Ask Emily: How to reduce overtime hours

June 1, 2020
Emily Shiver, CVPM, CCFP

Emily Shiver, CVPM, CCFP, is regional director of operations at the Family Vet Group, headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Shiver resides in Florida.

Here are some tips to help your veterinary team cut back on overtime.

The team at dvm360.com and Firstline magazine asked Emily Shiver, a certified veterinary practice manager and certified compassion fatigue professional, to answer your questions about life in practice for managers, technicians, client service representatives and other team members. Got a question for her? Email us at firstline@mmhgroup.com.

Q. Paying employees overtime can become a huge financial burden for veterinary practices, so devising an overtime strategy at your practice should be a priority. Managing overtime, however, requires a joint effort between managers and team members. But what does that look like exactly?

A. To start, make sure you set realistic, measurable staffing goals. Yes, you want to avoid having to pay overtime rates all the time, but don’t forget that working extra hours is sometimes necessary in veterinary practices to serve your patients and the clients who love them. At my hospital, we were able to decrease overtime pay by almost 60% within just a few months of implementing the following tactics. Not a bad start at all.

Here's what we did:

  • Make sure the practice schedule is created and posted at least a month in advance.
  • Hold team leads accountable for monitoring their teams’ hours throughout each week.
  • Share overtime statistics during team leader meetings so concerns can be addressed quickly.
  • Monitor staff arrival and departure times. Arriving 10 to 15 minutes before or after a scheduled shift five or six days a week can quickly equate to an additional hour or more of overtime. If this is the case at your practice, consider shaving off an hour or two from the schedule with the understanding that your team is punctual or tends to stay until work is complete.
  • Don’t wait until the day before a team member’s last scheduled day of the week (you know, a busy Friday or Saturday) to find out that they are two hours over and hours need to be cut the next day.
  • Coach your team to monitor their own hours and alert you mid-week if there is potential that they will exceed full-time work hours.
  • If a team member is abusing overtime, meet with that person right away to discuss the situation.
  • Reward those who consistently stay within their scheduled hours.

Emily Shiver is practice manager at Cleveland Heights Animal Hospital in Lakeland, Florida.