Work and Life: How to get the balance right

It’s a new year and it’s an excellent time to reflect on what worked well last year and what wasn’t as successful. We’ve had a lot of feedback to say that one of the challenges that most young doctors and dentists struggled with was ‘work/life balance’. Hopefully the following article can give you a few pointers to ensure you get the balance just right for you.

When you begin life as a newly qualified doctor or dentist you may feel up against it when it comes to striking the right balance between work and play. A demanding job can take its toll on your physical and mental health and wellbeing, with more than 40% of employees saying that they neglect other aspects of their life due to work, which increases the likelihood of mental health problems (

In NHS Foundation training you earn a basic salary for 40 hours per week, plus pay for any additional hours worked, a weekend allowance and an enhancement if you work nights.

Importance of self-care
It may seem difficult, but you should try to leave your work at work and make the most of your downtime. It’s been proven that the more hours you spend at work, the more time you’ll spend thinking or worrying about work.

To ensure you’re at your best, make sure you get a good night’s sleep. Lack of sleep may lead to long-term mood disorders like depression and anxiety (NHS). In addition, you should avoid relying on drinks that are high in caffeine, even if they may boost your energy and concentration for a short time as they may disrupt your sleeping patterns in the long-term.

It’s also important to find time to do regular exercise and ensure you’re eating a balanced diet to look after and maintain your physical and mental health and well-being. Healthier lifestyles are also associated with better mood, improved memory and improved sleep.

Book your annual leave!
Holidays can help take your mind off work and will allow you to spend some time with your loved ones. By taking a few days or a long weekend off work you’ll ensure you’re at your best when you’re in the workplace and you may find that you’ll be more productive in the long run ( Booking annual leave early or even straight after you have come back from holiday can help to give you something to look forward to. Swapping shifts with other colleagues can also help, but you should be willing to offer swaps in return whenever you can.

Annual leave entitlement is 5.6 weeks in Foundation training. If you work privately, then annual leave and general public entitlement will be completely dependent on the contract set out between employer and employee.

Shift management
Sleep can be challenging in shift-based work, especially if you are working nights. If you are working night shifts, it is advisable to sleep during the day to avoid being awake for a full 24-hour period. Sometimes staying up late the night before the first shift can help you get into a routine, and it may help to try and have a lie-in the morning before your shift and take a nap in the afternoon. Other useful tips include purchasing earplugs, blackout curtains and eye masks, as they can really help if you struggle to get to sleep in the day.

Work-life balance
It is important to remember that everyone has a different opinion on what work-life balance means, and you just need to find out what works best for you.