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  • Writer's pictureJocelyn Birch Baker

Some of the concepts I touched on at VetForum International in Singapore.

Having a flexible veterinary workplace.

Let's start with this, who said 38 hours is the optimum?

It was the Australian stonemasons that first won the eight - h­our day in 1856. It was clear to those stonemasons then- as it is clear to us now - that being able to relax, spend time with loved ones, pursue self-directed activity and have freedom from a boss are all essential parts of what it means to be human.

Now it is 2023. Is this still the optimum working system?

In the vet scene many employers are working side by side with their employees. A new system would benefit and enable us to have a fulfilling career, a good wage and time to be ourselves with family, sports, holidays, social activities.

Is flexibility the answer?

Let me tell you from my experience at our clinic.

My team at High Street Veterinary Surgery loved the 4-day week. This is when they did not have a family.

It worked well. They worked 38 hours, plus after hours. But they loved it. It fit with their desire to work hard, learn lots and establish themselves in the profession and in our clinic.

We set time aside for morning tea for everyone to get together, and lunch was one hour. Time was blocked out for the vets to research, do pending clinical files and client phone contact etc.

We also paid by the hour, so if by chance we worked later than the finish time, we were paid for it.

Each vet had the trust in the other vets that their cases would be looked after just as well as if they were there.

Weekends were great, we shared after hours with another clinic.

Now I do not have any vets doing this 38-hour 4-day week.

A couple of my Nurses do and they love it, they have no family yet.

Why change if all was going well?

Because life happens and people have different requirements and commitments during their life.

Our vets wanted to have a family. A women vet having a family is different to a male vet having a family, for obvious reasons. Women need some time off and due to our societal expectations women are generally the primary caregiver for the children and family.

All of our vets and nurses and support staff are women.

BUT, all people in our profession would benefit from flexible working.

Overall, the benefits of flexibility at our veterinary surgery are:

Less burn out and health issues, and we get to love our profession because we have time to do our work well, relate to our clients, have great patient outcomes, with a team we can rely on.

We need to reassess our old notions of a work week being 38 hours.

We need to reassess our old expectations that the vet will work as long as needed.

We need to manage our practices so that our people are not overworked and stressed.

What do you think?


Orchids at Singapore, are way too beautiful!

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