• Jackie Schletter

Your Leadership Role and Work-Life Balance, You've Got This!

This is a discussion I encounter frequently with teams, and not just those in a managerial role. The issue isn't just being compensated for every hour worked, but creating a work environment for all that treats the practice, and the well- being of staff with respect. When this environment is acheived, you will find you work much more efficiently while on site, and much, much less while off site. I'm going to rant a bit here because this is a really important issue for the health of all of our staff, managers in particular. Salary or hourly, some evolution in our expectations for managers needs to occur. First, be sure your salary puts you into the 'exempt' category. In 2020, if you're making less than $35,568 via salary you are a non-exempt employee and qualify for overtime pay. This is less common for PM's as they typically are paid more, but I find tech and desk "managers" that are salaried and should definitely be paid for their overtime. When working with managers I review the work load expectations to help ensure that a feeling of being taken advantage of does not exist, that work is not being done offsite (at home) under the guise of salary, and that job fatigue has not set in. A few helpful tips: Learn to budget your time wisely and go all in on work life balance. It is fair to say this industry requires some "off duty" attention paid to rare situations that pop up when a PM is not on site. Your first order of business in the pursuit of reasonable salaried hours is to clarify to staff what constitutes the need for a phone call or text message. It should be a rare occurrence that you need to be contacted when you are not at work. Next, train your staff to handle grey area thinking so they do not feel they need to call you for run of the mill issues. If you cannot train your staff to make decisions without you, please find new staff. The team you put together will directly impact your quality of life as a manager. Choose wisely! Policies should be clear for staff to follow while you are not there. Administrative work should never, ever go home with you. If you are a "working" manager, meaning you still work a shift as a tech or desk leader, create "admin" time on your schedule for all to see. Think of it as "I'm here but not here". The doctors and team should respect your managerial duties and the need for some dedicated time to get those things done. Veterinarians do not take pets home to examine because they were “so busy” that day, no one expects you to take your work home either. When you find your admin tasks are suffering as you are being pulled away to help answer phones or hold a pet for venipuncture because "everyone else is busy" discuss this with your owner. After all, you are doing your best to make their practice successful. Tell them you need the tools to make this happen. I can confidently say both owners and new managers, even some seasoned managers, underestimate greatly just how much admin time is needed to successfully run a practice. Generally speaking, I advocate strongly for managers to be only that - managers. Staff the practice properly so a manager is not expected to fill a shift. When a manager calls out should the owner/doctor stop seeing clients and fill in for the manager? Of course not. Read on for call outs ... I hold fast to the idea that is it not your duty to find someone to fill in for call outs. Sunday night staff call out? That should start a practice phone tree of sorts - perhaps it's a text message that rings out to all asking for someone to fill that shift. As PM, you should not feel compelled to fill that shift. Hold a meeting with your team about the rare occasions the practice will have to work short, how that will look, be communicated to clients, etc. If you find call outs are common, address that issue. Now, having said that ... if you're on site and caught up on work (I know, I know, but it might happen) and you are certain you will not fall behind then by all means, pitch in and help when call outs occur.

There is no reason your position should be the sacrificial lamb that creates the landslide of issues too many managers deal with.

For instance, you filled in for a call out and you were unable to complete employee review paperwork for next day reviews so now you take that paperwork home. You had two choices ... fill in for that call out and postpone the reviews until you completed the paperwork at work the next day, or let your very capable team run the day with the skills you hired them for while you continue on with your duties. Taking work home because a team member couldn't make it into work is not a choice a manager should have to make. I am a warrior for the balance our teams so desperately need. There are many reasons why our industry suffers not only from compassion fatigue but also that general "overwhelmed" feeling. The thing is, we can fix it. Think of your work-life regime as if you were in the land of Oz wearing Dorothy's ruby slippers. We think other things are in control of the way we feel at work but at the end of the day all you have to do is click your heels ... you've had the power all along to be where you want to be.

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