Sometimes, creating a policy for your practice can present more challenges than you expect. Meal Periods tends to be one of them. There are benefits and drawbacks to both style of meal period – Paid and Unpaid.
Unpaid Meal Periods:
Employees have a break from their work day where they are relieved of all job duties, allowed to conduct their own personal business and recharge for the rest of the day. It also helps the practice control payroll and provide the coverage needed for patients.
Employees are off the clock and can not do any work practice related, leaving them unavailable to patients or other practice tasks. Because this is the employee’s personal time, they can go off site or run errands and be delayed returning to work, causing disruptions to the schedule.
Paid Meal Periods:
This allows business in the office to go on uninterrupted. Even if the office is closed for lunch, the phone can be answered and walk in patients helped because there is staff available to help them. Staff also tend to view a paid lunch as part of their employment and that can boost morale.
Employees become expectant of those hours in their pay and makes it hard to change in the future. Plus, even when there is nothing for staff to do, the practice will continue to pay them. Most importantly, Staff do not have a dedicated time to recharge during the day to ensure they stay energized for their whole shift and the benefit of running errands or having lunch outside of the practice is no longer available. Once the employee is on the clock, they should not leave the practice until it is time to leave for the day.
So which is the best for your practice? Well, how about we start with these questions?
FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) does not require rest or meal periods so reviewing the state requirements is important. Although some states also have no requirements for rest and meal periods, some states are rather strict and this should inform your policy. For example, Connecticut requires that employees who work 7.5 or more consecutive hours be given a meal period of at least 30 minutes between the first two and last two hours of their shift.
If there is still patient traffic, phone calls or other tasks that will not get completed and will put the practice behind or out of favor with patients, it is important to consider if paid lunches might be a better fit. You want to ensure that you are setting your team up for success with the lunch period you choose.
If your practice closes during lunch and there is no work to be done during that time, it may seem like your meal period speaks for itself. However, just because the practice closes, does not mean there aren’t tasks that need to be done.
When breaks are staggered, unpaid meals become easier for the practice because there is always someone available for patients. However, someone has to monitor that staff goes to lunch at the right time and returns on time so someone is always available.
Unpaid meal periods offer you great opportunity to control overtime expenses in your practice. If your staff is always scheduled to 40 hours a week to provide open to close coverage, staff members will often stay over their time resulting in over time. Unpaid lunches give a buffer of time to help drive compliance to your policies.
These questions are meant to help you reflect on the important aspects of create a policy like this. Whichever you choose, both have benefits for your practice. However, Clarity and ease of understanding are the best for yourself and staff and should be the priority with any policy.
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My least favorite phrase to hear was “Michelle called out today”. It almost sucked the air out of the room. I had already planned out the whole day, for myself and the team. Before hearing that, I probably had a project in place, hopeful to progress in some way. Adjusting and... Read more
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Doctor, I see floaters in my vision. I think I have a retinal detachment!
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I put a moist teabag on my eye so it would heal faster.
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A handbook could be the most important document you create for your business. Here are the top 3 reasons why:
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Warby Parker, big box, shopping malls, oh my! While some private practice ODs respond to local commercial competitors with (typically irrational) fears of a mass exodus of patients leaving their practice for the cheap prices and convenience of a low-cost retailer, other respond with a... Read more
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Good marketing for an independently owned optometric practice isn’t one size fits all, especially now when there are multiple generations with unique mindsets, characteristics, values and eye care needs in the United States.
Let’s say that as an independent Optometrist, you’ve decided to add new eyewear products into the mix at your practice, and now you’d like to market these products to existing and prospective patients.
I’d like to share an incredible customer service experience I had recently.
I was dissatisfied with the protein drink I had been using, since it had a slightly chalky taste and a higher sugar content than I wanted. I spoke with a friend of mine who suggested that I try a new protein... Read more
During his TedxTalk, Scott Hess recalled his first job out of college and a reaction from his boss. He said, “I was told that my performance was strong but that my appearance was a problem. I was upset… I thought I looked awesome. I couldn’t understand why this older boss of mine was making a... Read more
The Inevitable Plateau - “a state of little or no change following a period of activity or progress”
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A practice owner with a cash crunch recently pushed back on the advice I was giving – to defer some compensation for a quarterly distribution – with this statement: “I thought I was supposed to pay myself first!”
