Because engineering is sometimes seen as being one of the most taxing careers around, we spoke to a few engineers in various industries who have been there, done that, to find out how they balance professional and personal demands.
“It’s all about priority,” says Joel, Product Line Manager at Schlumberger, the world’s largest oilfield services company. “At the end of the day, work-life balance is how you prioritise what you want to do with your life.”
Those who enjoy their work might want to take work home after office hours. Others might prefer to finish their work in office and spend their free time exercising or with family.
“What really matters is you find a work-life balance that fits your lifestyle or your comfort level,” he added.
As you advance in your career (and personal life), you might relook at how and where you spend your time. Perhaps you’d want to spend more time with your loved one, spouse or children. They may become your top priority.
So how do you balance that then?
If you’re still passionate about your career and want to continue climbing the ladder, it doesn’t mean you have to choose between your family and your job. You can have both. It can take some discipline, but it’s absolutely achievable.
For example, Joel now takes a quick lunch at his desk, so that he can finish his work during office hours and go home to spend time with his young daughter.
Tang Meng Lee, Singapore Metallocene Elastomers Plant Process Section Supervisor at ExxonMobil, believes as a working mother, the key is to know where you want to draw the line and make a commitment.
“If there are things that are really important to you – be it a year-end concert, or a birthday celebration in school, draw that line and say, ‘okay, I will not cross this line’,” said the mum of two. “Nobody can draw the line for you, you have to draw it for yourself and decide how to balance the priorities.”
These days, an increasing number of companies recognise the desire of employees to keep healthy, and have implemented various wellness programmes.
Some companies offer in-house fitness sessions such as yoga or Zumba, allowing employees to fit in a workout during the day. This has an added advantage as exercise is a great way to clear your head and re-energise. Not only do you get to focus on your health and fitness during the day, you return to work after lunch with increased energy, which translates to increased productivity, and perhaps fewer hours in the office.
Other companies have a gym on-site for employees to exercise at their own convenience. Cai Zihe, a product engineer at Micron, found the gym at the company very convenient.
“In my first two years, I used the gym almost every day because I like to keep fit,” he said.
Doing your job well
For some engineers, work-life balance has to be earned – putting in the effort to do the job well, so that work does not eat into personal time. If not, you might end up being called back after office hours to attend to issues.
This is what Adeline Ang, Member of Technical Staff for Factory Automation at GLOBALFOUNDRIES, lives by.
“By doing your job well, you naturally achieve work-life balance,” she said. “For me, it’s about being able to do your job well, and having enough time to spend on yourself, your family, to do the things that you like.”