UCL Institute of Health Informatics


Alvina Lai on Work Life Balance

8 October 2019

Alvina is a Lecturer in Health Data Analytics at the UCL Institute of Health Informatics. She shared her thoughts on how to maintain a good work life balance.

Alvina Lai

Alvina is a Lecturer in Health Data Analytics at the UCL Institute of Health Informatics. Her group is interested in harnessing multi-omics and real-world data collected in the form of electronic health records to understand how we can improve health and healthcare systems using data at scale to generate meaningful and actionable clinical insights. Alvina recently joined us from the University of Oxford and Christ Church Oxford. We’re delighted to have her here!

In today’s quest to beat the odds of getting that elusive grant and landing that one big “career-changing” publication, early career researchers like myself are faced with a conundrum. I have since learned that relentless dedication to work can be unproductive and dangerous, especially if one's sense of fulfilment is tethered to a single entity that is work.  

We are people first before we are who we are at work, yet boundaries are not easily drawn. I am fortunate to be given the opportunity to do what I love for work and to work in a place that values work-life balance. Having spent a lot of time contemplating this topic, here are some ideas that seem to work for me most of the time: 

1)  Know thyself. Develop self-awareness to accept that pursuing non-work activities are not distractions and will not jeopardise your chances of getting said grant/publication.

2) Get organised. Protect your time fiercely. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the demands of day-to-day work. Make a plan, work intensely when it’s time to work and turn off notifications.

3) Be realistic. Science is fickle. Humans are fickle. Be kind to yourself. If you want to reply to emails during non-working hours, by all means reply. If you have a sudden burst of inspiration and would rather write that code down, do it and don’t punish yourself for it. If you have been staring at the screen for an hour and can’t seem to write a single sentence, then take a break, go for a run. If you can’t get through your to-do list for the day, don’t feel guilty and don’t let autonomy be self-defeating.

Here’s to wishing everyone a healthy work-life balance!