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The beginning of the calendar year is a good time to look ahead and plan your office calendar. With the winter holidays still within recent memory, this is a perfect time to look ahead and plan for 2009. Were there any mistakes made last year that can be avoided? Do you want to clarify or change your office policy for bonuses? Are there days the office is closed without pay? Within reason, can you consider staff preferences?
Paid and unpaid holiday planning
You may want to set your office hours differently depending on the day of the week major holidays fall on. For example, Christmas in 2009 falls on a Friday. Many offices will be closed on the following Saturday to enjoy the long weekend. The decision may be based on what's good for business, staff preferences or office policy. There are lots of considerations and it's best to decide well in advance before the decisions have a personal impact on someone's plans.
Your practice policy manual should specify what holidays are paid as an employment benefit. In my practice, that's New Year's Day, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Our office is closed and we pay eight hours of wages on those days regardless of whether it was an employee's usual day off or not.
If a holiday falls on a Sunday the employee gets additional pay.
We often close the office in the afternoon on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, but that would be time off without pay. We may be closed all day on Christmas Eve in some years.
I give strong consideration to staff preferences; most like the extra time off without pay. But, the business needs of the practice are also considered.
A master calendar
We have a large erasable wall calendar mounted in our inner business office. All office events, vacations and special office closings are written on the calendar by the office manager.
It's important to have rules so employees are treated fairly. Vacation time is often based on a first come, first served basis and we may not be able to grant vacation days for two people at the same time from the same department. We approve vacation requests based on the staffing needs of the office. Some employees like to request specific days off to coincide with school schedules or to build upon holidays and their usual day off. For example, if Mary usually has Wednesdays off and if Christmas falls on a Friday, she may want to take the Thursday off as a vacation day.
We set the month of January to be open for vacation requests for the rest of the year based on seniority. After that, vacation requests are on a first come, first approved basis.
Doctor time off
If possible, it's smart for the doctors in the practice to set their vacation time as early as possible. It helps for planning staff schedules and for blocking off appointment times for patients as far in advance as possible.
Plan in advance for eye care conventions that doctors and staff will attend. You can then decide if the office will be closed any days or if reduced staff is needed and enter it on the master calendar. Consider scheduling an all day office retreat meeting to work on technical training and customer service.
Scheduling staff meetings well in advance is the key to making them happen. I would set them once per week unless there are special circumstances. Block off the appointment schedule and enter the meetings on the master calendar.
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week
Dr. Gailmard's new book, Practice Management in Optometry: A Blueprint for Success Based on the Optometric Management Tip of the Week, is now available on Amazon.