How flexible could you, or should you be as a practice owner?
When an employee asks if you have time to talk, you know what’s coming, a request of some sort. Now maybe this fills you with dread and has you thinking; “How much more do I need to give?" But before you start thinking along those lines here are some other things to consider
It’s true, they probably are going to ask for something, but perhaps that isn't such a bad thing if it will make them happier or perform better at work. You know better than anyone how stressful a career as a Vet can be and how challenging it is to balance work and home life. There’s always something that has to be sacrificed, and it’s usually sleep, recreation or a person’s health that takes the knock. Wouldn’t it be better to allow some flexibility before they reach breaking point?
It’s worthwhile listening to their request and here’s why. Employee salaries may be listed as an expense on the balance sheet, but in reality they are a business’ best asset if they’re invested in. People add value to a practice in multiple ways, and it's not just about the role they get paid to do. Personality, skills and expertise are what attract clients and keep them coming back. Clients may be paying for a medical service, but what’s more important is the experience they receive from the practice.
A friendly smile, or empathy when there’s bad news to impart goes a long way to keeping them as loyal clients. When a person feels valued they invest more of themselves, and they can more easily impart that friendly smile. But it’s not so easy when you’re overworked and exhausted or so stressed because you can’t keep up with life. You may smile, but it doesn’t reach your eyes and the empathy, even if genuinely felt, can appear to be lacking, replaced by a cold clinical tone. Not because the Vet doesn’t care, but simply because they’re fatigued.
A little bit of bending won’t break the practice
Most Vet’s understand the demands of the industry well enough, they’ve lived it for years. But people are also starting to recognise the importance of wellness and achieving a better work/life balance, especially when there is family involved. Flexibility may take many forms, from working hours to the number of shifts, and could also include employees taking on other roles in the practice. Taking on tasks that can be done remotely. For example managing the practice’s social media pages or monthly newsletter.
Rather than being nervous of having these conversations about flexibility, practice owners could welcome and encourage them. Ultimately it can help grow a more cohesive and committed team and a more profitable practice. There are numerous studies that highlight the value in rest and having time off and how it can make people more engaged and productive at work. So instead of seeing leave pay as an expense, consider the value to the person and the knock on benefit to the practice.
A good approach to achieving a good working arrangement is to get to know the person and what their career interests are. These things can then be factored in when discussing more flexible work options. There’s a good chance they would have thought through their request a great deal before discussing it with you, so hear them out, and read between the lines to find out what’s really important to them. It could be that their request could open up an opportunity to expand the practice in a particular field of work with the potential of attracting new clients. Or it could help you engage more with existing clients which can help promote a positive image of the practice.
Change is taking place at a much faster pace in modern day life and businesses need to adapt, rather than be stuck in a traditional way of operating. Being flexible may just be the key to having a more effective veterinary practice. Be open to it.