Executive Education

How to Make Work-Life Balance Possible While Getting an Executive MBA

work life balance

By nature, an EMBA student is going to look much different from his or her MBA counterpart: likely older, more experienced and with a family, an EMBA student may have more on his or her plate than an MBA student fresh out of college or with only a few years on the job.

What’s more, an MBA is likely to be fully immersed in a university, usually without a full-time job to necessitate balancing with his course load.

For an Executive MBA student pursuing the full degree—as opposed to online or open enrollment certificate courses—balancing work, life and education can be a tall order. However, there are some ways to keep afloat for the 15 to 24 months it takes to earn the EMBA degree.

Valuing Education Experience as Life Experience 

Perhaps the first step in at least feeling some semblance of work-life balance while enrolled in an EMBA program is understanding that your education is enriching the “life” side of the equation. As most EMBA students will confirm, time spent in the classroom or with one’s cohort is unlike any other educational experience of your life. With many programs including international travel and other hands-on learning modules, many EMBA students find that professional development is also personal development.

Of course, for those EMBA students with spouses and children, time spent in the classroom may feel more like time spent away from home. However, finding ways to build family time into one’s schedule may ultimately be more rewarding than it otherwise would be. If the family typically takes a vacation to a local beach town for week every year, the EMBA student enrolled in Georgetown and ESADE’s GEMBA program may wish to bring the family on a more culturally enriching—and equally sunny—week in Barcelona before his module starts there. That extra time on the ground ahead of the EMBA student’s module may even give him added insight into the local culture that provides him with some fresh ideas once class is in session.

Take advantage of your school’s tools to help balance

At the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, the unique work-life balance challenges of the EMBA student are taken into account. As a result, the program provides a holistic approach to leadership development and enrichment including workshops on wellness and cognitive fitness as well as personalized recommendations for stress reduction and health improvements. The program even offers built-in opportunities for exercise so that students can maintain their peak physical wellness while stimulating their mental strength and professional acumen.

The Stern School of Business at NYU structures work-life balance into its course-load and design. For example, students are only enrolled in two classes at a time with staggered start dates so that they don’t overwhelm. The program is also designed to eliminate all of the daily minutiae that suck time from the schedules of most university students: the school keeps a staff on hand dedicated to the little things from buying textbooks to registering classes for the EMBAs. To further cushion the challenges faced by long distance students, NYU offers complimentary housing on class weekends at a hotel close to the school—saving executives the hassle of negotiating logistics involved in arranging travel and accommodations.

Corporate Sponsorship and Family Support 

Because the average EMBA student will have about a decade of real world experience by the team he enrolls in a program, it’s likely he will also have a spouse and perhaps children by that stage in his life. Many EMBA program participants encourage prospective students to be sure that they have full, family buy-in on the road to higher education. For many schools, ensuring corporate support—not necessarily financial sponsorship—is a required part of the application process. No schools, however, require a student’s family to sign off on her decision to pursue an EMBA—but that does not make the need to do so any less important.

Keep in mind that an EMBA program is often structured to take the least amount of time away from the student’s work life, most typically by scheduling classes on weekends. For most people, that time would otherwise be spent with family. Losing that time may be a short-term pain point that can certainly lead to long-term rewards: financially, professionally and even personally. Ensuring that the entire family unit is on board for the two-year road to growth will soften the challenges posed by long hours, weekends spent in class and even international travel modules that take the student away from home for weeks at a time.

About the Author

R. Kress is an Emmy Award winning journalist whose reporting and writing has appeared in national media from NBC News to the International Herald Tribune. She has covered news from cities around the world including Jerusalem, Krakow, Amman and Mumbai.