Work/Life Balance Tips for Senior Programmers in Epidemiology

And a Bad Habit That Will Keep You on Top of Work

With no day ever the same, and difficulty to schedule tasks for when it suits you best, how does a senior programmer in epidemiology ensure a healthy work/life balance?

Nghi Ly, Senior Programmer at SimulStat, is lucky. She’s a great multitasker and juggles her responsibilities well. Or is it luck? We’ve learned how she keeps sane and on top of her work in the high-pressured environment in which she works.

Flexibility Is Essential

Because even the best-formed plans go wrong, it is essential that you approach your work with a flexible mindset. What may have been at the top of your list of priorities can be demoted suddenly.

“You must react and prioritize according to emergent and non-emergent issues,” Nghi says. “And you must let all the people you are collaborating with know of your bandwidth, your availability, and your challenges.”

Nghi also makes herself available during working hours, even if she is out of the office. This helps to make sure that she doesn’t return to a storm of emails – most likely all requesting the same thing.

“If I’m out of the office for any reason, I provide my phone number in case of any emergencies,” Nghi says. “I recognize that what we do is important. Sometimes all that is needed is an answer to a question. So, during business hours, I make sure that I’m always available. Of course, this depends upon conflicts such as meetings.”

Tips to Manage Time Effectively

Nghi is a working mom, so every day is a full day at work and at home for her. If she didn’t keep on top of her work, her daily balance would turn upside down. We asked Nghi if her time was ever conflicted during the day?

“Personally, I don’t suffer such conflicts,” she tells us. “I’m good at scheduling meetings and being available. I prioritize according to emergent and non-emergent issues. I let all the people who I’m collaborating with know of my bandwidth, availability, and challenges – and then I work around these challenges.”

What tips would she give to others?

First, she makes sure that MS teams is assigned to the client. This means that the client has access to Nghi’s Outlook calendar to immediately see her availability for meetings and other work-related issues. Then she:

  • Ensures that her Outlook is always up to date
  • Blocks out time for project work
  • Has open time for meetings
  • Remains flexible to clients’ needs

Nghi also says she has a bad habit that helps her manage her work/life balance…

A Bad Time Management Habit That’s Good for Work/Life Balance (and Sanity!)

At the end of each workday, Nghi goes home and takes care of her personal life. Her children, her home, her partner. But then she breaks the first rule of work/life balance. Instead of leaving work in the office, she checks her work email.

“As I’ve said before, communication is key. By simply answering an email with a holding statement, such as ‘I’ll get back to you’, you kind of buy time,” she says.

“This also helps the requestor manage their time more effectively. You let them know that you’re on it, and they can do something else, and they don’t need to worry whether you got their message. I deliver them comfort.

“Plus, importantly, I have bought the time to go and figure out what their question is, and find a solution.”

This final email check also enables Nghi to prepare for the following day. She can put to bed issues that are closed off, and shuffle her task list for emergent issues that have arisen. It means she is less pressured in the morning, and can provide answers to colleagues and clients quicker.

A Final Word on Time Management

“My style is to be very flexible as an employee,” Nghi says. “I manage around the business needs of the day. Once their needs and high-priority issues have been handled, then I go about my other tasks. For me, there’s no set time or routine. I flex around other people. My flexible personality helps. Assess what is needed and act accordingly.”

Do you crave a better work/life balance?

If you do, submit your resume to SimulStat. We’d like to help you achieve your career and life goals.