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How to Master your Employees’ Calendar

Tips for building a team schedule that sticks

Posted by Jason Penrod on Aug 20, 2019

If your dental practice is open longer than a standard 40-hour workweek, organizing your staff calendar might feel like herding cats. Balancing the practice’s business needs with school schedules, familial obligations, and time-off can be difficult. While it might seem daunting, there are a few steps you can take to make your team’s calendar a more manageable task for you.

Identify and rank your employees’ priorities

For every employee that wants a standard nine-to-five, there’s one person that wants four tens and a three-day weekend. Knowing what your employees’ preferences are can help to organize your team calendar in a way that keeps everyone happy. 

Periodically during the year and when new employees start, make a point to ask your team a few questions to get an idea of their schedule preferences. You might also identify what items (ex. class schedule, childcare, etc.) are a priority for your employees by highlighting them or ranking priorities. 

While your team might have different priorities, these questions will help get you started organizing your team schedule:

  • When available, do you prefer working mornings or afternoons?
  • In a week, do you prefer five 8-hour days or four 10-hour days?
  • Given the opportunity, would you want overtime?
  • Do you have classes this semester that you must attend? If so, when?
  • Do you have any family obligations that you have to make throughout the week?
  • Do you have any vacation time planned for the next few months?

Understand your business needs

When you schedule your team you need to focus on covering your high volume blocks of time. Are there days that are more demanding than others? Do you have specific hours that fill up before others? 

If your practice management software doesn’t provide data on what hours are in higher demand, you can manually audit your schedule. Keep track of what days and hours your patients initially request, along with what days have the highest rate of cancellation. Within a few weeks to a month, you should start to see trends indicating the high-volume hours.

Make employees responsible for reschedules

Ideally, you want to set your staff schedule at least two weeks in advance, fielding any special requests (ex. parent-teacher meeting, doctor’s appointment, Beyonce’s in town) giving you ample time to cover any gaps. Similarly, you should make it a policy to have vacation time requested at least a month in advance. 

All the advanced planning won’t prevent occasional short notice requests. If the request falls outside of medical reasons, make the employee responsible for finding a peer to cover their shift. This accountability might cut down on more frivolous requests.

For medical requests, try not to rely on overtime this will eventually become costly for your practice. If it’s earlier in the week try to get volunteers to trade shifts with your sick employee, this will help minimize paying overtime when they return. 

Keep an eye on the frequency and timeliness of medical requests for signs of scheduling abuse. For example, if medical requests form a pattern of preceding or following weekends or vacations, the employee might be trying to get a little more leisure time without finding someone to cover their shift. If you do see these patterns, make a point to sit down and talk with the employee to understand what is going on.