How to schedule team members' breaks

How to schedule team members' breaks

Apr 01, 2008

How should I schedule team members' breaks?

Sheila Grosdidier
Contrary to popular belief, federal law doesn't require employee breaks, but breaks do help team members stay fresh and increase practice productivity. However, they can be a challenge to schedule.

First, says Sheila Grosdidier, RVT, a partner with VMC Inc. in Evergreen, Colo., remember that team members' schedules must align appropriately. When you schedule appointments and surgeries, allocate the correct number of doctor and team work hours to support those activities. It's common for clinic schedules to be misaligned—there aren't enough team members scheduled during surgery check-in or discharge, or there are too many scheduled during slow times. (Use the spreadsheet below under Related Links to get a handle on scheduling.)

Next, set up ratios of how many team members you need to support appointments and surgery times. While this varies by practice, the average is 3.5 team members per veterinarian. That ratio can increase to five, six, or seven team members per veterinarian depending on effective leveraging and strong management. This includes the client service representative at the front desk, a veterinary assistant, a technician, and a floater to help in the pharmacy, restrain a pet, or assist in the lab as needed. Here are some additional tips:
  • Stagger 30-minute breaks. Consider scheduling a team member to rotate through each position and relieve other employees so they can take breaks.
  • Encourage team members to take their breaks. Sometimes employees feel guilty about taking a break. Remind them that doing so will put the spring back in their step—and that they'll be covering for others, too.
  • Keep the law in mind. While lunch and coffee breaks aren't mandated by the federal government, employers who do offer short breaks—usually about five to 20 minutes—are required to pay employees for this time. Unauthorized extensions of these breaks don't need to be counted as hours worked if the employer has communicated to the employee that:

1. Breaks may only last for a specific length of time.

2. Any extension of the break is contrary to the rules outlined in the employee manual.

3. Extension of the break will be punished.

Everyone benefits from regular breaks. Just make sure you have the right people in the right place at the right time doing what you need them to do.

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