26 Aug 2020  •  Blog, Mental Health, Covid-19  •  6min read By  • Ian Eslick

Your dentistry questions answered: work/life balance

Practice Plan’s Ian Eslick looks for answers to the questions you’re asking…

How can I have a better work/life balance?

For many, COVID-19 brought a period of reflection and, while it has not been without challenges, there’s also been opportunity to experience a different way of working and living.

A lot of us have been able to work more flexibly, spend more time on hobbies, if you’re a parent you might have felt you have been able to reconnect with your children.

With the closure of practices, dentists and their teams have had no choice but to take their foot off the gas. No doubt, many would rather have been working and serving their patients’ needs. However, many will also have begun contemplating how they might be able to hold onto this new lifestyle after returning to practice.

To find out more, I spoke to Beverly Sherratt, a specialist in organisation culture and behaviour, who also provides one-to-one mentoring, with a passion for creating mental health wellbeing in the workplace, and asked her: How can I have a better work/life balance?

Beverly, ‘A work/life balance can be defined as equilibrium. In other words, it’s the ability to have a sustainable workload that allows for the achievement of goals, objectives and personal growth, together with a life outside of work that permits relaxation, enjoying time with family, friends and yourself, and the space to comfortably ‘get your stuff done’.

People are very aware of the concept of having a work/life balance these days and unfortunately, if you feel like yours is too heavily weighted one way, this can end up becoming another thing to feel stressed or pressured about.

The pressure of achieving work/life balance

In some organisations we work with there is an eagerness to reduce pressure on staff by having, for example, no email Fridays, or no working past a certain time. The potential downside of this is that, together with perhaps volunteering under a company’s CSR policy, it can add further pressure to staff when there are peaks in workload.

We also sometimes put pressure on ourselves by trying to fit family, friends and chores into the evenings or weekends. These things almost take on the pressure of a job.

For me it is about being realistic as to what is humanly possible. That is the organisation being aware of workload changes and creating a culture where staff know work/life balance is valued and promoted but feel empowered to manage their workload, and confident to highlight when things aren’t going well.

We quite often feel guilty about the time we dedicate to work, particularly those of us who have family or friends who depend on us. We then try to be ‘all things to everyone’ and lose ourselves along the way. The truth is, by giving time for ourselves we are a better family member or friend to those who need us. So, it’s important not to feel guilty about taking ‘me time’.

Find what gives you energy

It’s important to do things that replenish our energy and reinvigorate us. Most importantly, sharing our passion for what we do.

Sense of achievement or accomplishment boosts our mental health. So, whether we’re participating in a sport, socialising or competing, that sense of team and passion for what we do meets our needs.

For those people who make or create things, their achievement may be in seeing their work completed, sharing it with others, or even coming to the end of a book.

We live in a world of changing goalposts that often leaves us feeling we can’t complete things.  Hobbies and sports can provide that sense of achievement that we need to replenish our motivation and self-satisfaction.

Making time for yourself

As I’ve mentioned, many people can feel guilty about taking that time out for themselves. Below are some tips as to how you can make sure you carve out that time and stick to it, even if there are other things that also need doing:

  • Plan in ‘me time’ just as you would with meetings, appointments, and work projects.
  • It’s about changing your mindset. It is estimated that presenteeism costs the UK £15bn. If we think about that, we’d know it’s better to refuel our mind and body by taking a break.
  • So, with that mindset change, put hobbies and sports into diaries, schedulers, planners, etc. Most importantly put them in shared calendars so that no one else books something into your time.
  • Say to yourself or if others infer you’re being selfish, “I want to be and give you the best version of me, and to do that I need to …” [fill in what is important to you].’

Thanks, Beverly, for sharing your thoughts and advice on this topic. As we all begin recovering from the impact of COVID-19, it will be tempting to rush back at full speed and try to make up for lost ground.

Yet one of the positive lessons to take from this crisis is that it gave a lot of people a chance to see what a more balanced life could be like and the effect that can have on our physical and mental wellbeing.

Maintaining some of that balance will be more challenging as normality returns, but with a few small changes and a renewed focus, you just might be able to achieve the kind of work/life balance you didn’t, or couldn’t, have before.

About Beverly

Beverly is passionate about workplace well-being and mental health. She works with organisations to help them develop their employer brand, culture and behaviours to establish ‘the right fit’ for the business.

Beverly is passionate about burnout and the importance of providing career management early intervention for people at risk in the workplace. Her ambition is to create the stressless organisation!

Passionate about personal development, Beverly has mentored entrepreneurs through Entrepreneurial Spark. She also mentors business owners who are stuck but ready to move to the next level and take action to achieve clarity and focus. You can find out more by visiting: www.launchpadassociates.co.uk.

About Ian

Ian Eslick is a Regional Support Manager at Practice Plan Group, the UK’s leading provider of practice-branded patient membership plans. He has been with the Practice Plan Group for 20 years and has 24 plus years’ experience in dentistry including five years in practice. Through this regular column, he offers YOU the chance to ask any questions you may have about dentistry and running a practice today. Simply email hello@practiceplan.co.uk with your question alongside your job title and location, and let us do the rest!

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