Work-life balance: Flexibility or friction?

March 7, 2008

We all seem to be getting busier all the time. How can we maintain a healthy work-life balance?

Dr. Clare RocheWe all seem to be getting busier all the time. How can we maintain a healthy work-life balance?Many radiologists work full time and are parents or caregivers for dependent relatives. Even those radiologists without family commitments want to enjoy their leisure time. Flexibility is the new buzzword, but how can flexibility be integrated into a busy radiology department without causing friction?In the past, work-life balance was considered a women's issue. It is now recognized as an imperative for attracting and retaining the best male and female radiologists. In the U.K., four out of five employees state that work-life balance considerations play a crucial role in deciding whether to stay with or leave their current employer: 87% is the proportion of executive candidates rejecting a job due to work-life balance considerations, and 49% of employers have seen an increase in productivity following the implementation of work-life balance options. One-quarter of female employees and one-10th of male employees have some form of flexible working arrangement.

Broadly speaking, flexible working arrangements can be categorized into two broad groups in terms of their different flexibilities:

  • Temporal flexibility relates to variations in the number of hours worked and is by far the most commonly recognized form of flexible working at present. Relevant flexible work arrangements include less than full-time working (including job-sharing and other forms of part-time working), flextime, career breaks, and term time working.
  • Geographical flexibility relates to the choice of working location and varying the geographical location of the workplace to meet the changing needs of employers and/or employees. Such flexibilities would include teleplace and teleworking. This is a comparatively new form of flexible working that is rapidly developing with technological advances, particularly in the information technology area. PACS technologies have made this form of flexible working a real option for today's radiologists.

The difficulty with teleradiology, though, is that the radiologists working from home may feel marginalized or isolated, losing professional contact with clinical colleagues. The difficulty for the radiologists left working in the department is that the "unseen" and often unmeasured work of the radiologist -- the interruptions by clinical colleagues, general trouble-shooting, supervision, and instruction of radiology trainees -- becomes more of a burden.

For the radiology department, the benefits of flexible work practices include being able to provide more responsive services to the public in the form of longer opening hours as well as retaining valued staff who may otherwise leave.Looking toward the future, it is clear that the number of women choosing medicine as a career is increasing. The number of female doctors choosing radiology as a career is also increasing, albeit more slowly. Both women and men want to have balance in their lives. Enabling family-friendly or work-life balance initiatives will ensure that your radiology department will continue to attract and retain the best people.Family-friendly policies are a way to support and recognize the changing needs of employees at different points in their lives and careers. They are good for business. They are good for radiologists. And they are good for families.

Note: Dr. Roche will be giving a presentation on this topic at the ECR 08 Professional Challenges Session, PC 16, to be held from 16.00 to 17.30 on Monday 10 March.