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OWA Practice Series: Managing Staff Shortages

Staff meeting

We have put together a “Practice Series” which will include advice from doctors, opticians and administrative staff, on common and relevant topics that come with running a practice. Stay tuned for additional contributions each month!

Jesse Anderson, ABOC: I think the best way to manage staff shortages is by cutting down the workload entirely until you can operate efficiently again. It’s not fair to your patients or your staff to be short changed and could cost you more than you think. If you’re overworking your staff, you are going to lose them faster than you can find people to bring in. Keep open communication with your staff about where your head is at as a business owner or practice manager. Make sure that your employees feel heard as well. If there is some shuffling around of tasks that need to be taken care of, be sure that the duties are clear and balanced. If pay raises are in order to motivate and show appreciation to your staff then do it. Something is better than nothing, don’t shorthand them for their loyalty. It is never a bad idea to ask your staff if they would rather keep the same pay and stay where they are or if they could handle more with an incentive. Last but not least, use your resources. There are a lot of reps like me, who are also certified to work in eyecare facilities that are not utilized enough. If they cannot work full time they can be a floater to fill in where someone might be needed, even if for a lunch hour so your staff can get a proper lunch. Most reps have great phone skills and if you have good relationships with your reps then they will be more than happy to help you in a pinch.

We have been short staffed and a lot has been taken on by my office manager. We have made some days shorter to accommodate a balance and have increased salaries. Some days I am catching up on other admin tasks and we have a longer lunch break. Dr. Sampalis

Christine Maiello: This has been a tricky one, as we all know. We’ve taken a few approaches to managing staff shortages the last couple of years. First, we took a close look at who we have on our team and how we can optimize their capacity and skills. That might mean training someone in a different department or role, or assigning them tasks that might be out of their direct job description, things you know will help keep processes and systems running smoothly. Next, we looked at our compensation and benefits packages. Being competitive in the current market is important. Consider what areas you can increase compensation or perks, benefits or PTO without breaking the budget. Also, ask your team members individually what makes them feel appreciated, it’s not always money! People value different things, engage your people to understand what is truly important to them to stay loyal and invested.

Lately the staff shortages have not been short-term. With this being the case, you need to make sure everyone is maintaining their level of sanity and see who needs help, and where. Keeping stress levels low and staff happy are vital to not losing more staff from burnout.  Consider modifying hours or staggering shifts so staff can have a break and maintain a good work-life balance. Other perks can also go a long way, such as supplying snacks or lunches, gift cards, a bonus, or a new tool or piece of equipment that would make their day easier. Communicate and make sure your staff knows that you are aware that they have more of a workload and that you are making an effort to help them – it can go a long way. -Carissa Dunphy, ABOC

Melissa Rasband: We have been extremely lucky and have had a full staff 98% of the time over the last few years. We hire employees who will complement and work well with our staff. When we have been short staffed, we all pull together and support each other. Working together as a team is important. If one of us drops the ball, we are all affected. Creating a strong staff where everyone gets along and bonds for us is extremely important.

What are your suggestions for handling staff shortages? Let us know in the comments!

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