Blog

Balancing work and personal life

1st Nov 2023

Agency dental nurses work in different environments and assist many different clinicians all the time. This type of temporary work placement makes their lives a bit different to permanent dental nurses. They are known to spend more time traveling to new locations, acclimatising to new practices and teams. This requires a great deal of organisation and stamina. In order for them to successfully do their job roles and be the best they can be in a continuously changing environment having a good balance between work and personal life is essential.

What is a good work-life balance?

A good work-life balance will help us feel happy. This doesn’t necessarily mean giving 50/50 to each, but finding a way for us to feel content with both. We are all different and there is no surprise that a good work life balance will not be the same for everyone. It is really down to your priorities in life. As such some may feel happy if they have adequate sleep, being present when spending time with their families, whilst other will value more time exercising or spending regular time with their friends. It is the joy and the drive that we feel to take on the each day that will tell us whether we have a good work life balance.

Why is it important to have a good work life balance?

Less stress:

Having a healthy balance between work and personal life enables us to feel that we have things under control, thereby reducing anxiety and worry in our lives. We feel happy and can manage any challenge that arises in the dental environment which can be caused by managing difficult procedures, complex patients or unexpected changes in appointments. Therefore people with a good work life balance may proactively try to find a solution to overcome this unlike someone with a significant stress load that may feel completely overwhelmed even at the smallest challenge.

Efficiency:

If you are unhappy you will be less motivated to complete the task at hand leading to delays and feeling sorry for yourself. This efficiency will then impact on the work of other colleagues or people. For example, if your are working with a clinician this can impact your role as team player and ultimately the care that the patient is receiving. Efficiency in dentistry is useful as it prevents patients hanging around the waiting area for longer than they need to, which potentially increases their dental anxiety.

Health:

When someone tries to maintain a good work life balance they will prioritise their health too. They will ensure that they stay active through regular exercise, spend time eating healthy food and ensure that they let their mind have a break from work by keeping up with their hobbies.

Healthy relationships:

When we are in control of our work and personal life we are likely to be more sociable and make time for our friends and family. This allows for a formation and maintenance of relationships with those that matter to us.

Fewer burnouts:

Stress can’t be completely eliminated and a small amount is essential to enable us to complete our daily responsibilities. Nevertheless, when stress is experienced for a long period of time and makes someone feel overwhelmed and unable to compete their tasks it becomes burnout. However, this is preventable through some reflective work, thinking of your priorities and collaboration with your employer.

Pitfalls in agency work:

Juggling multiple locations

Being in different locations often can be very constructive for your career and personal development. You will be constantly developing your skills and meeting new people. However, this also requires lots of energy as you will be working in new places and organisation to ensure that you are prepared for the day ahead. This can be tiring and without reflection on your performance from time to time things may become more difficult to manage.

Tips:

- Take lunch with you. It saves some time going to the shop, time during which you can recharge by taking a relaxing walk or reading something.
- Make sure that you use your breaks to relax and recharge.
- Consider using a bike or different mode of transport if that will help reduce your commuting time.

Working extra hours

It can be very tempting to take on additional shifts if you are saving money for a holiday or buying a house for example. However, this can impact on your personal life as you’d be spending a considerable more time working, taking you away from time spent on yourself doing other things that you enjoy. With time tiredness and exhaustion can settle in and impact on life and job satisfaction. Additionally, overworking can negatively affect your performance, reduce your efficiency and put a risk on your safety and others around you.

Tips:

- If you wish to work extra hours consider the gains and losses. Sometimes maintaining your normal work hours and considering reducing your expenditure might get you close to the same result without taking a toll on your overall happiness.

How do I assess my work life balance?

Pause and reflect

From time to time it is a good idea to pause and reflect on your work and personal life. Are you happy with your job? Is there anything that is making you feel stressed? Are my priorities the same or have they changed?

Check in with your feelings?

Ask yourself: Is your current situation making you feel happy, angry or resentful? When was the first time you felt them? How long have you had them for? Reflect on this and consider what could help change them.

Signs that your balance is unhealthy:

- You aren’t getting enough sleep
- You feel tired all the time
- You are easily irritable

Insufficient sleep can be due to a lot of things including stress, disorganisation or simply having too much on your plate. Without adequate sleep our memory and learning is impaired and we become tired easily and irritable. Not getting enough sleep over a long period of time can affect our general health too.

- You don’t exercise or can’t find the time to exercise
- You have postponed your hobbies a few times to work extra hours

Exercise is a free way of looking after our physical and mental health. There is tremendous amount of benefits to be gained from exercise as this is known to cause the release of many chemicals in the brain that boost our mood, thereby not only keeping us healthy but also happy.

- Your cannot say no to your job
- You check your email and take work calls after your shift finishes
- You never stop thinking about work

In order to be good at our jobs we need breaks to allow our brain to reset. Taking breaks and undertaking different activities are useful in encouraging creativity and problem solving and recover from the demands of the job. You are unable to do this if work mode is never switched off.

What does it take to achieve a health balance between work and personal life?

Organisation

Make sure that you prepare for your work day the night before. This saves you time and gives you a head start in the morning, allowing to focus on the day ahead instead of all the things that you might forget at home.

Communication

Be open and let your area manager know if you are struggling. Together you might be able to find a way to get a better work life balance.

Placing boundaries between work and personal life

Small things, like not taking phone calls and checking email after you get home can help give you that much needed time to unwind and recover after a day of work. Take an example from our big boss Sharon, who has a golden rule of not checking her phone past 9pm. So there you go - if a company director can afford to do it you can too.

Having regular breaks

Daily breaks are always necessary, but holidays are also necessary from time to time to reset. It will also boost your morale and give you something to look forward to.

Exercise

Doing sport few times a week for an hour or so will help you stay healthy, relieve anxiety and boost happiness. Make it a priority and treat it as an important task that needs accomplishing. It will also help to stretch and relieve pressure after spending most of the day sitting down and tensing muscles throughout the upper body during treatment.

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