Optometric Management Tip # 85   -   Wednesday, September 03, 2003
Payroll Costs, Part 1

How do you handle staff costs when the office is not actively seeing patients? This question was sent to me by a reader following last week's tip, which advocated compression of patients into fewer days so the practice is busy on patient days, and while providing non-patient days for the doctor to spend time on marketing and management. This idea would cause the office to have more staff on patient days in order to handle the accelerated patient flow. Here are a few options for managing staff when the patient schedule fluctuates through out the week...

1. The staff work schedule could have everyone working the days that the office sees patients, and days off will be on non-patient days.

2. Hire some part time staff members to work the patient days - or assign about 32 hours per week and define it as full time with benefits. I believe there are many qualified technicians who would like to work fewer hours in order to spend time with family.

3. Own an in-office optical lab and cross-train some staff. Non-patient days become heavy lab days.

4. Assign projects and secondary duties to staff during non-patient days. 5. Hold staff training meetings during non-patient days.

6. Ask for volunteers to take days off (without pay) when the patient schedule changes temporarily (like when the doctor is on vacation) or if a patient day looks rather light. I don't like to force employees to take a day off, but many will opt for it if given the chance. These days off do not count against allowable personal days.

7. Don't worry too much about days where the staff workload is lighter. The efficiency gained by a busy and efficient practice more than makes up for the payroll cost of some extra staff. Lighter workdays allow staff to catch up on the small details that make for practice excellence. Concentrate on patient service.

Best wishes for continued success,

Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management