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How has the Pandemic Changed Our Views on Work-Life Balance?

doctor stressed wearing a mask

No one thinks more about work-life balance than the typical medical provider. Physicians and nurses didn’t need a pandemic to make them acutely aware of the issue.

But for the rest of society, the global pandemic has been a giant wake up call. As the world has changed since March 2020, so have many individual priorities.

Personal Priorities Taking Precedence

With all the monumental changes to peoples’ lives brought about by the pandemic, several ripple effects took hold.  Without long commutes, people were home in time for dinner with their families, for their kids’ bedtimes, and for walks and bike rides and conversations. People had more time to take a breath and be together.

Although it took a global health crisis, an obvious realization occurred: A healthy work-life balance is no longer just a nice perk. It’s now a mandatory requirement for all workers.

As an article by the Harvard Business Review put it, the world ahead looks much different than our pre-pandemic norms: “For decades, scholars have described how organizations were built upon the implicit model of an ‘ideal worker’: one who is wholly devoted to their job and is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, every year of their career.

“This was always an unrealistic archetype, and the Covid-19 crisis has shown just how unrealistic it is,” the article states.

A New Concern for Work-Life Balance, Even for Physicians

For medical professionals, it seems the issue is also coming front and center.

As we’ve noted in previous articles, finding the balance between a fulfilling career and a content personal life is easier said than done—especially for clinicians. There’s just not enough time in the day to do it all and do it well and for far too many professionals, this realization comes too late, once burnout has already taken hold.

“Since the pandemic started, traditional ideas around work have been thrown upside down,” an article by EU Business School article notes. “The health crisis has accelerated changes in the way we work. But these alterations were already starting to come into place prior to the pandemic, especially as younger generations have begun to demand greater freedom and autonomy.”

For many, greater freedom has come in the form of a hybrid work schedule. As Greg Pryor, Senior Vice President at Workday, noted in an article by HR Daily Advisor, the pandemic has “only accelerated two trends that were already in motion prior to March 2020:

  • Increased flexibility, focus, trust, and autonomy that has led to an increase in personal and organizational productivity and
  • The blurring of work-life lines in an increasingly digital and distributed workspace, which has brought to light new challenges, like increased fatigue

Changing the ways in which we’ve always viewed the traditional workday is a notion that has been brought up time and time again in the healthcare world, as discussions about burnout among clinicians have been taking place for decades. The big difference is that now, people are paying more attention. And in turn, changes are actually being made.

“New Normal” Elicits Mixed Feelings Among Employees

“Emergencies are frequently regarded as catalysts for change,” according to an article by Oxford Academic. The “new normal” at work in a post-pandemic world is a prime example.

“For decades working in an assigned workspace has been a standard pattern of work in many countries, while conversely, before the pandemic, work from home (WFH) was considered as a privilege for certain employees,” the Oxford article states.

“The ongoing pandemic has become an unexpected catalyst for remote work and forced a reconsideration of work in terms of the designated workplace location and workplace practices.”

The statistics suggest the changes—in some form—are here to stay, according to an article by Apollo Technical. Among them is a study completed by Owl Labs in 2021 that found “that just 36% of people believe that the office is best suited for individual work.”

The Apollo article points out a few reasons for why this is the case:  

  • No commute
  • Less water cooler talk
  • More exercise
  • Maximum productivity

“Working from home can be a more productive work environment than the typical office cubicle, enhancing work-life balance depending on your setup,” the Apollo article notes.

Obviously, for healthcare providers, there are more limits to changing the workplace setting, but the growing popularity of telehealth suggests there may be more fertile ground to sow.

Where the Workforce Stands Right Now

As an article by Rise explains, “The notion of work-life balance post-pandemic is complicated: There’s no one-size-fits-all approach.”

Even so, there are trends that we continue to see emerge. The Rise article highlights a few of the ways in which organizations are currently managing work-life balance:

  • Offering employees increased flexibility and control over their schedule
  • Emphasizing the importance of quality of work and productivity over quantity of work done and hours spent working
  • Investing in technology and tools that allow employees to both do their jobs better and feel better connected
  • Encouraging employees to take time off and sign offline when they do so
  • Adopting a mindset of adaptability. What works now might not work in the future and what works for one person might not work for another

“Even within one organization,” the Rise article says, “work-life balance will be different from location to location and person to person.”

But no matter where employees live and what they do for a living, the past two years have completely changed the way in which we view our lives and our work. Perhaps the EU Business School article said it best: “People want to take ownership of their lives.”

Now, as we continue to emerge from the grips of a global pandemic, the collective workforce—including the medical industry—is finally feeling empowered enough to do just that.

Physicians Angels is the industry’s first Virtual Scribe company, providing real-time documentation directly into the physician’s EMR, along with Virtual Back Office services. Our services save the physician an average of 10 hours per week, thereby improving patient throughput and contributing to a better work/life balance for the physician and office staff. To learn more, visit physiciansangels.com or contact us.

About the author

Physicians Angels

More time for physicians to see more patients, provide better care, and live their lives. Physicians Angels provides one-of-a-kind EMR data management services to healthcare providers through our real time Virtual Scribe service.