Work before relationships with Dr Roger Henderson

Dr Roger Henderson  
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Remember the days when you worked 9 to 5, had the time to chat through your day with your partner and sit down together for a drink before dinner. For millions of British couples, sadly the reality is very different and they are putting their relationships under incredible strain because they believe work is more important than their home life. And if current trends are anything to go by, the staying at work late culture is showing no signs of slowing down. In the last year the number of people spending extra hours at work has risen from 8.6 million to 9.5 million. That’s a massive 33% of all British workers!

A new study published today by the At Home Society reveals that 41% of couples admit to investing more time and effort into their relationships with their colleagues, rather than spending quality time with their partners. In fact, people are becoming so committed to their jobs that over a third (37%) have confessed they do more for their colleagues than their nearest and dearest.

The detailed study amongst 1,120 working and cohabiting adults shows that a third (34%) of workers regularly cancel specific plans with their partner in order to work late – in the manner displayed by the characters Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) and Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) in the recent hit film “The Devil Wears Prada”. However unlike the protagonists in the film, a remarkable 44% of workers admitted, when pressed further, that late night work in the office actually amounted to little more than shuffling paper and talking to colleagues.

Workers who think staying late at work won’t affect their home life are seriously mistaken! It is all too easy to take personal relationships for granted but, over time, the consequences of prioritising workmates instead of winding down at home can lead to serious problems. Even the smallest gestures like running a bath for your partner, mixing them a gin and tonic or cooking them dinner can make all the difference to ensuring your relationship is not damaged.

If you’re one of these people, who stays late at work or spends your time socialising with colleagues, and you want to look at ways you can regain a work/ life balance or pick up tips on making the most of the time you do have with your partner, chat to our family doctor and author of the study, Dr Roger Henderson.

Report author Dr Roger Henderson joins us live on Thursday 23rd November at 4.00pm to discuss people putting work before their relationships.


H: Host, Murray Norton
R: Dr Roger Henderson

H: Hello and welcome to the Lifestyle Show, bought to you by the At Home Society – I’m Murray Norton.  Now remember those lovely halcyon days when you worked 9 to 5, and at the end of it all we’d toddle off home, probably catch the 6 o’clock news and sit there with our loved one, having a g & t chatting about what a lovely day we’d just had?  Not really my life and it probably isn’t yours either, and for millions of couples they’re putting their relationships under incredible strain – why? Because they believe work is far more important than their home life.  It’s all in new research which is just out and if trends continue this way it’s just going to get worse.  Well to help us talk about that and give us some advice on how we can put our lives on track, I’m delighted to say we’re joined by Dr Roger Henderson, he’s a GP but he’s also a relationship expert and we’ll be talking about that in just a second.  But before we meet Roger and talk about that, let’s just find out what happened when we took our cameras out onto the street and asked you about work and the impact that it has on relationships


“I work quite unusual hours so typically I probably work about 70 hour weeks”

“I think of a week I’ll work late 2 / 3 times a week, something like that”

“I work for myself and I’m a terrible boss so I work far too many hours”

“I find I work probably about 2 or 3 times a week beyond 6 o’clock, so it does have an effect.  She doesn’t really like it but I say it’s my job”

“I mean we were working from 6 in the morning till 10 / 11 at night and that used to just cause friction and arguments so we changed careers”

“Yes of course I had to regularly cancel timed appointments because of my partner and either way- you know - I had to work because -  it’s a tough one, it’s a tough call”

“Yes I find myself canceling commitments on the weekend when I have to do extra work, and of an evening as well, there’ll be regularly times when we’ve arranged to meet for dinner early and I’ve had to cancel”

“I try not to cancel time with my partner for the sake of work, I’ve learned over time not to do that”

“A lot of stuff I do in my job does tend to go beyond 6 – client meetings, client drinks, so I have to sometimes sort of cut out what we’re doing socially and you know clients come first sometimes during the week, whereas during the weekends it’s the other way round”

