Caroline van Halteren
Caroline van Halteren Image credit: Caroline van Halteren

Isn’t this supposed to be Rotterdam, the city of ‘actions not words’? Who needs a coach here to sort out their work-life balance?

“But maybe it’s exactly here that we need a coach, because of how the city is. A director of a large financial institution just called. Not someone who is easily put off his stride; a real entrepreneur. He thought burn-out was a stupid word and wanted nothing to do with it. But we know that very many people are on the brink of this. Making that first step in asking for help often seems to be difficult. And of course, this doesn’t only apply to people in Rotterdam.”

 Why do you need a coach to achieve a work-life balance?

‘“Actions not words’, is a good approach to work, just not all the time. A chat with a work-life balance coach, which is always strictly confidential, can ease the pressure and generate new insights. I work with people to investigate what balance actually is. For example, I ask how much time they spend on work in a week, including that e-mail that needs to be sent at 11.30 pm and the time that they had to read an agenda item on Sunday afternoon for a meeting on Monday morning. People are often shocked by this. I then ask how much time they spend on something that they really enjoy; something that gives them energy. People often can’t think of anything.”

“I sometimes compare it with servicing a car. People are actually really good about servicing their cars; they go to the car wash regularly and have an MOT done every year. And yet nobody thinks about a minor or major service for their body or brain; but your body can’t run on full power the whole time. Sometimes you need to put the brakes on, slow down or stop. However, we’ve never learned to do this. In just two or three discussions with a coach, you learn a completely different way of acting, communicating and working.”


‘We operate on a shoestring’

Three EUR staff members who, unlike the university itself, have signed the petition…

How do you achieve a good work-life balance? Do you practice saying ‘no’ for hours?

“No. It’s more about not saying ‘yes’ straight away, or just tacitly agreeing to something. Just say if you can’t take on that extra task. And looking critically at how and what you’re communicating is always really useful. For example, I’m irritated by ‘we’; ‘should we just do this?’ There is no we; you and I have to do it. So agree concretely what you and what the other person will do.”

“In the first discussion, I listen really carefully to the story from the person I’m meeting with. You can only build trust by really paying attention. Once there is a relationship of trust we talk about practical things, such as the nature of the work, how much someone works, etc. I then look at what someone wants to achieve within four or five years, both in their personal and work life. And what that demands of someone.”

The Week of Work Happiness was established to break through the taboo about issues such as high workloads, and to reflect on how happy people are in their current jobs. If you don’t know that yet, how can you find this out for yourself?

“By attending one of my lectures this week. Monday is open to everyone and Wednesday is especially for PhD students. We’ll be using a number of working methods in these lectures to investigate whether you have concerns at work or if you’re actually really happy.”

“Or otherwise, visit one of the eight coaches from the pool. EUR employees can just use them and you don’t need your manager’s permission.”

Which coach do you see?

“I have a sparring partner, but I sometimes also visit a psychologist. I go there for my own servicing; my MOT.”

Three points of interest to work on for a good work-life balance:

  1. Know what recharges you.
  2. Discuss your life goals. Not just obtaining a PhD or delivering good performance, but also smaller more achievable goals. Such as attend a concert by a performer you like.
  3. Investigate whether you are really connected with yourself and the people around you.