A fascinating topic came up this morning with a group of clients. A doctor who was in India for the early part of her career was commenting on the fact that when she was 30 she was on call 24 hours a day and constantly being buzzed. She frequently had to carry out caesarian sections back to back from 9pm to 2am. Then it would be a cup of coffee with her colleagues and waiting for the next call. The next day would start at 7am, regardless of what they had done the night before.
Her colleagues who stayed in India have now become senior consultants in a variety of areas and frequently work until 9 or 10pm at night. Their reasoning is that if they stop work at the same time as their clients how will their clients be able to come and see them. They also start the next day at 7am.
The point she wanted to make is that they are all happy to work this way because they are helping people and that is their job. They never complain about working hours. They want to work and they enjoy it.
When I was training we also worked very long hours without any complaint, and we were happy to do it. We were being useful and we wanted to learn. Now I look at people who count their hours of work and the time until they can go home. It seems so nice to have more time for yourself, but I can honestly say that the more time people have for themselves the less happy they are.
I notice that on Monday mornings people have less energy and are more tired than on other days – because they have just had two days to themselves. The discipline of working is far more valuable than many people realise. And the opportunity to be doing something for other people gives us more energy than we may realise.
As far as I can see, the more contribution you make in life the more energy and happiness you have. The more you calculate what you can get out of everything you do the less energy and happiness you have. It would be wise to remember this as a counterbalance to the increasing government interference on working hours. it may make our society more civilised to have better work-life balance, but it will not make us happier or healtheir unless we find some very positive things to do with our increasing leisure hours.