The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns have had many effects, including disrupting the work-life balance of dental professionals in India, according to a study published in PLOS One.
India declared a lockdown on March 25 to control the SARS-CoV-2, during which the country closed outpatient departments and only allowed emergency services. Dentistry became one of the most vulnerable professions during the pandemic and lacked a work-life balance, the authors noted. Oral healthcare professionals in the country faced numerous issues, including private clinic closures, salary cuts, and job layoffs.
"A balance in work-life involves engagement in work and non-work life with a minimal conflict between the two roles," wrote the group, led by Dr. Swathi Pai, an associate professor at the Manipal College of Dental Sciences (PLOS One, August 24, 2021). "A good work-life balance leads to high organizational performance, increased job satisfaction, and stronger organizational commitment. It also plays an important role in individuals' health, family, and overall satisfaction."
To better understand the pandemic's effect on work-life balance for dentists in India, the authors used a questionnaire created on Google Forms. They distributed the survey via email, WhatsApp, and a variety of social media platforms from April to June 2020. People ages 25 or older who work in private clinics or institutional attached hospitals were eligible to participate.
The survey had five sections:
- Demographic details and qualifications
- Changes in activities
- Changes in relationships
- Changes in physical and mental health
- Work status and the measures followed for COVID-19 prevention
A total of 180 dentists responded to the questionnaire. More women than men participated in the survey, and the majority of the participants were 25 to 30 years old.
The survey showed broad effects of the pandemic on the lives of dentists. Approximately 57% of participants had altered sleep during the lockdown, and another quarter said they were anxious. More than one-third of participants admitted to changes in their mental health and 38% reported changes in their relationships with their families.
"Increased mental stress and physical burden can disrupt the work-life balance, especially when the 'work' is demanding," the authors wrote. "It can adversely influence their decision-making ability and efficiency leading to suboptimal patient care and productivity both at home and at the office."
Most dentists surveyed wanted to resume work and felt like there was enough personal protective equipment at their offices. In the meantime, most were practicing teledentistry and spreading awareness of the pandemic.
Not all of the reported changes among dentists were negative, though. Most participants started a new hobby during lockdown. Many also increased their amount of physical activity.
The authors cautioned the study was limited by self-reporting bias, nonconsideration of dentists from all Indian states, and a low response rate. Future studies should look at the role of other factors contributing to work-life balance, they added.
"The results of the present study reflected a discrepancy in the work-life balance of dentists during the lockdown which showed signs of unpreparedness," the authors wrote. "Hospital administrators and dental clinic owners should prioritize their preparedness plans in terms of financial consequences, and attrition of the workforce during such pandemic."