- Decide which holidays you’ll be open and which will be closed. While most people think of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s as the most likely days to be closed, consider other cultural and religious holidays as well.
- Start communicating with patients and staff early. Email or text in late October or early November to effectively set expectations for the coming season.
- With several holidays in close proximity, it’s important to set employee expectations early so they can plan for the holidays, both in terms of time they should expect to work and how much they may be paid.
- Find ways to keep morale high for staff working holidays—increased pay goes a long way. You can also cater in a meal, relax the dress code, add special holiday greetings when answering the phones, or hold festive contests.
- The ultimate key to keeping your staff happy is scheduling equitably.
As the end of the year approaches, it seems like calendar pages are flying off like a time-lapse movie montage. Once Columbus and Indigenous Peoples Day arrive, every on-demand business knows the holiday crush is upon them. And with the holidays comes the inevitable stress of staffing appropriately so that your business runs smoothly and your staff feels supported. Careful planning can make the holidays as stress-free and pleasant as possible.
After years of scheduling and preparing for the holidays as an urgent care Chief Operating Officer, here are four things that can help your business run more smoothly from my personal experience.
1. Communicate Early
It can be easy to let the holiday prep wait until the weeks just before, but planning is critical. The first step is to decide which holidays you’ll be open and which will be closed. While most people think of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s as the most likely days to be closed, consider other cultural and religious holidays as well. If your clinic serves a specific religious population, such as in an area highly populated by a Jewish community, you may also want to factor in Jewish holidays.
Whatever you decide, communicate your upcoming closures directly to your patient base and your staff starting in October. For patients, email or text communications in late October or early November can effectively set expectations for the coming season. While no one plans to get sick or injured on a holiday, knowing your options upfront is reassuring.
2. Change Your Hours Everywhere
When you’re getting ready for the holidays, it’s easy to think that throwing a sign on the door is sufficient notice for your patients. Still, since many patients interact with your practice digitally, it’s essential to make sure all of your outward-facing information is consistent. Make sure these things are updated during the week of the holiday.
- Your website. It’s imperative to make sure your website is consistent. Install a bright, eye-catching banner on your desktop site with the holiday hours at the top of the page so that patients don’t have to scroll to see the changes.
- Your VoIP–Update your greetings to include holiday hours and closures, including hours for getting prescriptions and lab results. If you have multiple locations and plan to consolidate your workforce, include that information. Make sure that your voice greeting also instructs patients to call 911 for all emergencies.
- Your social media or marketing platforms–For Solv clients, it’s easy to update your hours on the platform but make sure you’re consistent across all digital locations. Visit Google My Business to make sure your hours are updated, and check sites like Facebook or Yelp as well.
It’s also important to update your employee handbook with the appropriate holiday hours and days. Make sure your employees are involved and updated before your patients, so they feel like they are in the loop and given adequate information for when patient questions roll in.
Closer to the holiday, post your holiday hours at your physical location, but take care to make it bright, eye-catching, and specific to one holiday. A colorful sign featuring your logo will catch the eye much faster than a black-and-white print of all of your holiday hours.
Make sure you’re including not only the hours for the actual holiday but the days before and after as well. As many in urgent care know, sometimes Black Friday hits urgent care just as hard as the big box retailers.
3. Set Expectations with Staff to Keep Morale High
As much as operators would love to shut down for every holiday with a hearty ‘thank you’ to their staff, the reality of running an urgent care gets in the way. With several holidays in close proximity, it’s important to set employee expectations early so they can plan for the holidays, both in terms of time they should expect to work and how much they may be paid.
Ideally, urgent care operators should offer higher holiday pay rates for those willing to work. Make it very clear to staff that those willing to work holidays will be generously compensated.
In keeping with this higher compensation make sure you clarify any tax implications as well–will their overtime be taxed at a higher rate? Double check with your state’s tax site and communicate that clearly.
In addition to paying your staff well, make holidays a bit easier by providing all meals–and not just lukewarm pizza in the breakroom. Catering meals that mimic the holiday that they are missing makes it a little easier to enjoy what can be a very busy time.
Outside of meals, find other ways to keep morale high, such as a relaxed dress code, special holiday greetings when answering the phones or festive contests.
4. Make Sure Your Staffing Plan is Equitable
The ultimate key to keeping your staff happy is scheduling equitably. How do you do that? Talk to and listen to your staff. While some people would happily take off every holiday, others may value the overtime pay or find more connection to one holiday over another, making them more willing to work. Getting to know your staff will allow you to schedule thoughtfully in regards to their family arrangements, travel plans, and other personal preferences that can make the schedule work for both your clinic and for them.
If you’re still short staffed, consider paring down services or hours to lessen the burden on available staff. If you have more than one unit, consider condensing your staff to one location. Just remember, the day after a holiday is often the busiest time for urgent cares. Look at traffic from past years and schedule accordingly.
Throughout this season, remember that expressing your gratitude for your hard-working staff goes a long way. Make them feel appreciated and make the final spring to the new year together.
Looking for more ways to prep your operations for respiratory season? I recently hosted a lunch and learn that you can watch on-demand: 4 Simple Ways to Improve Operations Before Respiratory Season.