pilots’ need for a healthy work life balance
Professional pilots have demanding jobs with unpredictable hours. The job has moments of great ease when the aircraft is in good condition, the weather is CAVU (ceiling and visibility unlimited), and the flight is on a cruise. Despite these happy times, the work demands constant professionalism and mental and physical focus. Burnout is a foregone conclusion when early-morning departures and late-night arrivals continuously disrupt a circadian rhythm that is already at odds with unfamiliar beds in unfamiliar rooms in unfamiliar cities.
The pilots and flight crew must be able to balance their work and personal lives.
Even though fatigue is a risk that needs to be reduced, a great work-life balance goes beyond addressing this issue. Furthermore, it goes beyond the basics of maintaining a healthy diet, engaging in regular exercise, and remembering to have fun.
Putting your family first and having an identity outside of aviation are two ideas I frequently hear when discussing work-life balance with other pilots.
family comes first
The airline pilot schedule is both the best and hardest part of the job for a pilot who is also a father of young children. Although schedules differ from month to month and airline to airline, the majority of airline pilots work an average of 14 to 16 days per month. This gives plenty of time for family and extracurricular activities. However, those working days frequently coincide with occasions when we would prefer to be at home, such as sporting events, birthdays, and holidays. When those significant days fall on a workday, it hurts, but the fact that you are truly off when you are at home is amazing; an airline pilot’s job is left at the airport. No bosses, customers, quotas, or other obligations vying for your attention. To have a healthy work-life balance, it is crucial to prioritize your family during this time. Whatever your family circle may be—spouses, kids, parents, siblings—put your family first when you have free time.
possess a personality outside of aviation
Professional pilots typically pursue aviation as a passion over a long period rather than just as a job. Getting the licenses, ratings, and flight hours required for professional flying requires tenacity. Many people who pursue aviation have a little identity outside of aviation. Successful aviators claim that having an identity outside of aviation, such as a non-aviation hobby or, for some, a side business, is essential to maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Many of the pilots I know volunteer in a variety of civic organizations, whether they are aviation-related or not, in their sizable spare time. If the pilot loses their medical license and is unable to fly, these endeavors may also have the added benefit of developing into a second career. More importantly, though, it promotes a better work-life balance.
The history of aviation is replete with examples of the value of rest and balance. Of course, aviation is not the only profession where this is significant; many others also face challenges in maintaining a healthy work-life balance.