Clinical Trial Managers are often spread (very) thin. They are expected to manage multiple research studies, teams, and competing priorities, as well as fill in for open positions and team members who are out of the office.
Finding work-life balance is a constant struggle for CTMs. When a project is in full swing, a study is falling behind schedule, or there are multiple unfilled positions, stepping away from work is a challenge.
As difficult as it can be to attain, work-life balance is key for Clinical Trial Managers who want to continue to be successful in their role – and not burn out.
This article discusses work-life balance for CTMs and offers suggestions that help create an equilibrium for their career and personal life.
Why is it Important to Find Work-Life Balance?
According to this article from Mental Health America, one in four Americans describes themselves as “super-stressed.”
Many of us are trying to do it all – manage an intense workload, personal relationships and responsibilities, and maybe a special interest, too. But as we are doing it all, we are becoming increasingly stressed, and this is a problem.
Stress can cause the following issues, all of which may lead to decreased productivity:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling moody, unhappy, burned out, etc.
- Damaged relationships
- Weakened immune system which causes increased susceptibility to illnesses
As Clinical Trial Managers know, their job can be stressful and require long hours. CTMs carry a full plate of important responsibilities. It is easy for CTMs to get lost in their work – there is always an important task to complete or an issue that needs to be immediately resolved.
However, the fast pace can only be kept for so long before stress begins to take its toll.
Before stress wreaks havoc on your productivity, relationships, or health, work to find a better work-life balance.
Everyone wins when Clinical Trial Managers find a healthy work-life balance. From the CTM to their employer to their co-workers to their family and friends, work-life balance is a beneficial necessity.
Ways CTMs Can Find Work-Life Balance
The job of a Clinical Trial Manager is very fulfilling because of the ability to impact many lives by managing clinical research studies that lead to new treatments, devices, and/or a better understanding of disease prevention.
In order to stay in the rewarding but fast-paced industry of Clinical Research for the long term, we recommend these 4 ideas for creating and maintaining work-life balance:
- Take your Paid Time Off (PTO)!
Yes, it is hard to schedule PTO, but do it anyway! You earned it and you deserve it!
Be strategic with your PTO. Consider adding a day or two on to company closures so you can enjoy a few extra days off.
If you really can’t take your PTO before the end of the year, ask if you can carry it over to the next year or request flex days to use at a later date. You may be working hard now, but you will have this time to look forward to in the future.
Don’t forget to keep track of your PTO balance! Review on an ongoing basis so you can plan ahead.
- Manage your Full Time Equivalent (FTE) Hours!
FTE is how Resourcing allocates a resource to a project:
- .25 FTE = 10 hours/week
- .50 FTE = 20 hours/week
- .75 FTE = 30 hours/week
- 1.0 FTE = 40 hours/week
Here is an example that shows the importance of tracking your FTE:
CTM Cindy is assigned to one project at .50 FTE (20 hours/week) and another project at .75 FTE (30 hours/week.) CTM Cindy’s FTE is 1.25 which means she will be working 50 hours per week at minimum, but we all know that is likely more. Let’s face it, unexpected issues always come up from week to week.
FTE can change depending on the stage of the project. Here is an example:
CTM Stan is assigned to one project at .75 FTE and starts a new project at .25 FTE. After a few weeks, the new project bumps up to .75 FTE. CTM Stan is now at 1.5 FTE, which is 60 hours per week.
This is why it is important to manage your FTE. Ask about your FTE allocation during the interview process and have ongoing discussions with your manager once assigned to projects in case additional support needs to be added to keep your work closer to 40 hours per week.
- Learn how to be more efficient at your job!
Understanding your job responsibilities is the first step to being more efficient. You can learn as you go or you can take advantage of training opportunities to help accelerate the learning process.
ClinEssentials offers a CTM Training Course that teaches key strategies experienced Clinical Trial Managers use to manage their studies from Start-Up to Close-Out. This is training beyond what hiring companies offer and includes professional guidance and proven methods that will boost your confidence and improve your efficiency as a CTM.
