Eyes on wellbeing

The balance: practitioners share how they maintain a healthy work-life balance

As April is Stress Awareness Month, we asked 15 practitioners working in different modes of practice across optics, from High Street to hospital and industry, how they maintain a work-life balance

woman sitting crossed legging her her hands in a prayer position

“Varied,” “hectic,” and “fast-paced” are three words that members responding to the AOP’s 2023 membership research used when describing the optometry profession. 

Asked to pick from a list of 20 words, varied, hectic, and fast-paced were selected by 33%, 32% and 29% of respondents respectively.

As April marks Stress Awareness Month, we asked 15 practitioners what they do to destress after a busy day in clinic…

1 Ian Cameron, optometrist and managing director of Cameron Optometry, a Hakim Group practice

I try to maintain a healthy work-life balance by making sure I really rest when I rest. When I’m done with work, I actively disconnect. My laptop goes away, no email notifications, and I screen work calls. If I don’t actively switch off at these times I never really recharge. It’s not easy though – FOMO is real when it comes to work. However, I always feel better when I’ve been able to be present in what I’m doing rather than keeping one eye on my inbox all the time.

2 Josie Evans, an optometrist in independent practice and Moorfields Eye Hospital, and AOP Councillor

Following a busy morning clinic, I regain my perspective by stepping out of the consulting room and chatting to colleagues, who have usually had an equally busy morning but are positive and kind, and keep me grounded. Taking at least 15 minutes away from work-related tasks over lunch is the revival I need before heading into the afternoon. 

3 Andy Britton, optometrist director at Specsavers Haverford West

I try to maintain a healthy work-life balance by taking the time to talk to my wife about our respective work-related successes and challenges. I also find a regular sauna incredibly conducive to relaxing, there is plenty of evidence about the benefits to both the physical and mental wellbeing engendered by frequent saunas. I am also learning Kung Fu, which is something completely different for me. It delivers some strength and general fitness training, whilst also giving me the opportunity to focus on something completely unrelated to work and home.

As the optometrist director at Specsavers Haverford West, it’s important that I encourage my team to maintain a healthy work-life balance too. This means maintaining a positive can-do attitude, not over thinking any small failures, and talking through bigger problems. Plus, our optical assistant Chris Rosser, who has a formal role as mental health champion in practice, is there for all the team, and signposts resources and tools for all to use. This helps keep our mental health on the straight and narrow. 

4 Dr Martin Smith, optometrist and owner of Martin Smith Opticians

I try to maintain a healthy work-life balance by taking a day off in the week, and allowing my wife to book me time off from work. She’s much better than me at knowing when I need a break, and I have a tendency to do too much if left to my own devices. My day off started as writing time for my thesis, and I decided when I finished it that it was good for me to have that time out of practice. On my day off in the week I do gardening, have lunch or go for a walk with my wife, who works from home, and do odd jobs, generally all whilst listening to Audible or podcasts. I have a never-ending supply of maintenance jobs to do on the house, garden and bikes, and this keeps me generally happy – I’m not one for sitting down for any length of time.

5 Ceri Smith-Jaynes, optometrist and OT clinical multimedia editor

Working in a room with no windows for years does give you Peter Pan skin, but getting some daylight helps to set your body clock. I cycle to work when the weather permits, take a walk after work or sit on a park bench at lunchtime for a few minutes. Communing with nature always makes me feel good and I’ll seek out woodland wherever I am; I just love the smell, the sights and sounds and the hollow feel under my feet. Or… I purge my repressed emotions by killing baddies and blowing stuff up on a video game. It’s great escapism.

6 Kejal Shah, ophthalmic director at Specsavers Surrey 2 home visits

I try to maintain a healthy work-life balance by going out for walks, gardening and, more importantly, spending time with my kids. I also spend time doing social things with my team to make sure we can have fun together outside work.

7 Maria McAllister, Specsavers lead clinical performance consultant, and accredited transformational coach

It is within our power to prioritise our wellbeing and create healthy barriers between our professional and personal lives. For me this means spending time with my young son, being present with him and entering his little world. 

It’s in this space of balance and self-care that we truly thrive, nurturing both our minds and bodies for the challenges and triumphs that lie ahead. Our profession, with its capacity for meaningful connections and daily impact, can be a source of inspiration as we choose to open the door to a career marked out by boundless joy and growth.

