I could not live without…

My work-life balance

Newly-qualified optometrist, Hassnain Safdar, on the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance and the benefits it brings him as a practitioner


“I’m running behind,” “You’re late again,” “Your performance hasn’t been so good lately,” “I can’t make it tonight guys”… these are just some of the situations that we, as practitioners, may encounter from time to time.

With employers demanding more in order to achieve targets in today’s increasingly competitive environment, we put more pressure on ourselves as practitioners to perform the best we can. However, this should not be the case. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is not only beneficial to our wellbeing and our relationships with others, but it can also improve our morale at work.

But, what happens when the stress of work becomes too difficult to handle? The AOP’s legal drama which premiered in December last year provides a great illustration of some of the stresses and what can be forgotten amidst the daily pressures in our working lives. It is definitely worth a watch if you haven’t already.

Pre-reg pressure

There have been times when I’ve struggled to maintain a healthy work-life balance. One more recent example was when I started my pre-reg period. Transitioning from being a student to working nine to five and being part of a busy store team, paired with the added pressures of revising for assessments in the evenings, I initially thought I could work long hours and still get through my lengthy to do lists that I had made at the start of my day. I was wrong. 

I wasn’t giving my brain or body the chance to stay fresh and energised for the day ahead. I had overlooked the simple things that I’ve always been told to do, like taking a walk and having regular breaks. 

"I had overlooked the simple things that I've always been told to do, like taking a walk and having regular breaks"

I soon realised that this way of working was not sustainable and I would simply burn out, and changed my routine as a result. 

Furthermore, after qualifying last year, I have begun to notice the effects of feeling mentally drained after seeing 16 or so patients. Therefore, I’ve found that having a break in the day where you can go for a short walk is a refreshing way to stay focused and productive for the afternoon clinic.

Helpful diversions 

Leave work at work. It’s probably the simplest solution, yet can easily be overlooked. Personally, I have found it to be the most effective way of achieving a healthy work-life balance. It means that when I get home, my full attention is on friends or family. 

I have also found that having something to look forward to after a busy clinic is a good way to stop me thinking about work. I can enjoy the rest of the evening, be it socialising with friends, playing sports, going to the gym or just a having a relaxing night at home.  

Moreover, with our lives being heavily occupied by work, we can often overlook what our communities need. For those seeking an alternative to sport or exercise, volunteering can be very rewarding. I have been fortunate enough to be a trustee for a young people’s organisation in the East Midlands, and it is a relief to think about something else other than eyes.

Patients’ trust 

Ensuring I maintain a suitable work-life balance means I arrive at work each day refreshed and positive, which is important in the workplace. 

Furthermore, having good morale at your workplace can improve your interaction with colleagues, but more importantly the confidence our patients have in us. Ultimately, the patients we see on a daily basis place trust in us to deliver the best eye care we can. After all, we are not robotic machines, rather human beings with our own individual character. Let’s work on exercising a healthy balance and avoid being trapped in the vortex of working life.

Image credit: Getty