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September-October 2021 - Volume 66 - Issue 5

  • Eric Ford, PhD, MPH
  • 1096-9012
  • 1944-7396
  • 6 issues per year
  • 1.507

From the September/October Issue...

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the workplace has been widely experienced, but the full effects will only be understood after more attempts at societal reintegration have taken place. For some people, the expansion of the virtual work environment provides an opportunity to balance their work and home lives in ways that suit their personal preferences. For others, the new work–home life integration diminishes both experiences. Many have a new work–life relationship that falls somewhere between the total freedom found by some and the drudgery experienced by others. One thing is certain: The line between what happens in the workplace and home has been forever altered. It is time to think about the relationship between our work and personal lives as a major component of the eventual exit from COVID-19’s restrictions.

One feature of the new work–life relationship that healthcare leaders need to address is the expectation that we will always be available at a moment’s notice. The proliferation of electronic communication channels that started with e-mail on our workplace desktop computers has spread to texting apps on our personal phones, and they are now never more than an arm’s length away. In this “always-on-call” phenomenon, texting shifts from a communication channel for private conversations to a substitute for in-person workplace interactions, a movement that has accelerated amid the physical isolation of COVID-19. A second contributing factor to the always-on-call phenomenon is that many people changed their work schedules to hours that fall outside the normal 9-to-5. Some tended to children schooling from home. Others sought a better fit with their circadian rhythms. Still others took the release from the workplace as an opportunity to change their geography and time zone completely. By initiating these temporal shifts, our colleagues effectively expanded the workday for everyone, and now we are all expected to respond at a near-real-time pace.

As the “new normal” unfolds, healthcare leaders need to reestablish norms for both communication channel discipline and workplace hours of operation. To that point, I offer the following seven recommendations.​​

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