Work, rest and learn

Don’t let personal development get in the way of the children’s bath time,
says Professor David Towler

For most people, work-life balance is nothing new. It is something we all
try to achieve with our family and friends in a whole variety of ways, ranging
from spending time with the children, to watching football or voluntary work.

In my case, for example, I do a number of things outside of work with a
local school and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and I
also have a young son. I am no different from millions of other working people.
The one thing I know is that time is precious, and the way I spend my time is
important not just to me, but to a number of other people who depend on me to a
greater or lesser extent.

Online learning allows us to manage our work-life balance.

Traditionally, people prefer face-to-face learning because it seems to offer
more support and interaction. But with advances in technology, online learning
can be every bit as supportive and interactive, and it can also offer huge
advantages in efficiency. For example, chat rooms, message boards, video and
audio streaming, online libraries, e-books and online tutors are available at
the click of a mouse when the user wants them.

If you think about it, a one-hour tutorial/work session could take up to
three or four hours with travel time before you even think about the lost
opportunity costs. You also have to attend a particular place at a specified
time. But being online means you can develop yourself while minimising
disruption to your home and working life. As one of our candidates said:
"The flexibility to learn when it suits me is the key thing – I can study
after bath and bed-time for my little boy. And I don’t have to go to classes or
libraries for long periods of time when I’ve been out at work all day."

Online learning empowers learners in the sense that it puts them in control.
It also lowers barriers to learning for millions of people who otherwise
couldn’t take advantage of it due to other commitments. In short, it offers the
most realistic option for achieving an attractive work-life balance for
learning and development.

Professor David Towler is principal and founder of Cambridge Online Learning
(COL), which recently undertook a research project that revealed how e-learning
is helping promote better work-life balance.

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