“My busy working week has affected the relationship with my partner, yes.  It was a new relationship so it wasn’t as if it was like 4 or 5 years, but yes”

“Yes absolutely, I’m quite lucky because I live quite close to work, but yes when I do work late I find I regret that I’ve worked so late and I miss – I do miss time with my partner and yes she gets in a bad mood about it”

“You have found a flaw there and I hope it’s something we can work around but at the end of the day you do have to work, but that’s the way life is”

“I think they have a really bad effect on relationships and we all should spend more time with people we love rather than working ourselves to death”

“Well said, yes I agree”

“I think they can do if you don’t keep it in perspective.  It’s very easy to get sort of taken up by all your work and forget about your commitments at home, so it can do”

“Sometimes social work arrangements like seeing clients put a strain on seeing my partner, but not actual day-to-day working”

“I think work commitments can be very hard on relationships, I think very often your partners don’t realize what you actually have to do at work, so they may not realize that you’re late because you’ve got something really important that you have to do and you’re being pressurized by your boss, and they only see that you’re late and you’re being a pain in the neck, but actually they can’t really appreciate you know that you’re having a really hard time from your boss and everyone in the office”

“My current job does put some strain on the time I spend with my partner, we have some evening commitments so at times you’re out with work rather than out with your partner and also sometimes when you’ve been out with work the next night you don’t really want to do anything as well”

H: Well some interesting findings.  Do they support, Roger, the research that you’ve been doing?

R: Well they couldn’t back it up better could they, I mean you couldn’t wish for a better example of what the At Home Society report is saying, people are significantly stressed about working late, they realize that there’s a problem in there but they’re not sure what to do about it, and it’s having a detrimental effect on their relationships

H: It was also like sort of a video tape of self-admission wasn’t it?  Yes I know I’m really wrong but –

R: Almost beating themselves up in saying it, that’s right.  And some of them obviously getting a bit stressed about it, and you wonder, you know how long they can continue in that vain

H: Alright, well those were the findings out on the street but what do you think?  This is after all an interactive show and you can have your say, you can have your opinion and you can have your question answered by Roger whose here to do that.  So, all you’ve got to do is fill out that little box in the bottom of the screen right now, send it into us and in the next half hour we can be discussing exactly your questions.  So, any question you’ve got, get it into us as soon as possible, the sooner you send it in the more chance we’ve got of answering your question, it’s exactly what Hayley’s done, Hayley said “people who are if you like the driving work people, why do these work people put work before their family and their friends?”

R: Well very often in my surgery the people that are driven by work that I see, it’s all linked and to do with self-esteem and self-image, their whole being if you like is wrapped up in what they do at work.  Take their work away and they become less of a person, and that’s actually quite unhealthy in my view, they haven’t often got developed relationships, they haven’t actually got the interactive skills with individual other people to make – to give them a happy lifestyle, so everything is hung on their work, so they feel that that’s what they’ve got to do to make them, in essence, a good person, when nothing could be further from the truth

H: It’s image isn’t it?

R: It is, absolutely and linked in with that it’s the image of being successful.  If you’re not only working hard but are successful at working hard, it’s like a double gold medal

H: Do you have to be sticking around longer than everyone else, do you have to show that you’re working hard, because people could quietly work very very quietly on their own and no one would notice it.  It’s almost as if you’ve got to beat a drum whilst you’re doing it and say “look I’m the last to leave the car park”

R: You’ve almost got to have the badge of courage and I have seen people work in the City of London who it’s almost a badge of honor to get the first heart attack under their belt – look how hard I’ve worked.  I mean it’s ridiculous it can get to that level

H: It’s extraordinary, it’s extraordinary that people would feel that way.  We say that but then again the research shows exactly that

R: And it’s getting worse.  When we looked at things a year ago, the figures weren’t as bad as they are, it’s not getting better, it’s actually getting – increasing year on year

H: And people know about it

R: And people know about it but they’re not really sure what to do about it

H: Right.  Jason has got a question, thank you very much for your question Jason “do people use work as a means to make them seen as more important than they are?” That’s kind of just going where we’ve just been mentioning –

R: Exactly right, it’s the “look at me I’m doing well” even if – the most successful people I sometimes see are those that are just about to go bankrupt, they put the big front on, the big flash car and then it all goes pear-shaped, but they can’t admit there’s a big problem there

H: You’re a relationship expert as we said, you’re a GP so you’re seeing people coming in with ailments because of this?