Build a network with other Clinical Trial Managers and ask about tools and resources that make the job easier. Many CTMs use CRA Audit Notes, PM General Task List (which is also available as a digital download), and other time-saving tools from ClinEssentials to increase their efficiency and organization.
When you are able to do your work in less time, you have more time for the other things in your life!
- Choose a time of day to turn off your phone and computer!
Working late or starting early may be necessary for meetings with people in different time zones or just to complete your action items when you are in meetings all day. Determine the number of days a week that you are willing to work late or start early. Block the times that you are not available on your calendar – and stick to it!
Are you ready to make work-life balance a priority? What change will you make first? (It’s okay to start small, but make sure that you actually start!)
How Companies can Help CTMs with Work-Life Balance
As we mentioned before, Clinical Trial Managers who are overworked, overly stressed, and struggling with work-life balance is not just an issue for the CTMs; it is also an issue for their employer.
If CTMs are experiencing burnout, they are likely not performing their job responsibilities as effectively and efficiently as their job requires.
Burnout leads to exhaustion, disorganization, more mistakes, and a lack of motivation.
Burnout causes job dissatisfaction and unhappiness, which can trigger mental health issues like depression or anxiety. Ultimately, an unhealthy work-life balance is a main reason for high CTM turnover.
When CROs and Sponsors recognize that work-life balance is imperative and make changes that benefit their CTMs, productivity will increase and turnover will decrease.
Based on the suggestions mentioned above for how CTMs can find work-life balance, here are 4 suggestions for CROs and Sponsors to help CTMs prioritize a healthy balance:
- Encourage CTMs to take their PTO.
Create an action plan to use when CTMs are on PTO so they feel more comfortable being away.
An action plan could be as simple as assigning a Senior CTA or Lead CRA as a backup CTM for each trial. When the assigned Clinical Trial Manager takes PTO, they would provide their backup with a status update for the trial(s) as well as where to find information if needed.
If a project is too intense and a CTM cannot take their PTO, come up with another arrangement for carrying over the PTO or offering flex days.
- Keep an eye on FTE Hours.
Ask Resourcing to provide a monthly report of the current FTEs for each Clinical Trial Manager. If a CTM is over 1.0 FTE, request more information about the assigned studies, the length of time someone may be over 1.0 FTE, etc.
Discuss FTE Hours with CTMs on a regular basis. Ask how many hours they are actually working. Perhaps some of the CTMs responsibilities could go to a Senior CTA who is at a lower FTE.
CTMs will appreciate the acknowledgement and attention to this issue!
- Help CTMs become more efficient.
CTMs typically receive minimal training when they move into the role. If your company does not have the resources to provide effective training, consider paying for new CTMs to take the CTM Training Course with ClinEssentials.
Through CTM Training, Clinical Trial Managers learn the process inside and out, from Study Initiation to Study Conduct to Study Close-Out. They practically apply real-life CTM scenarios so they know how to handle issues that arise. By educating CTMs and providing them with helpful tools and resources, you are helping them become more efficient.
Greater efficiency leads to improved work-life balance, and also leads to higher-quality and more productive work!
- Encourage the limitation of late nights and early mornings.
Meetings are an important part of the CTM role and necessary to accomplish many of their responsibilities.
Suggest that CTMs limit themselves to 2-3 late nights OR early mornings per week. Encourage them to choose 1 day for late meetings and 1 day for early meetings each week. Block non-work times on the calendar so that meetings aren’t scheduled on an evening they are not planning to work.
Limiting extra long hours most days of the week is another way to achieve a better work-life balance.
We hope you now understand why prioritizing a healthy work-life balance is important for Clinical Trial Managers. There are things you can do, both big and small, that will make a positive difference – at work and at home.
Remember: it is possible to spend less time working and still be successful as a Clinical Trial Manager!
What do you do to maintain work-life balance? Please comment below with what works for you!