Flexible working has long been an offering across many industries, with growing popularity over the past decade. But since the national lockdown during the global pandemic, it’s become more normalised and widespread, with many workers coming to expect flexible working as a standard part of their working contract.
Traditionally, flexible working might not seem like an easy fit for the veterinary industry. But according to Veterinary Woman, almost 50% of vets in the UK say that they want some sort of flexible working arrangement. But how exactly does this work practically for veterinary practices who are already overworked, understaffed and under increasing demand with a growing population of pet owners?
This is where the Flexee Project comes in. Set up by Silvia Janska and Jessica May, Flexee aims to investigate how practice owners and managers can implement flexible working arrangements in veterinary clinical practice to empower the employee, sustain a profitable business and keep a unified team.
During a recent podcast recording Veterinary IT Expert Jack Peploe sat down with Flexee’s Silvia Janska to talk about whether flexible working could be a reality for veterinary practices moving forwards.
Do vets want flexible working?
Silvia explained that she first became interested in flexible working from an angle of personal need: “I started talking to other vets, other peers and found out that quite a lot of employees were seeking exactly what I was seeking… and when we are talking about flexible working, I’m talking about permanent veterinary staff, not locums, and how can we provide and implement flexible working for the permanent employees.”
She soon realised pretty that it wasn’t just her and Jessica May who were searching for the flexibility. “I started talking to other vets, other peers and found out that quite a lot of employees were seeking exactly what I was seeking.” She even saw an appetite for flexible working amongst practice owners and managers as well, “I started talking to veterinary employers across the different vet practices and very quickly found out that they were actually very keen to implement more flexibility in their practice. They just didn’t know how to make it beneficial for the employee and for the business and to maintain a happy team.”
What does Flexible working look like in a veterinary setting?
Flexible working means many things to different people. Silvia recognises this is a hurdle that Flexee will need to overcome; “So, flexible working is described typically as a type of working arrangement that gives a degree of flexibility on how long, where, and when, and at what times an employee works. Now, in other sectors, an employee might be allowed to or able to fully work fully remotely, or just through telemedicine, et cetera.”
Defining flexible working and what it looks like in the veterinary industry will be key to seeing it implemented, this is made more difficult by the fact that the government has 15 different ways of defining flexible working, some of which just won’t work for vets according to Silvia; “Flexible working for the vet industry is different in a way because obviously, what is the profession, we have to physically be there with the animal. It’s just finding ways to allow certain give and take flexibilities for the employee, but also so that it fits with the employer.”
What are the advantages of flexible working for vets?
The Flexee team have put a lot of research into this over the past two years, and part of that research, they ran an industry-wide flexible working survey which had over 500 responses, interviewed numerous employers and employees, and on top of that, partnered up with Timewise, which is the UK’s largest flexible working consultancy. So, what did they find?
“I can tell you from our survey, from the Flexee survey, both employers and employees saw that the biggest benefit of flexible working was that it attracts and retains staff at vet practices. Second largest benefit was that it boosts wellbeing, autonomy, and morale for the individual. It increases commitment to the team, that it increases commitment to the practice, and increases motivation for the job.”
These benefit sounds fantastic and are particularly relevant in veterinary at the moment as the industry struggles with recruitment. Silvia even points out that some practices found this out organically during COVID; “From my interviews, some employers were saying that actually during COVID when they had to change the way they work and so gave a bit more autonomy to their employees, then the productivity actually increased rather than decreased… I had a lot of employers, particularly farm animal employers told me the exact opposite which is quite interesting.”
Silvia’s top tips for flexible working
To round off our conversation with Silvia, we asked her for some top tips that vets can takeaway to help implement flexible working at their practice; “flexible working needs to follow a process rather than what they’re doing now which is just implementing reactive solution to what the employees are requesting without really looking at the business overall”
And this is where Flexee can help. They can come to your veterinary practice, understand your unique clinic landscape, design evidence-based solutions, then they support in the implementing and piloting of your flexible working strategy.
To find out more, why not listen to our full conversation with Flexee’s Silvia Janska here.