R: Yes what they’re coming in – they’re not coming in saying I’ve got a relationship problem linked to work, what they’re saying coming in I’m either stressed or I’m depressed and then when you start to unpick what they’re saying, they’re actually saying well actually it’s because my partner never comes home, my husband’s never at home, he’s always out working, and when he is at home he’s either on his mobile or he’s on his email, there’s no time for me, and they feel that they’re not having any support, and over a long period of time, months and years, that erodes their confidence and can really make people significantly mentally unwell

H: You were just saying people and their image about their work, and they feel they have to be at work, and it’s all about their self-esteem for them, rather than looking at the relationship itself.  There’s a question just come in from Angie, thank you for that, that really touches on that point – “do people often use work as an excuse for putting off making a decision about a relationship?”

R: I’ll talk about it when we’ve got time –

H: Yes

R: That’s the absolute classic one we hear all the time, always putting it off and on top of that there’s always the next deal to do as well for many people, oh and we’ve done this next month, when this has happened at work it will all be better and actually it’s exactly right, it’s a way of avoiding talking about the issue, especially with men I’m afraid, our sex are actually quite bad at opening up and sort of talking to their partner about what they’re actually thinking and responding to what they’re listening

H: Kind of fooling themselves, it’s this – as you said – we’ve got a big project on from now until – I don’t know – until Christmas or whenever it might be –

R: That’s right

H: So once we’ve got that out of the way then we can face everything new in the new year and of course there’s something new then

R: That’s right, so not only am I very busy, but I’m very busy and I’m making a lot of money and I’m earning, I’m bringing home the bacon for you so you can’t actually say anything, you can’t actually stop me now, you’ll have to wait until it’s all done, and then there’s always the next project, and the next one

H: I think Sheila probably knows the answer to this question but she wants your opinion on it anyway and it certainly opens up another can of worms here – Sheila, thank you for your question as well “if staying late at the office amounts to little more than paper shuffling, and talking to co-workers, would it be better to have less working hours at the office with a more concentrated workload?”

R: Sheila I love you, that’s exactly the message I like to give. I mean I’m as busy as the next man, I’m as busy as you, busy as everybody, but what I do, even if I can’t complete every job I have to do, is to make sure that at the end of the day the jobs that are left are not the critical ones, so I’ve sorted out the important stuff and then I can walk away, even if I haven’t completely cleared my desk and the next day I can come back to those if need be, but nobody’s going to die, it’s not going to matter if I haven’t done those jobs.  Ok so try and cram more into the day.  And also I do think that many people in the United Kingdom work quite inefficiently, and you’ll often hear people say “oh I’ll work later in the evening because I don’t do much in the morning, but I don’t do much in the morning because I know I’m going to stay behind” – it’s the wrong way of thinking about it

H: But it’s almost this staying up late and having to get up late because you’re too tired to get up in the morning

R: Exactly right

H: Yes.  Robbing themselves almost

R: Yes

H: There is the danger though of it being a little bit dull though, isn’t it, if we don’t have our interaction with our co-workers and we don’t have our morning coffee and stand round the photocopier and have a natter with everybody else and all that sort of thing, there’s the danger isn’t there?

R: Of course there is and you can’t work 9 to 5, the conventional 9 to 5 in a straight blitz with no break, it just makes it extremely dull so you’ve got to joke, you’ve got to have time out, and you’ve got to have time after work with a drink with your friends – absolutely fine, but not every night, I think what this report has shown is that a lot of people have gone the wrong way and it’s 3, 4, 5 nights a week and really that’s at the expense of relationships, so the balance is swung too far, we’ve got to try and bring it back

H: So is the report saying that people are just not getting home until it’s too late or are they getting home and they’re then not having the sit-down drink?

