Sept. 1, 2001
"Win-win" scheduling — happier staff, happier patients, happier doctors!

by Kenneth R. Levine, DDS

"Win-win" scheduling — happier staff, happier patients, happier doctors!

In July of 1999, I approached my staff with a novel idea. I am a periodontist and have been practicing for 23 years in Tamarac, Fla., a western suburb of Ft. Lauderdale. My wife Linda and I have three children; two are married, and all live up north. I wanted to spend more time with them, travel more, and attend more CE courses. But I didn't want to decrease our income.

At the time, our office hours were 8:30 AM-12:30 PM, with a lunch break until 2:00 PM. We worked through the afternoon until 5:00 PM. On Fridays we worked through lunch and closed early.

I suggested to my staff years that we begin seeing patients at 7:30 in the morning and work an eight-hour day. I explained that I did not want to pay them for the extra five hours they would work. Instead, everyone in the office would get a paid week off, every seven weeks. They smiled!

We began this trial schedule on Aug. 16, 1999. After two years, my staff is still smiling. Alternative scheduling has been a real win-win proposition for the practice. It's also a bonus for our patients. They like the option of early morning appointments. Our 7:30 AM time slot is our most popular. The staff enjoys the extra paid week off, while Linda and I enjoy the extra time to visit our children and indulge in leisure travel.

Working an extra hour each day allows the staff to "bank" 35 hours, every seven weeks. I pay them for this time off. They are still eligible for their vacation and personal holidays per their original employment agreement. Since the staff is already entitled to so much time off, many choose not to take the additional holidays, preferring to work and earn additional salary. Therefore, our office stays fully staffed throughout the year. Decreased efficiency or production is not a problem because we are never short-staffed. The staff is keenly concerned with this since all participate in a bonus/incentive program based primarily on collections.

Since ours is a referral-based practice, it's important to have a warm body answering the telephone. When the office is closed, one staff member remains to answer the telephone, make appointments, and handle the mail. This individual earns additional pay for the hours worked as consolation for staying behind. Most of my staff enjoys the opportunity to earn additional income.When I take off two weeks, usually in the summer, the staff also gets those two weeks off — fully paid. They bank the extra hours.

We have found no drawbacks to this program. My practice benefits from a happy and well-compensated staff. My family and I enjoy the extra time together.

We now enjoy over seven weeks out of the office each year, with no loss of production or income. Most importantly, we have a very satisfied and enthusiastic team.

Kenneth Levine, DDS, has practiced periodontics in Tamarac, Fla. since 1976. He has a special interest in cosmetic and restorative surgery, breath disorder thereapy, and dental implants. Contact him at the Center for Progressive Periodontal Care at (954) 722-1100.

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