Practice Management

4 Ways We Vastly Improved Our Work-Life Balance Without Negatively Impacting Profitability

Dr. Zilnicki with her family. Drs. Zilnicki and Licausi say that making time for family and fun enables them to be better doctors and practice owners.

By Miki Lyn Zilnicki, OD, FCOVD,
and Jessica Licausi, OD, FAAO, FCOVD

Dec. 21, 2022

Work-life balance means more time for you to enjoy your life, and it also means more energy to be a better doctor. When you are psychologically exhausted, it becomes difficult to devote the necessary focus and enthusiasm to each patient.

Here are several actions we took that greatly boosted our work-life balance without cutting into our profitability.

Closed on Weekends
This was the first decision we made to better balance our personal and work lives. In our early discussions of opening our vision therapy-focused practice we discussed how we both envisioned maintaining a profitable practice while keeping quality time with our families a priority. We both receive so much fulfillment when we are able to focus on time with our loved ones that we knew we would be better doctors and practice owners if we could maintain that. We made the risky decision to establish a week-day only schedule from the get-go when we opened our doors.

By keeping our weekends free from in-office care we are able to spend both our Saturdays and Sundays with our families. Prior to opening our own practice, we both had worked in offices that had weekend hours and had seen how working on the weekends required sacrificing family time.

Closing on weekends can sound risky for a new office, and many were skeptical of our decision. The downside is some patients may only have availability to come in during weekend hours, and we were potentially closing ourselves off to those patients.

When we first opened the office we offered later appointments to offset having no weekend hours, but as our families grew, and our needs changed, so did our office hours. So, we now are only open M-F, 9-5 (M-T), 10-4 on Fridays. This shift represents the core of the work-life balance; we adjusted our office schedule to work with what is important to us.

If you want to do the same in your practice, be sure that staff is trained in talking to patients about your schedule. Our employee who handles scheduling is trained in how to present our weekday hours only in a positive manner and be as accommodating as possible for our patients when scheduling.

It also helps to ensure you are offering a variety of times on the days you are open. Take a look at which days and times are consistently most profitable for you and where there is the greatest demand for care. It’s all about making the time that you are in office as efficient and profitable as you can!

When we began having children we reevaluated our hours during the week. We noticed that later appointments tended to have higher no-show and cancellation rates. Prior to having children we would sometimes stay late and not get home until 7 p.m or 8 p.m. As our day-to-day routines changed with children we had the conversation that being home for dinner time was a priority to both of us, and we adjusted our schedules accordingly to allow this. Our staff, who also have young children, loved this decision and the time back they gained with their families as well. We found very little push-back from our patients.

We continuously hear positive feedback from our staff that they truly appreciate being off on the weekends and our recognition of the importance of their family time. Happy staff truly elevates the office environment, and patients feel that.

Prioritized Relationships With Each Other as Practice Partners
Maintaining our partnership relationship with each other and fostering relationships with our staff is a top priority. When we made the decision to open a practice together, we quickly realized how important it was to have a strong foundation of communication within our relationship. When we made the commitment to open the office, we joked with our significant others that we were “partners for life.” In reality, that is exactly what we are: partners who are 100 percent committed to the success of our practice and to each other for the long haul!

Dr. Licausi with one of her children. She and Dr. Zilnicki maximize efficiency and productivity in the office to keep weekends and most nights free to spend with family.

By cultivating a relationship with each other that is based on trust and respect, it enables us to share responsibilities, communicate openly and build toward common goals.

Create a Team You Can Trust Delegating To
We have also worked hard to build a team around us that allows us to delegate administrative tasks that free up our plate. By doing this, we work hard and efficiently when we are in the office and rarely do we “take stuff home.”

We have fostered relationships with our current staff for over four years and have invested time figuring out their strengths and wants/needs. This has created an environment where they are as invested in making the practice successful as we are because they are committed to their role and know how valued they are.

In building such strong relationships with our staff we are able to entrust them with many responsibilities, knowing that they take pride in their job and will work to the level that we ourselves would. This is particularly important in our practice where our vision therapists play such a large role in the care being provided to our patients.

By freeing us (the doctors) from administrative tasks, we are able to maximize our production in the office seeing patients. Additionally, with our staff committed to our vision, we (luckily) have not had any core employees leave. This saves us so much time and money in training and lost revenue from having to function without a vision therapist.

If it is not in your nature to have strong relationships, we suggest looking inward and seeing why that is. Running your practice with dedicated staff that isn’t constantly turning over is, in our opinion, essential to success.

Staying True to Our Values
Both of us are in alignment that our health, our family and open communication are extremely important. We value these things more than anything. We made the initial decision, and continue to make decisions, that keep our life and practice in alignment with what is important to us.

We had the benefit of working together in an alternate location prior to going into partnership with each other, so we got to know each other and what mattered. We have open communication about everything and have a mutual respect for one another that allows us to be honest about our wants/needs. We were fortunate to have already known each other, and knew our values were in alignment before we entered a partnership together.

We feel it is SO easy to get caught up in the “start early, stay late, open more days, accept more insurances” mindset. If either one of us had “making money” as a high core value, and the other valued “family,” our relationship and practice would not work. By staying true to our values we can make decisions for our business that allow for us to both feel fulfilled and happy.

Are we leaving money on the table by having business hours with no weekend availability? Sure. BUT what we lose in finances, we gain in living a life that prioritizes what is important to us and THAT is invaluable.

It has taken seven years, but we have a current staff that is also in alignment with our core values. They understand and believe in why we set up our office the way we do. Standing by our values has created a positive, happy work environment.

Taking the time to understand who you are, and what is important to you, really helps you make better decisions for your business. When you are fulfilled personally, it translates into being happier at work, and that feeling trickles down to the entire office environment.

We recommend the book, “What Matters Most: The Power of Living Your Values” by Hyrum W. Smith to help you get to the root of who you are and what matters most to you. Dr. Zilnicki wrote an in-depth article about how to get started. You can find it HERE.

We always go back to our core values when making decisions for the office. Our lives have changed since we first opened our doors: we became mothers and our families have grown, and since then we have had open conversations about what works best for us. We are fortunate that within our partnership we are honest with each other and support each other when we need to make a change to get us back in alignment with what matters the most to us.

We always like to add that it is hard to live your values. It is easy to just work, work, work and be influenced by what others “think” you should be doing. We encourage people to really look inside and find what makes them happy and fulfilled, and then create an office/work schedule that allows that to happen!

Miki Lyn Zilnicki, OD, FCOVD, and Jessica
Licausi, OD, FAAO,
FCOVD, are co-owners of Twin Forks Optometry and Vision Therapy in Riverhead, NY.

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