R: They’re getting home too late

H: Right

R: They’re getting home and they’re not having the sit-down drink, so that critical – if you like – early evening hour when conventionally my generation, my parents for example and your parents would have come in, had a sit down with their Gordons and they’d sort of have a drink and say “this is nice” and got rid of the day and then moved on, that’s not happening because work is polluting that early evening hour, so they’re not coming home at the right time, they’re coming home and they’re missing that critical hour, and when they’re coming home they’re too tired to sort of have a relationship and talk and sitting and flopping in front of the TV and falling asleep

H: And I guess that’s an uneven relationship because one will be expecting that to happen, one isn’t?

R: Exactly right and if you’ve had somebody at home whose been waiting for you to come home and either who has had a lot going on in their day or is just frustrated that you haven’t been there, they want to talk, they haven’t had anybody to talk to all day, they want to talk and if you’re sitting there looking at the football, monosyllabic, it doesn’t go down well

H: There could be a lot of people to blame for this and we’ll come back to that in just a second, before we do Mark has a question – thank you Mark for yours – he says “I’m self-employed so I often take work matters home with me –“ how many times do we hear that one?

R: Exactly

H: “How can I put clear blue water between myself and the office?”

R: That’s an extremely good question Mark –

H: A lot of people working from home so here’s a really good one

R: Absolutely, I think you have to make sure that you have to set almost artificial boxes, you have to say right this is not only where I work but this is the time that I work, and in that period of time I have to work as efficiently as I can.  Now if I feel I’ve got more work than I can do in that time, I have to prioritize, almost make lists, I have to say that’s the really important thing I have to do, come what may, I’m going to get that sorted out, and then work down.  And as I said before if there are one or two smaller items left at the end of the day, they will wait ok and you can put them over to the next day, but once you’ve got the important stuff out of the way you can sleep easy at night and think “well it actually doesn’t matter that much”

H: It’s about making a list but making a realistic list isn’t it?

R: That’s right, not a wish list but a realistic wish – and also, using your time efficiently, really giving it your best shot for 2 or 3 hours and in a concentrated burst, and working at home many people – it’s very difficult to actually do that, you can get distracted so easily, you I know I see that all the time, so have a dedicated work space when you’re at home and use that time and then you can get a better 2 or 3 hours and then say right break, done, come back to it

H: Staying on that issue, have we got a problem now with the wireless laptop which we didn’t have a year or two ago, because now it sits on our lap in front of the television, between us and our partner –

R: Yes

H: All the tapping’s going on and “are you listening to me or are you still working?”

R: Yes the wireless laptop, the mobile, the Blackberry, you know they’re all in there, and you know the simple rule is switch it off, and there are lots of people now who actually get technology withdrawal if they haven’t got the Blackberry, if they haven’t got the mobile, that they start to think what’s going on, ok – and that’s a sign that it’s gone too far, you’ve got to try and pull that back, so try and switch them off if you can, or say ok at that hour, 8 o’clock or whatever, it’s going off and I’m going to sit down and talk with you, and if you can’t do that you say to your partner I’m going to switch it off, we’re going to have a chat in a couple of hours I might need to switch them back on for half an hour – but that’s ok

H: But you’re also prioritizing, you’re making the other person feel important

R: That’s right, you’re more important than my laptop ok because a lot of partners, especially women, that’s what they complain about, they say “you know I come second to the mobile phone”

H: Sure, sure ok.  Well we’re almost halfway through so if you’ve got any questions do let us have them.  A little box at the bottom, just fill it out, you’re watching at the moment you’re thinking “that could be me, that might be me, I have that problem – what can I do – send it into Roger now and we’ll get it answered.  Dr Roger Henderson with us, GP and relationship expert and thank you very much indeed for watching us here on the Lifestyle Show, bought to you by the At Home Society.  Now Amy’s got a question and it’s a very simple and concise question, Amy wants to know “are we too greedy?”

