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Physician Work-Life Balance May Improve with a Four-Day Workweek


Work-life balance works best when you dedicate yourself professionally at work and then let work go at home.

In my community, most physicians work a four-day work week.  Of course, this doesn’t include call duties, rounding on hospitalized patients on your day off, and checking your in-basket remotely for patient messages.  Apparently this trend is now the norm for almost half of female physicians, according to a survey released last year. 

Today was my “day off.”  It was great.  I got gardening done, ran some necessary errands, had a doctor’s appointment that would otherwise have been difficult to schedule, and spent an hour at the park with my son. Having worked a regular five-day workweek for most of my career, I have to admit that the opportunity to trade my five-day academic workweek for a four-day clinical workweek was extremely appealing.  When you consider the amount of time one day per week gives you over the 18 years you have before your kids leave for college, it helps tip the scales.

I don’t feel any less dedicated and I certainly don’t work less hard than I did in previous positions. My days do bleed well beyond my clinic hours but it doesn’t seem so bad when I consider the extra day off I get to enjoy. It makes it easier for me and my family to swallow late-call nights and early-morning hospital rounds when my day off is relatively preserved. 

I am a strong advocate of a four-day workweek.  I think that work-life balance works best when you completely dedicate yourself professionally while you’re at work and then are able to completely let work go when you are at home.  Unlike many of my colleagues, I try very hard to avoid bringing work home.  It is a challenging day when I have to finish notes on my laptop in the home office.  I can’t concentrate as well.  There are interruptions.  I feel like I’m being punished because I really want to go read a book, play a game, spend time with my husband or kids, or just think about something other than diabetes and pap smears. 

I read a recent article in the Wall Street Journal about how furniture makers are designing a new generation of living room furniture that allows family members to be together while each plugged into their own electronic device.  For a generation that works at home, it is an appealing option. I’d argue though that instead of rearranging the living room furniture, we’d be better off rearranging our schedules. 

I’m curious what types of scheduling negotiations readers out there have navigated. Do you also enjoy a four-day workweek? Do you bring work home so you can leave “on time”? Do you find that an extra “day-off” is anything but? Let me know how you use your work schedule to maximize your time in the clinic and at home.

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