Looking back over my writing/editing career in MedComms (25 years and counting), it is fascinating to see how my work-life balance needs have changed during the different phases of my life. In my early career I wanted the buzz, busyness and international travel involved with working as a member of an in-house MedComms team. At this point in my life, work was the dominant factor in my balance – the job was satisfying and well paid, I was happy working long hours, and I made long-lasting friendships and connections. After a few years of this, other things started happening in my ‘life’ department, and maintaining this level of input into the ‘work’ side became exhausting. I think that this is the point when I first became aware of my work-life balance.
Still in MedComms, I gave up the security of a ‘real’ job with a regular salary and went freelance to get my balance back. When the kids came along, I needed to be able to work less, have much more flexibility and a lot less buzz and I was able to do this as a freelancer. A move into ‘the middle of nowhere’ meant that I needed projects that could be completed remotely and didn’t involve travelling long distances to attend face-to-face meetings. When I ended up as the major wage earner in the family, I needed to up my hours and earn more. When the kids were 7 and 9 we decided to ‘sell up and sail’ – leaving the UK on a yacht. Nearly 10 years into travelling the world, I am still working as a freelancer and able to fund our lifestyle; OK, our costs are lower than living in a house but I can work limited hours and can take chunks of time off when I need to (our Atlantic crossing took nearly a month). We have home-schooled the kids, spent time living in Spain and the Caribbean, travelled thousands of miles and visited numerous countries, and hope to keep doing this for a while longer.
Throughout all of this – from working as an in-house writer to a freelancer and nomadic world traveller – MedComms has provided great people to work with, a supportive network, fascinating projects, intense job satisfaction, a decent living, and an amazing opportunity to never stop learning. Yes, there are periods when work is hard to come by or when I take on too much of the stuff and the deadlines are tight, when projects are boring or badly thought out and the clients are difficult. However, in my experience, MedComms can be whatever you want it to be – you just have to decide what that is and work towards it. You don’t have to be freelance to benefit – even ‘real’ jobs in MedComms these days offer flexible hours and home working.
Hang in there, I’m nearly done… I think that finding a good work-life balance in any career starts with awareness of what you need in your life at a particular point in time, and an understanding that this will change – sometimes from day-to-day and almost definitely over time. I think that it is also important to recognise that a good work-life balance is a personal thing – that what works for other people doesn’t necessarily apply to you and that it is OK to be different. I appreciate that not everyone wants their work–life balance to include fixing a boat in exotic locations, but it is reassuring to know that whatever you choose to do, you can almost definitely take MedComms with you.
Written by Sarah Smith, Freelance Medical Writer/Editor