R: Yep, absolutely

H: That’s it

R: It’s not quite as simple as that

H: It’s a want society, we need things don’t we?

R: It is a want society, it’s a society that’s driven in many cases by commercialism, having said that on the back of that we’re now obviously seeing increases in mortgages, we’re seeing increases in fuel prices, it is getting more expensive to live, but generally people who are wanting you know to have this and that and the other are creating stress for themselves, you know Christmas coming up, bad time of year for that, but you have to sort of say “do I actually need this?” Ok or “do I want it?” and there’s a big difference, because for many people they take a step back and say well actually I can do without that, I can live without that – not only don’t they have to go out and work and find the money to get that, but actually it makes them think I’ve got time to do other stuff instead and actually liberates people if they say well actually I’m just going to downsize a bit – hard to do but you get great results if you do

H: I suppose quality of life will go upthough won’t it because you get more time with your partner for starters, which in itself is a result

R: That’s right, I mean the old cliché that money can’t buy the important things in life, but it really can’t, money cannot buy a good, loving, happy, satisfactory relationship and it certainly can’t buy your health

H: Right, let’s talk about the health side of this, what’s actually happening to us if we keep pushing the button too far in terms of working too late, going home too late and you know spending all of our working hours – and the working day goes from being an 8 hour, 9 hour, 10 – and we’re suddenly doing 12 and 13 and 14 hour days – the time we’ve traveled home and commuted as well, that’s no fun for anyone.  Medically what’s that doing to us?

R: Well interestingly physically it’s not actually doing too much harm to you although it’s going to make you unfit, you’re going to have a sedentary lifestyle, so that’s got it’s own complications, but the main thing is going to be mental and it’s going to be essentially mental health and stress-related issues, stress leading to anxiety, anxiety causing early depression, and if early depression is left then you’re getting into serious mental health problems potentially, and you know with all the relationship bust-ups that go with that

H: Ok, alright well Roger we’ve been looking at some of the things that have been going on there, and they seem to be almost as if it’s a habit that we’ve got into so let’s go back and find out what happened with our roving reporter because we sent them out onto the streets earlier on to find out what was happening and we first talked about the habit of working overtime and then the solutions that people might have for putting a little bit back into their relationships


“Well I think I’m under a certain amount of pressure because everyone else in my office works overtime so I find that I’m kind of competing with them and yes I think it is just habit, I don’t think I get anything done”

“I do think overtime’s a bit of a habit, if you’re forced to stay late you tend to waste most of your time in the morning”

“I think I stay at work more out of a habit than wanting to stay.  I think after 6 o’clock people tend not to do much, but you feel you don’t want to be the first to leave.  I think that’s always the scenario”

“I think a mixture of both really because you know you want to do your job and then you kind of know that you’re waiting at home and they want you to be at home and you’re thinking money, overtime and all that kind of stuff.  Do I feel – no, I got dumped last night so – because of it really”

“Well usually when all the work’s out the way I like to go home, sit down, have a drink with my partner, relax and just chill out; play the piano, go to art galleries.  That’s about it really”

“Friday evening after the week’s finished the first thing I do is get in, pour myself a nice large g & t with the wife and we sit down and have a nice meal, and it’s just a perfect evening”

“Yes pre-baby go out, have a couple of drinks, have a good time. Post-baby – stay in, have a couple of drinks and then go to sleep when the baby goes to sleep!”

“When I get in on a Friday night I like to kick off the shoes, have a nice dinner, sit down maybe watch a DVD, rum and Coke and just relax together”

“What we generally do is have a few drinks at home and then perhaps go out but certainly in the Winter we spend most of our time drinking at home, relaxing at home with friends etc”

H: So at least it seems from the clips that we’ve just seen of people out on the streets today that they understand, they realize the problems they’ve got?

