In today’s working world, working 8am-7pm is the new 9am-5pm. Thanks to staff cuts and higher expectations from employers, it is now the norm to push your hour’s way above the standard 40-hour work week.

In the world of medicine working extra hours is rampant, possibly more than any other profession. As hospitals are under-staffed and under more demand, most doctors are working way more hours than they are technically signed up to do.

Why is this so bad for you, and how can you claw some balance back into your life?


Your health is the number one reason why work / life balance is essential.

First, there is mental health. Studies show that people who work long hours are twice as likely to suffer a major depressive episode, with people who work 11-hours or more a day are at the most risk.

Second, there is physical health to consider. People who work longer hours and are under more pressure are at an increased risk of heart disease by a whopping 67 percent. A big factor in this increased risk is the likelihood that someone who spends most of their time at work is prone to do less exercise, as well as eat higher amounts of fast or convenience foods.

Added to this, people who work hard or too much are more likely to experience high levels of stress as well as suffer exhaustion from a lack of sleep. This last point impacts on physical health as well as mental health. 


It is quite rare for people who spend abnormally long hours at work to also manage to stay within a healthy relationship. Whether this be a marriage, dating, or within the relationships you have with your children, parents or friends.

Longer hours not only take you away from the people you love, but it leaves you exhausted and cranky so even when you are with them you are probably not great to be around. A good work / life balance is essential to maintaining the relationships that are important to you.

Burn out / losing passion for what you do

The first thing you may start to notice when you are doing too much overtime is the burn out you experience. A career that once sparked passion and excitement might become dull and routine if you feel like you never leave the place. And the facts are, you not only FEEL burnt out but you actually ARE burnt out. A Stanford study has shown that any hours worked in a week above 50 are basically unproductive. As it turns out, 40-50 hour weeks are the optimum range for working, so why are we all doing so many more?

In order to be more productive at work, you actually need to give yourself more time off. Taking breaks and doing something different for a while will leave you re-energised and ready to hit the ground running when you start your next shift. Surprisingly, giving yourself some work / life balance may just be the best thing you can do for your career.

Life satisfaction

In keeping with the theme above of giving yourself a break to continue enjoying your career, it is also important to take a break in order to enjoy your life as well. Once life becomes all work and no play, you might start to notice your levels of satisfaction with your life start to dip. Putting some of your energy into getting back into a sport, hobby or study that you once enjoyed will give you back your spark for life. It can also be a welcome relief from thinking about work 24/7. Doing well in your career as well as doing well in your life outside of work is very satisfying.

How to achieve the balance

As doctors, the elusive work / life balance may sound like an impossible dream. How can you simply work less when there is more demand and less staff than ever before? The simple answer is to go locum. Leaving a permanent position to go locum will mean that you can start to dictate the amount of time you spend at work.

It can be done in one of two ways: you can take on a role that is similar to part-time hours, giving yourself days off and daylight hours to enjoy the things you want to do. Or you can take work on a project by project basis. This is more of a work hard, play hard strategy. For example, you can pick up a three-month contract at a hospital with the intention of working hard and saving up some money, and then take a month off to go travelling before your next working stint.

Going locum will mean you have more money as the pay rate is higher, so you can technically afford to work less hours for the same amount of income you are getting now. This way of working will reduce stress, reduce fatigue and give you your spark back for the career you once held so dear.

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