Balancing act

 

WELLBEING: Accelerate Physiotherapy in Canberra was a 2019 Telstra Business Awards finalist in the ‘emerging and energised’ category. Co-founder and director Will Maher chats to InMotion about his practice’s commitment to staff work–life balance.

Accelerate Physiotherapy was founded in 2017 by Will Maher and Adnan Asger Ali, both APA Musculoskeletal Physiotherapists, and prides itself on its reputation of having a strong focus on providing a family-friendly workplace for their employees. An emphasis on employee wellbeing and providing a flexible workplace is clear by the way they run their practice, putting their employees’ wellbeing at the centre of good patient outcomes.

‘I’m a huge advocate for work–life balance and wellbeing. I believe if you can keep people balanced and happy, they will do a good job,’ says Will. ‘All of our staff have different needs and I feel an open line of communication and a balanced workplace is the key for longevity.’ That is why Will and the team have turned the structure of the run-of-the-mill private practice on its head. Will has been practising for nearly 14 years and understands the risks of experiencing burnout. ‘There are periods where you think you’re doing well in managing and doing 12 hour days and 60 hour weeks, and then 18 months later, it catches up with you … particularly when you add young children to the mix,’ he says.

To manage this, a big consideration before even opening the practice was whether they were able to put systems in place to help their employees thrive under the emotional strain of being a physiotherapist, and enable them to achieve a good work–life balance. Every employee at Accelerate Physiotherapy works a four- day week, and within that four-day week there is a flexible working arrangement. Even though the clinic still operates five days a week, the physiotherapists are able to choose what day off they want to suit their own lifestyles.

The flexible working arrangement within the four-day week is making sure the treating physiotherapist has dedicated clinic time during the day where they need to be available to see a certain number of patients, and then there’s also a certain number of hours specifically allocated for administration tasks.

‘There’s a fair bit of paperwork and note writing that is required for physio and it can be easy to just add that onto the end of the day,’ Will says. ‘That can take a 5.00 pm finish and make it a 6.00 pm finish just because you’re doing all your paperwork. So as long as they are available for the number of hours that we’ve deemed for patients in a day, they can be flexible with when they complete their administrative time.’

Another initiative for staff is a wellbeing allowance, in addition to their professional development allowance. This money is allocated every year for staff to use on anything they need to help them uphold their health. ‘If our staff feel like they need something to maintain their wellbeing, whether it is flotation, psychology, counselling, meditation, massage, we’ve got an allocated sum of money available for that.’

Will says a lot of time and energy is put in to make sure the staff are managing their wellbeing and the separation between work and life, which is why a full-time practice manager has been so important for the business. ‘One of the biggest keys to our practice is we do have a full-time practice manager who coordinates all this because as directors and manual therapists, we do not have the time to do this stuff well. We’d have to drop our caseloads significantly to do that management role,’ he says.

‘Every 30 minutes, you’ve got a new person walking in your room and it can be anything from an eight-year-old who is struggling with heel pain to a 90-year-old who is having trouble with falls around the house and there’s different stressors involved. It places a large burden on the therapist to cope with different stimulus rapidly,’

Will explains, highlighting some of the reasons why they are focused on practitioners’ overall health. As well as flexible working arrangements, a four-day week and a wellbeing allowance it is mandatory that all staff have a one hour lunch break and the business pays out of pocket for their staff to have an extra 30 minutes. ‘We see that time as being important for decompressing from the work day,’ Will says. ‘From catching up with your staff and talking about any difficult patients over lunch to having your own personal time as well.’

The practice has been in operation for two and half years and Will says the response from staff has been ‘overwhelmingly positive’. Their clear commitment to employee wellbeing has been working well for them. A survey of patients has also shown positive feedback. ‘We regularly survey clients and we have had excellent patient satisfaction results; we believe staff wellbeing is a big factor in this.

‘I’m a huge advocate for work–life balance and wellbeing,’ he says. ‘Ultimately we have found that our staff are able to sustain a high level of patient service and achieve good outcomes as a result.’

 

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