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What Are the Health Impacts of Working Long Hours for PMs?

Raising awareness of the long hours worked by many PMs is a topic close to our hearts at FPM. Masters student Georgie Irving has been researching the effect of working hours on PMs’ health and wellbeing, so we asked her to share her analysis. Here’s what Georgie found…

This project originated from my final research study as part of my postgraduate master’s degree in Strategic HR Management. When presented with the opportunity to work alongside FPM, focusing on the role of PMs, I was immediately interested. 

I have always valued the importance of employee wellbeing, appreciation of employees, and work-life balance. Therefore, after lots of consideration, I decided to conduct my research into the impact of long working hours and work pressures on PMs, asking how this impacts their health, work-life balance and job satisfaction.

Do working long hours really have negative health impacts for PMs? 


You might think the question above is something that should be a given – of course they do. From academic literature, past studies surrounding long working hours and some personal assumptions, I had anticipated that it was very likely that the pressure, long hours and work demands of a practice manager would create some negative health impacts. Little did I know that I was about to find out much more about the role, the industry and how experienced PMs cope with day-to-day work pressures. 

To support my investigation, I analysed data from FPM Job Satisfaction surveys from 2016 and 2017The information from this data didn’t come as much of a surprise. Some of the key findings were that the majority of PMs felt stressed within their roles, demotivation was mainly due to workload, and flexibility of working hours would be the most attractive package when looking for a new job. The statistic that intrigued me most though was the number of PMs who felt stressed within their role. It made me question how manageable this stress was, and how it actually affected performance.

I was also lucky enough to meet with a group of professionals in the primary health care industry to focus group about some of the key discussion points surrounding working hours, wellbeing and work-life balance. This was the point where I was really enlightened to what it was like to be working as a PM and gained a deeper understanding of some of the results from the satisfaction surveys.

Chatting with the professionals it became very clear that the role of a PM was not an easy one; it was often referred to as

‘firefighting’...

a constant battle that is extremely demanding. Alongside this however, there was an overarching sense of enjoyment and commitment to the role, which seemed an odd pairing.   

When questioning some of the main points surrounding my research, in particular the health implications surrounding the long working hours, it became apparent that the professionals had experienced very little negative health impacts. This surprised me, as I had gained the strong impression that the demanding nature of the role could cause high levels of stress. When discussing this further, it was realised that although stress existed in the role, it was dealt with through coping mechanisms that had been developed over time.

The coping strategies that the professionals had acquired were the key to them dealing with work demands and reducing the negative impact of working long hours. One of the main coping strategies mentioned was accepting support from work colleagues and GP partners, as well as families and partners.

Other coping mechanisms were the ability to have control over their job, including flexibility within the role and a strong commitment to the organisation. These coping strategies not only aided in increasing job satisfaction, but also in achieving a better work-life balance.

The conclusion of my research was that working long hours did not have a direct health impact on the professionals I spoke with. There was however, a strong relationship between their flexibility and job control, which allowed work-life balance to be achieved, increasing their levels of job satisfaction. Having flexibility in their work coupled with support from work and family relationships provided a positive impact on dealing with the job demands and pressures that are involved with the role. These coping mechanisms could be seen as a contributing factor to explain why these stress levels for some PMs are manageable, allowing negative health implications to be kept to a minimum.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the research, I was confident in my predictions about the positive relationship between working long hours and negative wellbeing. However, after thorough investigation, analysis and discussion, my predictions were shattered. It cannot yet be generalised to the entire population of PMs in the UK, as I only spoke with a small sample, but it does give some insight to how the pressures of the role are dealt with.

Bringing all of this together, the most significant conclusion that can be made from conducting this research is that although long working hours can often be associated with negative outcomes, there are numerous strategies of coping and managing these pressures.

By providing employees with flexibility, job control and a strong network of support at home and at work, employees' working lives, wellbeing and work life balance can be improved, bringing organisational benefits of increased performance, discretionary behaviour and job satisfaction.

Do you agree with these findings? Does flexibility at work and support from colleagues mean make working longer hours more bearable? How do you deal with stress at your practice? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

Fill in the 2017 Practice Manager Salary Survey to help us gather further information on the salaries and working hours of PMs across the country. You could even win an iPad Mini 4! Plus, stay tuned to the FPM Blog for more focus on wellbeing in the run-up to Mental Health Day.


Comments

Jennie 10/10/2017

I support the main conclusion of the author, but would suggest that there are differences in stress and being stressed. Stress isn’t always a bad thing- many people perform better under pressure or stress. The difficulty comes when the stress feels out of your control and / or is relentless. It’s is then that health starts to suffer. The key, as the article alludes to, is to have control over the stress, either by sharing the load with others, or being able to put your hands up and say “enough, I need a break”- being master of your own workload and time management. We as PMs do the job because of the variety, the ability to cut through red tape, the ability to be responsive as a business, and because we know we are making a difference to people who are not just patients, but our mothers, children, friends and neighbours. Health suffers when those elements are taken out of control because we are losing the things that make us feel great in our roles. I consider myself to be a very calm and unstressed person - not because the job isn’t stressful, but because I have control over my environment and a great support network, and consequently my reaction to stressors is different from what it otherwise could be.


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