R: Yes they do and that demonstrated it very well.  I think they feel that they’re sucked in to this cycle of having to stay later at work, but then when you actually look at what people are doing when they’re staying later at work, when you’ve asked them in the report, they’re actually doing relatively little constructive work.  They’re staying there because they feel that if they’re not there their absence is going to be noted.  So that’s a problem.  Now I think that what they can do about that is actually in the first instance look and see 1) if they do need to stay behind at work, really ok secondly if they find they’re coming to the end of the working day and they’re finding that they’ve still got a lot of work still to do, look at what’s happened earlier in the day and how they’ve been working – is there inefficiency in the system?  And thirdly do they actually need to approach their boss, do they need to bring this up and say look, this is happening how can you help me facilitate actually changing this?

H: I was going to mention bosses because of course if you are a boss and you are I don’t know, for example you’re paying someone £100 and you want them to do all this work, now if they’ll do all that work and 15 or 20% more for the £100, you’re a happy boss, you’re not going to say to them you know what, don’t work so hard, take it a bit easier, go home at 5?

R: Absolutely right I mean –

H: So they’ve got a responsibility haven’t they?

R: They certainly have, and I think with the advent of things like networking, telecommunications, working from home, the advent in technology the rise in technology in the workplace, there are ways compared to say 10 years ago where it can be made easier.  I mean flexible working time for example is increasingly common. Job shares even is increasingly common.  There are ways round this and a good employer realizes that his gold, his core gold in his business are his workers ok and if he looks after those they’ll repay him in spades ok, if he doesn’t they’ll get jaded, inefficient and some of them will just walk so if you’ve got a boss that you can approach then approach him, if you feel that you can’t then look at what you’re doing and sort of say ok at the end of the day I’ve done my job, I am prepared to go home.  Now obviously there are going to be days when you can’t – I can’t, you can’t but as long as it’s the exception not the rule ok that it’s once a week, twice a week – that’s fine but not the 3, 4, 5 times a week

H: Greg’s question here, “how would you recommend people reconcile their increasing demands at work with their needs to spend some ‘quality time’ at home with their partner?

R: Well that’s the perennial question – first of all look at how much you have to earn, quite seriously if it gets down to that level, look at how much you have to earn and how much you earn in your job, and see actually do you need to be working at the level that you’re doing, and if not is there any leeway in the system, can you cut back slightly.  If you have to sort of earn what you’re earning to pay the mortgage then obviously you have to say to your partner look this is what we need to do for you and I to survive and that’s what I will do and this is how long it’s going to take, but when I’ve done that, I’m not going to keep staying away, I’m going to come back to you and we’re going to keep going, so the partner knows that yes he’s out there, he’s working as hard as he possibly can but his heart – or her heart – but when he stops he’s going to come back to me because I’m really important.  Not that I don’t know when he’s going to be back

H: I don’t know who said the quote, but what was the quote about – you know – no one lay on their death bed saying I wish I’d spend –

R: Absolutely

H: Another day in the office

R: Absolutely right, I sometimes say that to patients.  The other thing I often say is that there is no indispensable person in the world, you are not indispensable to your boss. As the boss you are not even indispensable – ok the world will keep spinning and the office will still keep going, and once you realize that you can start to say ok well if I just leave that work which is non-essential and do it the next day then you know it’s not going to be a disaster

H: Is the idea – you mentioned making a list about things you’d like to do, perhaps the night before is a good time to do that –

R: Yes

H: But when you’re at work is it worth just noting what you do during the day and how long tasks take you – almost monitoring your day for a week because we all think that we can do more than we can

R: Absolutely almost like a work diary, and it’s very important thing to do on two fronts – one as you say it will show you how efficient you are at working and you may be surprised at either how little you’re doing or how much you’re doing when you think you’re doing less. And also in that diary you can actually build in fire breaks, we mentioned before about not working 9 to 5 straight through because it makes you so dull, but if you build in fire breaks into the day then you can say ok I’ve got that break coming up for 20 minutes, you know I’ll go to the water cooler, I’ll have a chat with my mates you know, I’ll have a quick break, I’ll chill out – that’s fine ok and you can look forward to that, and that keeps you going through the times of really concentrated work

