It’s that time of year when we picture ourselves lying on a sandy beach holding a fancy drink with an umbrella, catching up on our reading. Or perhaps you envision yourself hiking through Yellowstone Park with a Nikon DSLR camera slung casually around your neck, ready to capture nature at her best. Or maybe it’s a golfing vacation. Whatever rocks your boat when it comes to escaping the day-to-day stresses of work, summer is the time that we most often associate with vacations.
I used to think that the anticipation of a vacation was half of the fun. That was before I was a business owner. Now, the planning and scheduling and rescheduling that needs to be done at the office in order to take time off can take some of the fun out of the anticipation. About three weeks ago, my husband and I started talking about where we wanted to go for vacation this summer. It started out with much enthusiasm and excitement.
And then the reality set in. What does taking time off mean for the office?
As business owners, we don’t get vacation pay. In most situations, when we aren’t working, we aren’t earning. Then there’s the guilt that we deal with when we take vacations. We often struggle with feeling that we are abandoning our patients and, to some extent, even our staff. We are sure that they can’t live without us (really?). How can we take that fun and relaxing vacation that we so surely deserve without stress? Here are a couple of suggestions that I’ve learned over the years.
Start a vacation fund for yourself and put a designated amount of money into it at regularly scheduled times. This will allow you to have that vacation pay without feeling like you are tapping into your savings.
Schedule vacation time. Plan the time that you want to take off as far ahead as possible. This allows for staff accommodations and, of course, patient accommodations.
Plan patient coverage. If you are fortunate enough to have other dentists working with or for you, discuss far in advance your vacation plans and work out a mutually agreed upon coverage for your emergency patients. If you are a solo practitioner, connect with one of your local colleagues and set up a mutual coverage agreement that allows each of you to take time off with the peace of mind that your colleague will cover your emergencies.
Plan front desk coverage. Work with your front desk staff to arrange phone coverage and handling of office-related issues. Phones that aren’t being answered over an extended period of time make the office look less professional. Having your front desk staff work for a few hours each day processing payments, answering phones and handling issues creates a sense of reliability with your current and potential patients.
And so, because I’ve taken some of my own advice (at least this time) I am eagerly planning our summer adventure this year. That doesn’t mean that it will all go without a hitch, but, I do feel good about the pre-planning that I have put in place to make our vacation as stress free as possible.
Now, if only I could control the weather!
Claudia Anderson, DDS