Article Date: 8/1/2004

Avoid Burnout for You and Your Staff
If work has you down, you owe it to your staff and yourself to rebound.

One of the tricks that employees use to thwart a mild case of job burnout or fatigue is to read the classified ads. When they see what other opportunities are available in the job market, they either feel better about their situation or they move on. Either option solves their problem.

Owners of private practices don't have this option and to compound the issue, they bear the burden of maintaining their staff's morale.

The most recommended antidote for fatigue is a vacation. It's pointless to argue that you're too busy: According to experts, you have to recharge your battery at regular intervals or you can't perform.

To keep all batteries charged, practices should ensure that all employees make use of their vacation time. All staff, including the owner(s), must recognize that mini-vacations, or breaks during the day, also represent critical opportunities to regroup and recharge.

From fatigue to burnout

The experts say that if staff can re-energize through breaks or vacations, then they're fatigued but not burnt out. Burnout, they argue, occurs when an employee can no longer tolerate a condition, a person or a thing in their work environment. If you think that you or an employee may be susceptible to burnout or fatigue, then consider changing the work environment.

You can achieve this change through delegation. Delegation frees up time so that an optometrist can spend more time with patients or creating new opportunities -- anything from a new office design to developing a practice specialty.

It may seem counterintuitive to delegate to a staff member who exhibits burnout. Yet by adding meaningful responsibilities, an employee can feel a greater sense of value. And if it's not possible to identify or remove the environmental triggers that cause burnout, delegation can reduce exposure to them.

The right equipment

Anecdotally, researchers say that new equipment acquisitions can provide a cure for burnout. Through continuous improvements, today's equipment minimizes chair time, improves accuracy, and is easier to use. Assuming that you delegate its use, new equipment can attack the root of burnout, especially if the root lies in repetitive or mundane tasks. For example, electronic records can eliminate most manual filing duties.

If your practice's productivity and morale is high, experts share one last tip: Address burnout today before it becomes tomorrow's problem.


Optometric Management, Issue: August 2004