Insights From Our Editors

4 Trends Shaping Our Workplace

By Mark Wright, OD, FCOVD,
and Carole Burns, OD, FCOVD

May 18, 2022

The workplace is changing, thanks to the pandemic and other current events, including cultural shifts. Here are some of the biggest changes optometry practices will need to find ways to accommodate and optimize.

1. Fairness and equity are becoming the defining issues for practicesi
Questions of fairness and equity are emerging in new ways. Here are some of the new ways this is being displayed in practices.

• Who has access to flexible work? Some people are allowed to choose to work from home, but not all team members are given this choice. What is the fair and equitable way to handle this situation?

• To hire in this market, potential employees are often offered compensation premiums. To keep key employees, rather than lose them to our competitors, raises are given to some team members, but not all. If a new optician is hired at $30/hour, will the practice raise the wage of all opticians who are currently paid less to match the new hire? Is it fair and equitable to not do that?

• Employers are offering targeted resources and investments for specific people, but not all team members (e.g.: team members with children versus team members without children). Is it fair and equitable that employees who are parents get something when those who do not have children do not?

People want to experience fairness and equity in the workplace. How are you achieving this in your practice?

2. To compete in the war for talent, some practices are shortening the work week
Practices are offering compensation increases to attract and retain team members. Research shows that in the U.S., year-to-date salary increases have been more than 4 percent, compared to a historical norm of 2 percent, but when we factor in inflation, this results in real wages declining. If inflation continues to rise as is expected, compensation increases will not be enough to tip the scale by itself. Other changes may need to be offered. One such change is to shorten the work week.

This can happen in many ways. Work four 10-hour days or work 36 hours for 40 hours of pay are just two ways to make this happen. Some practices are making these changes now.

This year with the rise of new COVID variants, a massive war for talent, quit rates at an all-time high and the highest inflation levels in a generation, we have many employees feeling both stress and real wage cuts as annual compensation increases are falling behind inflation. To remain competitive, change must occur.

It is a natural tendency for people to want to work less and get paid more. It is important to not be perceived by your team as trying to make them work more and get paid less. You must create a win-win scenario. This really boils down to increasing efficiency. Can you become more efficient so that you and your team have the ability to work less and make more? To put this in perspective, we have yet to see a practice (and we have seen a lot of practices) that could not improve its efficiency. What changes do you need to make to improve the efficiency of your practice?

3. Managerial tasks are being automated
A trend we see is that employees are no longer asking for time off, they are informing management of when they are taking time off. Gone are the days when a manager has to approve a time-off request. It’s a new environment.

The result of this change is that the time managers have to manage is reduced because they now are spending their time covering different employees’ jobs. HR vendors recognize this problem and are responding by creating products that replace a number of repeatable managerial tasks such as:

• Scheduling
• Approving expense reports
• Monitoring completion of tasks
• Providing performance feedback
• Supporting employees in building new peer-to-peer connections

Research shows that up to 65 percent of the tasks that a manager currently does has the potential to be automated by 2025.

What changes are you making in your practice to automate managerial activities?

4. Wellness is the newest metric practices are using to understand their team
For years, owners experimented with different metrics to monitor and understand team members. Two examples are employee satisfaction and employee engagement measurements. New measures are being added to assess mental, physical and financial health.

A Gartner 2020 survey of 52 HR executives found that companies expanded the wellness support they provide to their team in the wake of the pandemic. Here are some numbers you should know:

• 94 percent of companies made significant investments in their well-being programs

• 85 percent increased support for mental health benefits

• 50 percent increased support for physical well-being

• 38 percent increased support for financial well-being

Not everyone takes advantage of these programs, however, for those who do, these programs work. Gartner analysis shows that employees who utilize these benefits report:

• 23 percent higher levels of mental health

• 17 percent higher levels of physical health

• 23 percent more likely to say they sleep well at night

These improvements in personal outcomes translate to higher levels of performance in the workplace and higher team retention. Those outcomes directly relate to a better practice environment.

Take this week to evaluate how your practice is adapting to these four major changes and create a plan to do this even better. One of the important things about being a practice owner is that we get to create the environment in which we work. Learn from others and take control to make your practice a great workplace that attracts and retains the best team members.

References
i. 11 Trends that Will Shape Work in 2022 and Beyond (hbr.org)

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