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Six Ways to Help Achieve Work-Life-Volunteer Balance

Chris Ryan

Chris Ryan is a search and rescue technician and current Communications Manager for Region 7.

We’ve all heard about the importance of achieving a work-life balance. Add some volunteerism in the disaster relief arena and you’ve got long deployments, late nights, and ongoing training to prepare you for the next response. Being able to forge a sound relationship among work, life, and volunteerism is crucial, and despite what it seems, it’s actually possible.

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Here are six tips on achieving the WLV balance based on my personal experiences as a longtime Team Rubicon volunteer:

  1. Be honest with yourself. Any volunteer effort where you make an impact can be time-consuming. At TR, it’s exciting to get out there and help others, put some new skills to use, and meet an awesome group of people with the same mission. We’ve all got different responsibilities at home, though, and we need to be honest with ourselves about how much time we can invest without dropping the ball in other areas.
  2. Be inclusive. Don’t make TR a mystery! Your co-workers, family, and friends are the people back home that help carry the load when you’re out sawing down trees or demolishing a home damaged beyond repair. It’s important they know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Spread the TR love, tell the stories, and it’ll only help the next time you need a week away to help get other families on their feet after a disaster strikes.
  3. Be prepared. Take advantage of the training opportunities available in your region. Make the most of your time on a deployment by figuring out what you’re best at and what’s most rewarding to you. Is it the hands-on work? Are you a great mentor? Love logistics? Get trained and ready in those areas to make your volunteerism a meaningful experience and make an even greater impact on the ground.
  4. Find synergy. It’s surprising how often we see professional and interpersonal skills at work in a response situation. It’s also kind of shocking how useful ICS-400 is for workplace management or how leadership skills are used every day. You might just discover some hidden talents or gain professional experience through your volunteer work. An employer who knows a TR member is coming back with a boost in valuable skills is likely an employer eager to see more volunteers in their workforce.
  5. Stay involved. It’s easy to get back home after a disaster response and get swept up in everyday life. Staying involved, whether as a leader or experienced volunteer, expands our impact as an organization and helps pass institutional knowledge to new members. The folks you meet on deployments can remain lifelong friends but only if you choose to reconnect when you get home. So get together on Facebook, attend a local TR social event, and make an effort to stay connected with the people who share your passion to help others.
  6. Take care of yourself. While we all know how great it feels to give back to our communities and help others, we also need to make sure we are taking care of ourselves. Take a time out and do something special for yourself, something that’s your decision and for your enjoyment only. It could be going for a run, watching a TV show, reading a book, playing with your kids, or just hanging out in complete silence for five minutes. Taking the time to take care of yourself will help make those moments when it feels like there is no work life balance more enjoyable and manageable.