H: Question in from Stan in Chichester, Stan thanks very much for your question.  Indeed I think this goes for an awful lot of people who will recognize this question – he tends to work late at night, he understands that his wife suffers because of that, the problem is he’s tired when he gets in and because he’s tired when he gets in he doesn’t always have the energy to make that extra effort for her.  Is there something that Stan can be doing for his wife to show and make that extra effort?

R: Well I think it sounds like Stan has to be – he’s in a job where he has to be working late and he may have no option about doing that, and of course he’s going to come home tired.  The important thing in those situations is to say to his wife, to your partner – ok this is how the situation is, but at that time, on that day, I’m going to be there for you and we’re going to have quality time.  You almost set a time in advance where you say yes this is your time, and I’m not going to be tired, and you almost have to set a date, almost like when you were courting ok so at least his wife will feel that she’s being looked after and cared about.  And also the other thing that would benefit if he actually told his wife what he does during the day, she may not know – she may just see him coming in and he’s just shattered but not know why.  If he actually talks and says this is why I’m tired she may actually understand an awful lot better

H: Now there’s a lot in all of that.  Stan good luck with that.  Actually someone said to me the other day they said “I’m really rubbish at working in the morning, I’m much better when I’m at my computer late at night, I tend to work late into the evening and that causes rows” – but isn’t that a pile of old tosh really because aren’t we brighter in the morning than later?

R: That is I’m afraid that is a pile of old tosh, we are at our most creative in the morning, so mornings conventionally are used  - you know our creative side of the brain is best –

H: The reason they’re not is because they’re working late at night

R: Exactly right whereas in the afternoon we’re better at more logical side of things like filing and computer work so it’s that way round ok so if we’re saying I always work best late at night it’s usually because you’ve got used to working late at night

H: So it’s time to bite the bullet –

R: It’s time to bite the bullet and reverse it

H: So it’s not just a fact that convention has made us do 9 to 5, we’re actually designed to do 9 to 5?

R: We are, we have a natural secadium body rhythm you know we are obviously at our lowest at 3, 4 in the morning and the adrenalin starts to kick in about 8 o’clock in the morning ok and we’re designed to work through the day and gradually as the day goes on start to come down, so 5, 6 at night is the kind of time when the body starts to say could do with just unwinding now

H: Secadium I’m going to write that down if I could only spell it!  In the meantime Harvey wants to know “when my wife gets home from work all we do is slump in front of the television – “ – you and millions of others there by the way – “how can I encourage her that we need to actually spend quality time during the week talking ?”

R: Well what I sometimes suggest to patients sometimes in that situation – the important thing is he says “we” slump in front of the television so they’re both shattered – is to say ok rather than slumping, bite the bullet and go out for a walk for 20 minutes – now for 2 reasons, one that will actually boost your energy levels and you’ll come back in feeling less tired, but also in that time you’ll actually have time to talk because 20 minutes of walking in silence is pretty dull and one of you will be talking just to break the silence, ok and it’s a very good way of actually starting to communicate, so not only will it start to get you a little bit fitter, but it will be a way of getting you to talk together.  It’s slightly artificial and for the first week you’ll think I don’t really want to do that, but the alternative is buy a dog and go out and walk the dog ok, because the dog will want walking

H: It’s forcing you to do it.  Actually the very interesting thought that I had about the design of home, we used to have drinks cabinets – we’re talking about your parents and my parents –

R: Yes

H: There was always a drinks cabinet and it was always seen, to go and get some ice and some lime as we’ve got here and pour a drink and be very very sociable about all of that, and the design of the house doesn’t allow that in the same way now, we don’t have drinks cabinets like we used to – cocktail cabinets don’t exist –

R: No

H: So that’s one reason for us not to go there, but I guess – you’re a GP, you’re a doctor as well and yet you are saying the halcyon days of when we’d mix ourselves you know a Gordons and tonic and sit down and yet – is that ok?

