Faculty Perspectives

What does faculty flexibility mean to you and what are your strategies for work life integration to promote your long term vitality and resilience?

To me, work life integration is have flexibility in the hours and means of accomplishing my goals such that I can spend time with my family, yet still make progress on academic projects, mentor, and take care of patients. As an example, I don’t mind spending an hour on the phone with a resident at 9pm if I can have dinner with my children at 6pm.    

— Rebecca Perkins, Assistant Professor, Department of OBGYN, Boston University School of Medicine


Work life integration has been having the flexibility with my work schedule to fulfill personal goals and commitments.  Although aspects of my job need to be done in a certain place and at a certain time, such as performing surgery in East Newton OR during my block time or seeing patients in Shapiro 3 clinic in Mondays and Thursdays, with enough lead time I can alter this schedule to make sure I’m out of the office when needed.  I also try to take advantage of the time before work in the hours that no one ever makes demands.  I’m up before 5am and usually set aside this time for running or going to the gym as it fits in that time slot nicely.  When I’ve tried to do this after work, I’ve been less successful.

— Donald Hess, Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery, Boston University School of Medicine


To me, career flexibility means that I can be present in my family’s life, especially my children’s lives and also feel like I am able to advance in my career. It means that as long as I’m willing to work hard and contribute to the organization, no one is concerned about when I’m contributing or whether I’m out of the office for a bit to be involved in and tend to the other aspects of my life.

— Matthew Fox, Associate Professor, Center for Global Health & Development and Department of Epidemiology, Boston University School of Public Health


Faculty Career Flexibility means that I have control over my schedule and responsibilities. I make yearly obligations, whether it is for research grants, clinic time or administrative responsibilities. Flexibility allows me to complete those obligations in a way that recognizes my personal and professional priorities. One thing I have done to create this is to carve out one morning per week that I have no meetings or appointments at work time.  This gives me the flexibility to get personal things done that require daytime hours.  I also use it to write.  In exchange, every Monday night after my clinic session, I stay late to work while my husband takes care of the kids.

Jane Liebschutz, Associate Professor, Section of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine


The bottom line is controlling time.  At different life stages, family issues occur at different times.  With smaller children, leaving work early may be necessary (at least sometimes depending on parenting arrangements) but later evening work (even phone meetings) can sometimes work.  With older/independent children, dedicated time is more the priority than being home early.  With needy parents or other adult relatives, the interruptions can be any time.  In addition, we all have different priorities regarding what time we want to reserve for life outside of work.  Personally, I work late very easily but try to be good about not bringing work home – whenever it is that I get home.  Weekends end up being safe other than the 8 or so weekends that I am on call each year.

Joshua Safer, Associate Professor, Section of Endocrinology, Department of Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine


I personally need my exercise time in the morning to clear my head.  I have to do it in the morning because that is before I get pulled into things at work and out of my schedule.  It’s important to block some time for yourself even when you know you have deadlines and  could be working.  I know I am more effective if I get a little exercise in, so I make it a priority.

Lisa Sullivan, Chair, Department of Biostatistics, Boston University School of Public Health


For me, the flexibility is the most important thing. Some days I can work really late and get a lot done, and some days I have to work from home. Having the capacity and support at work to be flexible around the needs of a young child, and the respect and understanding from supervisors that I am capable of managing my time and getting the job done despite a somewhat erratic schedule, has been one of the things that keeps me in this job. It is also nice to work in a department and institution that values family, where people regularly ask about my daughter and are happy to see her if I have to bring her to work.

— Joanne Wilkinson, Assistant Professor, Department of Family Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine


We chose to move out from the city to the suburbs when our kids reached elementary school age, so I needed to find time in my day for the additional commute time.  I quickly found that driving in and out of Boston was not a good option for my sanity.  Taking the train not only was less stressful, but also allowed me to get work done during the commute in and out.  Having the flexibility to adapt my work day a bit to fit with the train schedule is a major factor in making the work week more manageable for our family.

Karin Sloan, Assistant Professor, Section of Pulmonary, Allergy, Sleep & Critical Care Medicine, Department of Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine


I am not exactly sure of what work life integration is but I know what it feels like when it is working. I am not stressed, enjoy going to work and like what I’m doing. I don’t feel like I have to sacrifice on either side of the divide. I am able to think and am not exhausted at the end of the day, and I am able to enjoy the weekend rather than use it to work or collapse and recover from work.

Christopher Shanahan, Assistant Professor, Section of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine


I appreciate having the opportunity to work from home on my administrative day. This means I don’t have to commute and I often have the opportunity to bring my children to school or pick them up from activities. I do an evening clinic for the same reason. I also take a shorter lunch so I can end my day earlier which usually results in a better commute time getting me home sooner to my family. These are simple things related to time management.

Bigger issues loom – how much energy is left over at the end of the day after spending most of day listening to the concerns of my patients? How do I balance the demands of work, keep up with clinical practice, make efforts toward career advancement and put time into clinic activities I am interested in and/or want to improve? I continually work toward balance: biking to work once in a while to fit in exercise, participate in a book group with other friends who are also trying to engage in meaningful work and balance family time, eat healthy so I feel well, take time away to play and rest as possible. It is  – as we often say around our clinic – “a work in progress.”

Julia Matthews, Clinical Instructor, Section of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine

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