By: Debbie Boone, BS, CVPM
Well, it is finally happening. After more than a year people are once again on the move. However, their moves are not just back out to dinner but often dramatic life changing moves. The Realtors are calling it “the Great Migration” as homeowners in populated cities throw off life sucking traffic jams, crowded subways and expensive property taxes to move out to more reasonably priced, less crowded areas. Workers with families leave brick and mortar job locations and move closer to grandparents. The Wall Street Journal recently had a video graphic showing this migratory pattern. During pandemic lock downs more than seven million households moved to a different county—nearly half a million more households than in 2019. In a quote from the WSJ,” many left large metropolitan areas and migrated toward less-dense, more-affordable places that offered more space. Residents in recent years have been leaving big cities and moving to suburbs or smaller metro areas. The pandemic supercharged that phenomenon.
Millennials accounted for more than half of all new home loans in 2019, the most-recent data available, according to Realtor.com. In 2020, the moves accelerated when many began working from home with no need to commute.”
Ok, you say, “that’s interesting” but so what?
If you are a small rural veterinary practice you are quite possibly overwhelmed with increased business. I know, almost all practices are overwhelmed, but chances are one day the backlog will stabilize and more staff will be hired and the larger practices will have the space to manage the case load. But what if you are the small practice in the small town? You may not be much longer!
I think it is very important that veterinary hospitals pay close attention to the patterns of the “migration” in order to plan for their future. I don’t see pet owners relinquishing pets because they are returning to work as we feared. What I see is hybrid workplaces and offices allowing employees to bring pets to work. Not because they want to, but because to field a work force they are going to be made to. In a couple of recent surveys quoted in Time Magazine, data shows that “… of 400 dog owners surveyed by the pet-product company Honest Paws, 67% said they would consider looking for a different job if their company no longer offered remote work; 78% said they would stay if they could bring their pets to work. That sentiment is widely shared among young people, according to a separate Banfield Pet Hospital survey of 1,500 pet owners, which found that nearly half of Gen Zers, ages 18 to 24, and a third of millennials, 25 to 40, said they would rather quit their jobs than be forced to leave their pets at home alone full time.”
Many veterinary hospitals already allow staff members to bring pets to work, but in the future this benefit may be more pronounced. Mobile vets that travel to company sites to give routine care to employee pets is a new niche market – some large cities already have this happening but it could become more common. What if companies hired RVT’s to be in house pet care givers just like they have a company nurse for their humans? Hummmm?!
There is also the possibility of “the great Shrinkage’. Businesses that are struggling to hire are going to be forced to adjust hours to avoid over working the staff they have. Veterinary practices may well be moving this way. I already see day practices shuttering Sundays, shorting weekdays and seriously contemplating cutting out Saturdays. Twenty-four-hour ERs are reducing hours to just day emergency care. Clients are shocked when they can’t call and get a same day appointment at the vet. Practices are realizing that taking on more than they can handle because of high demand is chasing skilled team members out of the profession. We are hitting the wall.
Interestingly skilled employees from other professions are applying for jobs in veterinary hospitals because they are dissatisfied with their current positions. It seems the pandemic caused a great deal of self-reflection among all workers. Those who determined that they were unhappy are now making a move to a job that will make them feel joy. Here is a quote from NPR about the quit rate. “As pandemic life recedes in the U.S., people are leaving their jobs in search of more money, more flexibility and more happiness. Many are rethinking what work means to them, how they are valued, and how they spend their time. It’s leading to a dramatic increase in resignations — a record 4 million people quit their jobs in April alone, according to the Labor Department”.
Let’s also not forget that Boomers are retiring at rapid rates. According to the Pew Report,” In the third quarter of 2020, about 28.6 million Baby Boomers – those born between 1946 and 1964 – reported that they were out of the labor force due to retirement.”
What does all this mean?
-First, we are going to have to hire untrained labor and put systems in place to train and grow them. Our trained team are sadly burning out and finding other careers.
– Second, we are going to have to pay more to our skilled staff that stays and have workers limited to 30 – 40 hours a week max instead of expecting them to work through lunch and late every night. People want a life and to be able to make plans without guilt.
-Third, we are going to have to accept our physical limitations on number of patients and appointments we can reasonably see in a day and leverage telehealth to allow us to help those we can’t see in our building. We must “release” unworthy clients so we can spend our attention on those who want what we have to give.
-Finally, we are going to have to charge appropriate fees for our work and make sure we offer solutions, like #VitusPay, to our clients to enable them to pay.
Most of all, we are going to need to study leadership as much as medicine and develop a place of business where people are valued, growth is encouraged and culture creates a haven where people enjoy their time at work rather than dread it. It can and must be done!
If you need help creating changes in your practice please reach out. www.dboone2managevets.com I am here to help.