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Get your work-life mix tuned up

How is your work-life mix?

"If you're not focused on it, it's not likely you have a mix customized to your needs and desires," says Michelle Carlstrom, senior director of the Office of Work, Life and Engagement, which serves both the university and health system.

Since the 30-day Work-Life Pledge was launched a year ago, Carlstrom and her colleagues have helped customize the mix for employees who have taken the pledge nearly 900 times. And now they're ramping up the program with a 90-day version that adds even more support.

The pledge is a voluntary opportunity for individuals to set an intention in five categories that are known to improve work-life effectiveness, including Self-Care, Quality Communication, and Work With a Work-Life Perspective. The strategies that employees chose most frequently? Make Time for Fun and Manage Time to Work on Challenging Tasks When Energy Is High. Some of the options are as simple as getting seven to eight hours of sleep a night or setting limits on email.

"Just bringing these thoughts to the front of my mind is helpful," says Teri Gruenberg, manager of clinical documentation in the Health Information Management Department at Howard County General Hospital.

In addition to setting a personalized intention to focus on work-life effectiveness, employees benefited from supportive weekly emails and resources.

Eric Beatty, director of Homewood Arts Programs, responded to one of Carlstrom's emails saying, "A nice breath of fresh air in the email inbox!" Sarah Afonso, coordinator of Functional Unit Nursing Programs at Johns Hopkins Hospital, says that when the emails arrive, "I drop what I'm doing and take a few minutes to read through them. It's a very intentional process, and one that I think enhances my work-life mix on a weekly basis—or even more often if I get a chance to reread them."

Based on participant feedback and research on behavior change, Carlstrom and her colleagues are now rolling out a 90-day pledge period for those who are looking for additional information, resources, and accountability to make change last. Starting Feb. 3, the first 25 people to register will participate in topic-focused weekly lunchtime calls of 45 minutes; each group session will allow time for sharing and support.

The 30-day pledge will continue for those who know that their work-life mix is out of balance but don't know where to start to rebalance it. Both 90-day and 30-day pledgers will receive the weekly emails of support and inspiration.

"Having outside accountability for your efforts toward positive change and a community support system cheering you on makes all the difference," says Lael Ensor, assistant curator of the Visual Resource Collection in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. "The weekly pledge emails are especially helpful as they remind me I am not alone and often offer that extra little bit of encouragement. The customizability of the pledge is another benefit—you are able to work on the work-life issues relevant to your own unique situation."

That customization is key. "Participants own their journey and the success of their work-life effectiveness," Carlstrom says. "We're providing support and space for them to create an intention that leads to lasting change so that their life and their work meet their needs and desires."

Take February's 30-day pledge, or the 90-day pledge beginning Feb. 3, at hopkinsworklife.org/work-life-pledge.