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Google and social media have changed the ways we look for information, discover area service providers and research options for health care, and as a result, many Optometrists who own a practice now question which tactics are the most effective to increase brand awareness, number of... Read more
The Science of Selling
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Your optometry practice is incredibly valuable to you. “Well, Nathan” – you may say – “of course it is!” But have you ever thought of why it’s valuable?
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The internet isn’t usually a popular topic in conversations I have with owners and staff members of optometric practices. Dealing with reviews and competition from web-based retailers along with the challenge of creating and maintaining a website and good social media marketing may have many... Read more
Optometrists in private practice sometimes fail to offer a clear reason why someone should choose them for their vision care over competitors - on their websites or in other marketing collateral – sometimes when you try to market to everyone, you fail to capture anyone.
What... Read more
When working with small business owners to create marketing plans and strategies, I run across the following scenario far too often: “Hey, I’m not sure how to log in to my Google listing. My office manager used to handle that for me, and she’s not on the team anymore... Read more
“You might as well ask me to describe the essence of music, or the color of starlight.”
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For starters, I’m not a licensed psychologist, I just play one as a practice management consultant. It’s been my observation that whenever human beings come together in an environment where they are required to work together and interact, inevitably some tension and conflict will arise.... Read more
Your schedule has gotten busier and you’ve hired an associate OD. While you would like to keep the associate’s schedule filled most of the time, it’s not uncommon for an associate to have some gaps in his or her schedule – at least in the beginning. This often leads to some resentment by the... Read more
Before anyone panics, I am not suggesting that most practices go out and spend $80,000 or $100,000 on a COO tomorrow, or that your manager is due a large raise for 2018. I typically only recommend that type of role for multi-location practices grossing over $2M-$3M per year: practices... Read more
Sometimes it’s not the inventory you choose to carry or the reps you choose to indulge. It’s not the pricing or the shipping or the cadence of your reorders. As we head into the tail end of the holiday season, I can’t help but think of the process of opening presents.
Everyone has... Read more
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“How many frames do I need?” “How many frames should I carry?” “How much stock should I have in inventory?” It doesn’t matter how you phrase it, at least 1/3 of my consultations start the same way. I’m going to make this all very, very easy for you. Consider it my holiday gift! To determine... Read more
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A practice owner pulled me aside at our most recent conference in Denver to start thinking of an exit plan. I always ask two questions when these discussions come up:
“How long do you see yourself continuing to own your practice?”
“How is your retirement savings coming... Read more
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Most businesses have polices that employees are required to follow. In general, office policies are a good idea. Policies provide structure for how to conduct business and create consistency around processes and operations. But in a service-based industry, well intended but rigidly executed... Read more
With all the talk of private equity roll-ups and regional alliances, many practice owners are concerned that if they aren’t a large, multi-office, multi-doctor practice, they don’t have a future in independent optometry.
Is that... Read more
One of the interesting mysteries that I get to unravel in many practices is the mystery of tight cash flow. Sometimes it’s obvious – a small practice with low profitability, for instance. But other times it’s not.
First off, what is tight cash flow? Here’s my simple definition:... Read more
Doctor: Would you like to order your contacts today, Mrs. Smith?
Mrs. Smith: That’s OK. I’ll just take the prescription and get them online.
What happened here? You just did a thorough, high-tech eye... Read more
For practices looking to grow, there are basically two paths: see more patients or generate more revenue per patient. Ideally, a practice will do both. One thing I consistently hear from ODs is that it’s hard to generate high revenue from contact lens patients. Even when selling annual... Read more
Can you find 20 or 30 minutes a week to hold a staff meeting? You might be surprised at the impact that it has on your optometry practice.
Your staff is your most valuable business asset. Your investment in optometry marketing, technology, office design, etc. will fail to deliver an... Read more
The very phrase can cause irritation, anxiety and bewilderment in the minds of owners who understand that they should somehow be participating in the conversations across the various social media platforms – but which ones are the best for optometry practice... Read more
While there is more than one way to achieve success, there are a few common traits that successful independent optometry practice owners have in common.
They refuse to accept the status quo. While others remain stagnant, ignore trends, and complain about the... Read more