HR Administration

Dentist’s Orders

By Staff Report

Oct. 5, 2012

The latest advice from my dentist has nothing to do with flossing or brushing.

No, despite finding and filling another cavity the other day, my dentist dropped some work-related science on me. And this pearl of wisdom from someone dedicated to pearly white wisdom teeth might apply to all of us.

Dr. Melissa Tuft and I were talking about how I’d been coming to see her at her San Francisco office for about 15 years, and how she’d been in practice for about 30. She mentioned that she was grateful to be healthy enough to keep her practice going strong. Other dentists, she noted, started developing back and neck problems after years of bending over to scrape tartar off incisors, drill into decaying molars and polish bicuspids.

Her secret? “I think it’s because we take Wednesdays off,” she said.

That is, a day off in the middle of the week allows her and her small crew of dental hygienists to recover from the physical rigors of two days of patient care. Come Thursday, they can drill and fill with gusto again.

It’s not just the day off that sustains Dr. Tuft and her staff. She also touts exercise, including core work to keep her body strong. And it’s clear she loves what she does—geeking out about replacement teeth vs. bridges, for example.

But there’s something smart and timely about that mid-week day off. Many organizations are ramping up hours and expectations on employees. And what we’ve called the “work-more economy” is taking a toll. The latest evidence comes from a recent study by consulting firm Towers Watson. It found that 61 percent of U.S. organizations report that employees often experience “excessive pressure on the job.” In addition, 71 percent of U.S. respondents say employees are working more hours than normal, and 63 percent expect that trend to continue during the next three years.

Those numbers are higher than for organizations worldwide. For example, across the globe, 48 percent of companies indicate employees are facing excessive pressure in their job, and 53 percent of companies say employees have been working more than normal.

In our earlier reporting, we saw a link between work stress and worker problems such as substance abuse and family strife. Longer hours also seem to have contributed to a recent uptick in workers’ compensation claims. And pressure-cooker work climates threaten to convince high-potential employees in particular to leave.

For years, U.S. doctors had a tradition of easing their load and relaxing one day during the week. Wednesday, in fact, was the prototypical golf day for docs. Apparently, that ritual has diminished over the years. And it was always a source of some derision—doctors and their cushy lifestyle.

But maybe we should rethink that criticism and champion more such work breaks. Reducing people’s hours might create more American jobs overall, as part-time or fulltime workers are needed to plug the gaps. And it could help preserve workers’ sanity and companies’ long-term success.

Dr. Tuft, for one, is a believer. “Everyone should get Wednesdays off,” she says.

Who am I to argue with the person holding a drill to my tooth?


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