Integrating a part-time associate with efficiency (Proceedings)

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People don't work just for pay-they perform a certain amount of work in a certain environment with certain restrictions and benefits, in exchange for a paycheck.

People don't work just for pay—they perform a certain amount of work in a certain environment with certain restrictions and benefits, in exchange for a paycheck. Every person has a life outside of work, each with different priorities. When possible, and if it is desired, allow for flexible scheduling. Ask your associates what they need, and involve them in creating solutions that meet the hospital's needs as well as their own needs.

What is "flexible work?"

Flexible work includes items such as participation in creating scheduling, working hours, and breaks; allowing for a gradual return to work after maternity leave; sharing a job; working a compressed work week; taking extended breaks for educational opportunities or sabbaticals; working part-year on an annual basis (combine with job-sharing); and breaks for care-giving of elderly family members. Work schedules for part-time team members can be set up in a wide variety of ways.

Flex-time includes anything outside of the typical professional's 8 to 5 workday, 5 to 6 days per week. For example, some doctors may work from 7 am to 3 pm, and others from 10 am to 8 pm. These can be permanently staggered shifts, or optional and changing as the needs of the business and its employees change. Another version varies by the week or month. For example, two doctors may alternate who works Saturdays, or weekends, or some other day or time. Such schedules are arranged well ahead of time—often by the year. Yet another version of flexible scheduling is flexing by season. Summer is a particularly busy time, yet many people want fewer working hours or vacation breaks. Your part-timers may choose to alternate working more hours per week for a time, with others working less, alternating over the summer.

A compressed work week is a work arrangement where someone may work "full time," but those hours are fitted into fewer days.

Pure-part-time refers to a job that ranges from 15 to 30 hours per week, as a long term commitment. The number of hours per week is usually fixed for each part-time employee.

Job sharing includes different responsibilities for employees than if they were each simply hired for a part-time position. Job-sharers are together responsible for ensuring that certain hours and duties are filled—together, they act as one. Their job description should include ensuring the hours are covered, and they must work together to make that happen.

Part-time as full-time (working at more than one hospital), is great for people who want to work full-time, but who can only find a part-time position. This arrangement works best if doctors work in two clinics whose client-geographical areas do not overlap.

Use group communication tools

Clear communication across shifts is essential with any practice, but particularly when part-timers are utilized. Consider these group communication tools:

Provide a hospital manual (employee handbook) with procedures and policies.

Keep job descriptions as current, action documents

Hold rounds at each shift change.

Provide a bulletin board and individual mailboxes.

Assign work partners (tech/doctor).

Cross-train employees.

Hold regular meetings, but also talk to each other, every day.

Anticipate and prevent part-timer problems

Together, the part-timer and her employer can plan for the future so you aren't caught by surprise when the inevitable happens. A good part-time employee will help the practice grow. The practice can either ask the part-timer to become a full-time employee; fire the part-timer and hire a full-time person; or hire additional part-time employee(s).

Many people, especially women with young children, would like to work part-time for a number of years. Over time, as their situation changes, they may have a desire to increase their working hours. These people can make valuable members of a team in a growing practice, especially if practice growth happens to parallel their expanding hours of availability.

Alternatively, additional part-timers can be hired. Part-time teams can be extremely effective, losing little productivity in the event of illness, maternity leave, or other events that can disrupt the flow of a business with only full-time employees. Part-timers can also help when there are seasonal ebbs and flows of work. The entire team must work together to ensure continuity and consistency for one another, for clients, and for pet care.

Let part-timers participate in creating their schedules

One concern about using multiple part-timers is that they'll all want the same days or times off. The reality is that teams can work well together to solve these problems, if they're given the authority and responsibility to do so. As one veterinarian said, "Sure, we all want certain days or holidays off, but we all can't have them! It's a give and take for everyone."

Employers often work harder than they have to when it comes to creating part-timers' schedules. Instead, tell your associates the hours and days that need to be filled and ask them to creatively work together to fill those hours and days. Allowing (requiring) your team members to solve their own scheduling is not the same as being an absentee leader, nor is it the same as being dismissive. It also does not mean that people work whenever they want to. The business has needs that must be filled. The employer can set limits and requirements.

A good leader asks others to take on responsibility while being available to coach them through the process. They often come up with different or more creative solutions than would the practice owner or manager.

Show respect; prep clients

Show your clients that you have respect for this team member. Clearly communicate the doctor's hours and availability, without apology. Unmet expectations or assumptions about doctor hours are a greater cause of angst than the actual hours a doctor keeps. When people know what to expect, they can work with that.

Set up a process for fair distribution of appointments. Give front desk staff a script. Don't rely on verbal instructions; work with the receptionists to create a script to follow when a client calls and requests an appointment.

Set up a process for technician's duties with/for each doctor. Assigning technicians to doctors or to service areas (surgery, treatment), can reduce confusion. Rotate daily or weekly assignments such that each tech works with each doctor.

Organization and communication are the two items essential to using part-time doctors efficiently. Laying the groundwork for success will help you integrate your part-time associate with efficiency.

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