Do 'One Week On, One Week Off' Gigs Still Have Appeal in the Rad Job Market?

Abundance of seven-day workweek positions seems out of touch for recruiting radiologists.

Folks reading between the lines of my columns in recent months might have correctly guessed that I have been seeking a new venue for my radiology career.

One thing that stands out to me is the prevalence of rad jobs featuring seven-day workweeks. This is most commonly followed by seven days off, sometimes even 14. Granted, my interest in teleradiology somewhat skews my findings but the seven-day gigs seem unusually common to me.

I get that they appeal to certain folks. Heck, I signed up for seven-on, seven-off (let’s just call it “7o7o” from now on, shall we?) when I first went into teleradiology back in 2011. However, there were a couple of reasons for that. First, the job market stunk at the time, and I didn’t have a lot of great alternatives.

Second, my first teleradiology gig was nocturnal. Most mere mortals need a day or two to transition between nocturnal work and daytime living with the rest of society. This is just like dealing with jetlag. A traditional Monday-Friday workweek only leaves you two days before you are back on the clock. This is barely enough time to reset your internal clock once, let alone twice. But if you’re 7o7o, you can finish your workweek, take a day to un-vampire yourself, and live five to six normal days before it’s time to creep back into the shadows.

There are key differences between then and now. 1) The job market is red hot. If you’re a rad seeking work, the world is your oyster. Would-be employers should be falling all over themselves to offer you sweet deals. 2) While most of the current 7o7o listings are nocturnal, many are for daytime work.

This leads me to wonder: Do a lot of rads like 7o7o? I don’t. I tolerated it, and most of the rads I’ve known who did it felt the same way.

Again, that schedule served its purpose for me. It gave me access to competitive income at the nadir of the job market, and I did like having all the extra time off. But long before the market recovered to offer me better options, I found that I trulyhatedhaving to work at least half of the weekends each year.

I don’t think a lot of prospective 7o7o workers initially think about the weekend aspect. They might be dazzled by the promise of “26 weeks of vacation!” Alternately, they might be more concerned about whether they will be subject to burnout by working seven days in a row since most of modern society seems to have decided that five is a reasonable limit.

Going 7o7o, however, you swiftly learn that any given social interaction you might have had on a weekend is now subject to a virtual coin toss as to whether you’ll be able to attend. Even 7o14o greedily consumes one-third of your weekends. Of course, the weekends are when most of your friends and family are free to do stuff. What about those weekdays you now have free as result of your wacky schedule? Well, other people are at work, school, etc., and thus are unable to enjoy your free time with you.

If you really want to do something on one of your working weekends, and you have enough advance notice, maybe coverage can be arranged for your shift. However, that usually means you must pay it back. This means punishing yourself in the near future by tacking a Saturday or Sunday onto one of the weeks for an eight-day stint. This is to say nothing of occasions when you need an entire weekend to perhaps attend a wedding. Now, you get to choose between two eight-day weeks or a single 12-day marathon of work if you haven’t had the pleasure, I advise keeping it that way.

The fact that 7o7o jobs still exist tells me that at least some of them are being filled. But so many are listed and constantly have been whenever I’ve checked for the past few months. It tells me that the supply/demand balance is not in favor of employers who want to hire that way. Above and beyond the hunger of the job market, most rads don’t like 7o7o if they have other options.

I wonder how many of those employers have come to the same conclusion or soon will. It’s funny though. Realizing something like that and taking corrective action are far less causally connected than one might think. “We’re not getting many inquiries about our 7o7o job listing.” “Well, we need more rads, what shall we do?” “Yeah, it’s a problem. Let’s leave that listing up for another month and see if anything changes.” One month later: “Still nothing. What now?” “Give it another three months.”

Some seem to think that better wordplay will suffice. One of my favorites: “Flexible schedule! Choose from 7o7o or 7o14o!” Shades of Henry Ford and his Model T. You can have any color you want as long as it is black.

There is one tried and true approach at least to a certain extent: Offer more moolah so rads will opt for your 7o7o instead of someone else’s 7o7o. The problem there is you’re competing for what appears to be a diminishing pool of rads who aren’t (yet) fed up with losing half or a third of their weekends. You can’t tell which of them will eventually become fed up after working for your princely sum in a year or two, demand that you change their schedule or watch them leave. At this point, you will be back to recruiting again.

As a job seeker who’s done—and is now done with—the 7o7o thing, I can tell you that I immediately write off job listings which insist on it. It doesn’t matter what else they have to say, It is a deal killer for me.

Meanwhile, if a listing leaves the door slightly ajar to other options (“7o7o preferred, but open to discussing alternatives”), rads like me might just come knocking.