Don't let work rule your life

Don’t let work rule your life
By Paulette Storey

Allowing your career to take over your personal life can lead to stress and ill health. Here are some tips to help keep the balance

In recent years, excessive workplace pressure has been acknowledged as a major problem for some pharmacists. In a study, based on data from the census conducted by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain in 2008, 32 per cent of community pharmacists and 21.6 per cent of hospital pharmacists said they worried about the effect of work stress on their health.

A heavy workload (perhaps worsened by staff shortages and absences), pressing deadlines, pressures from managers and periods of change all contribute to stress at work. At times we all work late or longer hours. But this should not be the norm.

Everyone’s definition of a healthy work-life balance will be different — the key is to find your own equilibrium. If you resent the amount of time and energy taken up by work, rather than finding it rewarding and fulfilling, then it is time to take stock, take responsibility for your own health and well-being, and recognise that you have choices.

There are strategies that we as individuals can adopt, which are outlined below.

Separate work from home

Allow time at the end of the working day to make any lists for the following day and then draw a line under the current day’s work. Do not check emails from home.

Your life outside work has many different aspects. Making sure these are enriching and rewarding helps to maintain a healthy balance. Identify what you would like to do and set realistic goals, then treat these goals as if they are set in stone.

Keep healthy

A healthier lifestyle can give you the foundations to deal better with stressful situations. Adopting a routine that incorporates regular exercise, healthy eating and getting sufficient sleep, for example, may negate the effect that stress can have on you and your body.

It is also advisable to avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine consumption, which can lead to dehydration and sleeping problems.

Learn to say “no”

Are you someone who is always taking on more work? Maybe you find it hard to say “no”. You do not have to be a superhero — learn to say “no”, and practise effective time management.

If you feel put on the spot when asked to undertake work that you feel is unrealistic, buy time by asking if you can get back to the person. Then review whether or not the work is a priority for you, and whether you can complete it. If you do want to take it on, determine how to manage it effectively and what you can drop or move from your existing commitments. If it is unrealistic, say “no”.

Manage your time

Simple time-management techniques can help identify priorities and help you feel in control.

Look at your “to do” list (or make one if you have not done so already) — which tasks still need to be done and which ones can you delegate? For each task, identify its importance and deadline, then plan what needs to be done and when.

If something is not achievable within the set timescale (without working lots of extra hours) take steps to resolve this — speak to a manager, ask for help, see if the deadline is moveable.

Take regular breaks

Breaks are important for your well-being and the safety of patients in your care. Breaks also help you remain alert and focused. Conversely, not taking a break can detract from your well-being and productivity and, in turn, have negative effects for your organisation and patients.

Take your lunch break, move around, change position and, where possible, change activity to help prevent long-term problems such as eye strain, back pain and repetitive strain injury.

Pharmacist Support can be contacted on 0808 168 2233 or Further information is available at

This piece is abridged from an article by Paulette Storey, information officer at Pharmacist Support, first published in Clinical Pharmacist (2012;4:209).

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