By Lori Ferguson
Associate Professor of Management Alyssa Westring’s work-life balance classes attract students across the business management spectrum. “Students often tell me that they’ve decided to pursue a double major in their discipline and in management because they believe it’s equally important to understand the psychological aspects of business,” Westring says. “They realize they’re going to need soft skills in the workplace—the ability to address issues such as employee wellness and job satisfaction—and I love to be the person who says, ‘You can care about these things and about money!’”
A PhD in industrial/organizational psychology, Westring has seen her research garner increasing attention in recent years, thanks in part to the writings of Princeton professor emerita Anne-Marie Slaughter and Facebook COO and “Lean In” author Sheryl Sandberg. “When I started researching the topic, people were interested, but I had to bring the subject up. Now, however, if I even mention what I do, the discussion is off and running.”
Westring says that understanding values is a central aspect of both work-life balance and helping students to become future leaders.
“To be an effective leader, you not only need to know your values and act in alignment with them, but also be able to communicate them to others.”
To help her students gain greater facility in this area, Westring assigns personal audits, asking students to write down their values, track their time in 30-minute increments throughout the day and then see how their behavior aligns with their perceptions. “The goal is to encourage students to reflect, experiment and communi¬cate,” says Westring. “I’ve found those are the key steps to making changes in one’s life.”
Westring is also committed to sharing her findings with a wider audience, both scholarly and populist. She writes for the Harvard Business Review as well as for the Huffington Post and Inside Higher Ed. And since September 2015, she and Elizabeth Boyd, an assistant professor of management at Kennesaw State University, have co-hosted a podcast, Ph.SHE, discussing women, careers and work-life balance issues from the perspective of working wives and mothers as well as PhDs conducting research in this area.
“Our goal is to add an academic perspective to a discus¬sion in which many people feel free to voice their opinions,” says Westring. “I’m always trying to demonstrate to people that the principles I’m exploring are equally applicable in one’s personal and professional life.”