Can you work and have a life?

Article

Yes, but it takes practice. Firstline readers who are 46 to 55 years old are most likely to work more than three hours of overtime, while those who are 56 or older report they're most likely to work no overtime.

Yes, but it takes practice. Firstline readers who are 46 to 55 years old are most likely to work more than three hours of overtime, while those who are 56 or older report they're most likely to work no overtime.

Play fair

Could it be that the most experienced team members know an important lesson about creating a healthy life balance? Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member Debbie Allaben Gair, CVPM, a consultant with Bridging the Gap in Sparta, Mich., says many people don't address their need for a healthy balance until they're on their knees. "We need managers to say, 'You can't work that much, it's not healthy,'" Gair says.

Know your boundaries

Sixty percent of Firstline readers say they're married, and 53 percent have children. But for some of you, the kids and the picket fence just aren't your thing. Of those who don't have children, 46 percent say they don't plan to. The key to a healthy team, Gair says, is to respect everyone's right to a well-balanced life, regardless of marital status, children, and lifestyle choices.

Tell it to the telephone pole

The best way to do that is to decide not to judge others—and don't give them the opportunity to judge you. "Going home to read a book may be critical to one person's life balance, while another person may need to take time off to spend with a sick child," Gair says.

A kind, firm, respectful approach explains your boundaries but doesn't offer your reasons. For example, you don't need to explain you want to leave on time to make a 5:30 appointment at the nail salon. Instead, say, "I agreed to be here until 5 p.m. I can stay until 5:20 p.m., but then I need to go."

Find your healthy balance

While you owe it to yourself to strike the right balance between work and home, you want to find solutions that work for you and your team members.

"Say one person always stays late, and the boss appreciates this because the work gets done," Gair says. "It's intrusive because this employee's personal life suffers. But it's also not reasonable if the doctor is often stuck performing procedures by herself after hours."

Figure 1

However, it is possible to find the middle ground. "If the stated expectation is that you work from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and employees routinely work until 7 p.m., that's not reasonable," Gair says. "If it happens once in a while—every other week—that's reasonable and expected in the veterinary industry."

Gair offers this scheduling solution: Assign a closer. The closer position rotates between several team members so no one lands the late nights all the time. If the practice closes at 6 p.m., schedule one person for each position—receptionist, technician, and so on—to leave at 6 p.m. and another to close, which means this person stays until the work is done. "In veterinary hospitals, we must be flexible, and if you designate a closer, you can meet clients' needs and have a life," Gair says.

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Angela Elia, BS, LVT, CVT, VTS (ECC)
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