R: It is absolutely fine, I’m talking about – obviously – drinking in moderation, because if you look at the stats of long term health of tee-totallers and heavy drinkers they’re actually worse than moderate drinkers.  Moderate drinking is actually good for you, by which I mean 1-2 drinks a day, standard drinks.  No more than that really.  So it is healthy for you and on top of that it’s a very good way just to sort of unwind in that critical – what used to be called a cocktail hour as you say – just unwind in that cocktail hour and just reconnect with your partner, and then once you start talking it just flows, but it’s actually just a good way of getting it going

H: I love it, let’s have the happy hour at home, that’s what I say.  Philip wants to know I think this is going to be our final question, Philip wants to know “what small gestures can help contribute to a good relationship?” Let’s have some top tips here!

R: Top tips!  In terms of gestures it can be absolutely anything, actually just saying to your loved one every day if you can, either “I think you’re great, I love you” – anything like that.  Even running them a bath, buying them a bar of chocolate you know, this is for you - doesn’t matter what it is, it shows you’ve given it a little bit of thought ok?  Just touching, saying “hi, how are you today?” It doesn’t have to be the big gesture ok, remember that relationships take work ok, if you leave a relationship it will gradually wither, remember that you need to ring fence time for a relationship because of that, it doesn’t really matter what it is, but set aside time and the partner that you’re with, whether it’s male or female, young or old ok, they need to know that you are number one on their priority list, that you’re not coming second.  If they feel that you’re coming second to work or anything else, they’ll start to feel resentful ok, and that resentment will grow and grow until you do something about it, and obviously that comes down to communication.  So you’ve got to actually say if I am working late, this is why, but don’t worry, it’s a one-off it’s not how it’s always going to be

H: I guess just explaining to someone that you’re pretty tired, you’ve had a real heavy day and it’s not you that I’m ignoring –

R: Yes

H: It’s just that I’m tired so let’s just kick back this evening, even if we don’t speak can we just cuddle on the sofa? I don’t mean you right now Roger, I mean in the theoretical situation!

R: Absolutely right and just saying “I want to be with you, you’re the only person I want to be with, this is great but I just want to be quiet with you and nobody else, just be quiet and just chill out, I’m going to be not very good for anything but I love being here with you

H: Almost getting that work out the way first thing in the morning is good too isn’t it?

R: It is, it is – try and clear it early

H: Right.  We’ve got some drinks in front of us here and I think we should – what are you on –

R: I’m on the rum and Coke I think

H: You’re on the Morgan Spice

R: I am indeed

H: Very nice indeed, well I’ll have a Gordons – do you know what, you should be doing this as well, except don’t try and choke over the ice because it’s gone very very small and melted on me here.  Roger thank you very much indeed

R: My pleasure

H: The hope is that in 12 months time from now we’ll be looking at the new research and saying –

R: It’s peaked and it’s on the way down – we can only hope

H: Do you think there’s hope in there, do you think there is a chance that people will be saying “do you know what, work isn’t everything and we’ve got to have a life” – I think people accept that and there is a small band of people that will always say what we need to do is spend more quality time, and we hear that all the time, but at the moment they’re not listening.  Do you think people will get the message?

R: I am hopeful, I’m not depressed about it, about the future – I do think there is hope.  I think we’re at a critical tipping point now where people are saying you know “how much more do I actually need, what is most important to me? and actually realizing that they can step back a bit, have a bit less but actually in the long term have a bit more

H: Excellent, Dr Roger Henderson thank you very much for joining me

R: My pleasure

H: Thank you very much indeed for joining us here on the Lifestyle show, and if you want more information there is a website that you can go to, it’s and I’m sure you’ll find some top tips on there.  Until the next time, enjoy yourselves and have your happy hour at home.  Goodbye.

R: Bye

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