Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Oh, stop your whining.

Posted by Jean Adams
I used to loath those consultants who told us medical students that 36 continuous hours on the ward and 100 hour working weeks never did them any harm, so the junior doctors of today should just stop their whining.

Sure stupidly long working hours might not have done the junior docs of the 1980s any lasting harm. But it certainly did their patients some harm and I’ve heard lots of stories of the short term damage such ridiculous working practices did to health and sanity. Really I thought those days were over, but apparently not.

Now that I have some responsibilities for earlier career staff and students, I am wary of becoming those loathsome consultants. For quite a while I would tell people who worked with me, quite truthfully, "well I don’t work at the weekend, so I don’t see why you should have to". This was sometimes accompanied by "I don’t think you get paid enough to work more than you’re paid to". 

I still try really hard not to work at the weekend. But I’m not as good at is as I used to be. I increasingly find myself turning on my laptop in the evening because there’s just a little job (more often jobs) that I have to do before the meeting(s) tomorrow to avoid being totally unprepared.

I think I sometimes work too many hours. Not all the time. But some weeks, and I don’t get a chance to slack off the other weeks to make up for it. My contract helpfully doesn’t specify how many hours I should work – just that I should get my job done – so it’s hard to be sure about this. I just sometimes get the feeling that there is too much work in my life. But I get paid well, I knew that this was coming when I signed up for the job, and there are certainly other people who work more than I do.

What bothers me is that my increasing working hours seem to be accompanied by decreasing sympathy for other people’s work:life balance. I still say that stuff about working the hours you’re paid for and if you can’t fit it in, we need to think about getting some help, but somehow it doesn’t feel so convincing. Genuinely, it isn’t that convincing – I am getting worse and worse at convincing myself to work that way.

The very worst thing is that I am starting to resent the people who I think aren’t pulling their weight. The people who say they’re too busy to help out, who I know aren’t as busy as me. Jeez. Who am I to judge whether other people are too busy to help out? When did I stop thinking that ‘too busy’ can mean all sorts of things that has nothing to do with working at the weekend?

Tell me I haven’t become one of those loathsome consultants.

1 comment:

  1. You've answered your own question Jean... I think it's very dangerous to make judgments about other people's lifestyle choices. For a start, I'm not sure the classic academic work:life balance is particularly healthy, nor necessarily conductive of the kind of creative thinking that defines the best science. But even assuming everyone is happy working 60+ hours a week, I suspect there may often be other reasons (not obvious from inside the office bubble) why people are limited in the amount of work they are able to take on.