed by the Graduate School of Economics, where I worked with academic affairs and entrance examinations and supported international students. As I worked with faculty members to advance various reforms for students, I felt great purpose as a university staff member, but I also experienced a seemingly endless number of issues related to my work style. I hadn’t yet learned the ropes, and it took everything in me just to accomplish the tasks in front of me. As I worked more and more overtime, I didn’t have the leeway to examine my work environment, and every day was met with frustration.
My work style changed significantly four years ago when I started balancing work with childcare. After one year of maternity and parental leave, when my son was ten months old, I returned to the workplace and started working under a reduced-hour system available to those taking care of babies and infants. I could no longer work overtime to complete tasks that had piled up. I had to reevaluate the steps I take when working, ask for help from those around me, and gather the courage to push through my tasks, all while being strongly aware of the need to share information with my colleagues.
More significant than my newfound awareness was the understanding and support I received from my surroundings. By the time I returned to work, I was in my eighth year at the Graduate School of Economics. It was understood that, sooner or later, I’d be relocated to another department, and therefore my colleagues entrusted me with the role of assistant supervisor of all affairs. It was my first time working reduced hours. I was worried I’d cause inconveniences for my colleagues, but they gave me the chance to search for ways to support them. It was a new beginning, and I felt purpose in my work, wanting to give back to the environment that had supported me.
The following year I relocated to the Academic Advising Office, aka the Portal Office, which has a wonderful team structure in which everyone shares their duties and supports each other. Even after you clock out, or if you suddenly take a day off, your colleagues cover for you, no questions asked. Despite people having different degrees of expertise and work speeds, my supervisor and colleagues, as well as contracted staff, supported and enabled me to always comfortably and positively engage with my work. Being able to focus more on the whole workplace and the whole university within this team structure marked a significant change for me. I’m incredibly grateful for a work environment that allows me to grow despite time limitations.
This April I suddenly started working from home. My child’s daycare closed, and I spent two months working with my son at home. Of course, my work didn’t proceed as planned. There were countless times when I had to stop working because he would shout, “Don’t work right now!” and other times when he would grab my hands when I tried to use the computer, preventing me from writing even a single e-mail. Amid these tussles, I looked for openings where I could squeeze some work in. That being said, I’ve been able to spend more time with him and watch him grow. I reflected on how I was pressed for time despite trying to find a good balance. In contrast to me, who tends to let time get the best of them, my husband prioritizes his time with our child and efficiently takes care of housework, all while preserving his own time. As I observed him, I realized I can attain a better balance and make better use of my time.
Watching how other people go through a process of trial and error while balancing work with childcare has allowed me to gradually form my own style. I’ve been on the receiving end of support for the past fifteen years, and it’s precisely because I’ve had the opportunity to work in a great working environment that I want to return the favor and support others. I hope to continue searching for ways to contribute to the creation of a work environment where everyone can work comfortably.
（by SANKAKU NEWS No.24）