8 Sarfraz Majid, optometrist and practice partner at Holland Opticians, a Hakim Group independent practice

I used to love going to the gym early in the morning before work. After having children, I soon realised this was an impossibility. Anyone who has young children will know, you just don’t know what the night will bring. If you don’t get a good night’s sleep, you can forget about those early morning gym sessions. I now go to the gym in the evening after the bedtime routine. Yes, it’s late and yes, it’s super difficult after a long day to get up and go (again!) but the hardest part is getting out the door. Once you’re there, it’s done before you know it and that post workout feeling is always worth it.


9 Kirsty Litherland, optometrist and practice partner at Holland Opticians, a Hakim Group independent practice

I try to maintain a healthy work/life balance by actually just taking some time for myself. I've learnt over the past few years, especially as a busy working mum, it’s important to make sure you look after yourself both physically and mentally. I also love doing little creative things both at home and work. I think it's important to take a lunch break away from your desk – I use mine to eat and make optometry inspired reels, or, on a nice day, I'll go to the nearby park to enjoy some sun. I feel that when we look after ourselves, we can perform at our best, which means you can also be at your best for everyone around you – your family, your team and your patients.

10 Luke McRoy-Jones, optometrist

I try to maintain a healthy work-life balance by always having something to look forward to that’s not work related. For my days off, weekends and on Bank Holidays, I always try and plan an activity, a goal or something with friends, my girlfriend, family or sometimes in my own company. Generally, I enjoy being active and being out and about and this helps me recharge my batteries. Whether it’s heading to the beach for the day, planning a walk, a swim, a concert/music event, having fun activities planned for my days off gives me motivation through the week. Living in Malta, I’m quite blessed to have some beautiful beaches on my doorstep (and good weather to accompany them) and there is also an active events calendar through the year for music and festivals.

Day-to-day, I always like to step out of my workplace for my lunchbreak and tend to enjoy a seafront walk in sunny Malta followed by a coffee. I feel this is particularly important when you’re working as an optometrist in practice, as we can often feel quite confined to our clinic room through the day.

11 Summer Elyoussfi, optometrist at Newmedica Leeds

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is super important to me, and I’m grateful that Newmedica supports this too through initiatives like providing access to the Headspace app for mindfulness practices and offering flexible working hours. Just like how Beyoncé’s empowering music lifts my mood, Newmedica’s positive atmosphere and encouragement to prioritise self-care make all the difference.

Alongside my work commitments, I make sure to carve out time for little indulgences like retail therapy. There’s something about treating myself to a new outfit or exploring the latest trends that instantly lifts my spirits and helps me relax after a busy day.

12 12 Dr Ian Beasley, OT clinical editor and AOP head of education

It took me a long time to learn that the best way to achieve a healthy work-life balance is to ensure that once the day is done, it’s done. So, at the close of play, I quit my work apps, avoid looking at emails on my phone and switch off. I choose to start work early, typically 5.30am, so I can do several hours of project-based tasks undisturbed. Then, once the office opens, I can respond to emails and attend scheduled meetings knowing that I’ve made a decent head start on my other tasks. Choosing to start early frees me up to take a long walk at lunchtime.

13 Humza Mussa, optometrist and The Crazy Optom

Throughout my career I think one thing that has helped me maintain a good work-life balance is always having two days off together. Two days together offers enough downtime to feel relaxed and recentre yourself before another week of busy clinics.

14 Neil Retallic, optometrist and Specsavers head of professional development

I try to maintain a healthy work-life balance by always having a holiday booked and ensuring I maximise opportunities to achieve my daily Apple Fitness+ targets. If I have a low move count that day at work, I try to get out to do some exercise or walk the dogs. I find always having something to look forward to outside of work helps keep me more motivated whilst at work.

15 Gavin Rebello, optometrist, company director and business mentor at Holland Opticians, a Hakim Group independent practice

Personally, I believe that striving for a healthy work-life balance is a flawed notion that can sometimes set us up to fail. We have one life and we have to spend a large portion of it earning a living. Isn’t it better to have a life where you can earn a living doing something you love? The alternative is ‘getting through’ the working week in the hope for respite at the weekend. I like the idea of a life, in which I spend time doing things that earn me a living and doing other things that I do just because.

I realise that I am in a privileged position to be able to do this. My work doesn’t feel like work. It took courage to move out of the consulting room; I wouldn’t change a thing. I understand that not everyone is as lucky as I am. Their hands are somewhat forced by their circumstances. In cases like this my advice is to try and think about the bigger picture, not the daily grind. The positive impact small actions everyday can have – be it for your patients, your colleagues or your family, as a result of the work you do and who you are. Remember the reason why you go to work and then think about any small steps you can change to make the day more enjoyable. Perhaps a lunch time walk or 10 minutes reading a book by your favourite writer.