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Work–life balance
  1. Joshua Wilcox
  1. Cardiology, South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Torquay TQ2 7AA, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Joshua Wilcox, Cardiology, South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Torquay TQ2 7AA, UK; joshua.wilcox{at}

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‘Work–life balance’ is a phrase often used but seldom defined. In the context of a COVID-19 pandemic, it may seem a twee concept as healthcare workers do what is needed to deal with exceptional circumstances. However, once the pandemic is over, many will be re-evaluating their life choices. This article aims to clarify what we mean by work–life balance and, within the confines of a busy job in cardiology, suggests strategies on how best to maximise it.

When work is life

Work–life balance is the relative allocation of time to professional activity compared with non-professional activity. ‘Good’ work–life balance usually means prioritisation of the latter. It is frequently a synonym for giving time to childcare or domestic tasks.1 ‘Poor’ work–life balance usually connotes a heavy emphasis on the importance of, and time allocated to, professional activities compared with non-professional ones.

These value-laden descriptors—‘good’ and ‘poor’—are arbitrary: many people find happiness in the dedication of their life to their profession. Others endorse an equality or predominance of non-professional activities. It is as important to not denigrate the choice of work over life, as it is to protect the choice of life over work.

When work stops life

When choice of a work–life balance is removed, stress and conflict ensue. Removal of choice can be subtle or implicit, such as when doctors perceive cardiology career progression …

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  • Contributors I created the entirety of this work after commission from Heart BMJ/Dr Sarah Hudson.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, conduct, reporting or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.