The fundamental shift of work patterns

No amount of ‘data’ can beat the feeling of walking into a workplace where you feel valued and looked after. That’s smart business, writes Henrietta Alderman

employees in a circle

Put the word ‘smart’ in front of anything these days and it conjures images of technology. Everything from the smartphone in your hand to the smart city of the future – where information about everyone’s movements and activities will be used to make services like energy, transport and utilities as efficient as possible. And to maintain a healthy business the smart boss needs to be able to look for and lead change. They will embrace all the possibilities that technology offers – equipment, communication tools and market information. But they should not lose sight of the old-fashioned, human values that lie at the heart of every service, and every sale. The staff in an optometric practice, or any business, are the most important element to achieving that.

The workplace and work patterns have taken a fundamental shift in recent years and that change continues, particularly with the aspirations and values of the younger end of the workforce. Making the BCLA Presidential Address in September, titled Inspiring generations, Jonathon Bench articulated the differences that exist in the X, Y, Z and other generations, and how that translates into what they value, how they communicate and what their aspirations are.

We should use the opportunity to celebrate the successes of the year and to thank colleagues for their part in that success


The AOP has conducted two relevant surveys to get insight on the workforce, one on health and wellbeing and the other on optometrists’ futures. When we asked respondents to our Optometrists’ Futures survey what had attracted them to their current employer, nearly half (46%) ticked, “I like the values.” Location, reputation and culture also scored highly and, interestingly, higher than pay and conditions.

Values and culture include an employer’s attitude to different working practices, opportunities, personal development and flexibility. A career in optometry provides scope to keep engaged and motivated, and a wise leader will encourage the aspirations of team members and enable them to try different things.

Celebrating success

The challenge of running a business is not to be underestimated, but ensuring that the team is thriving is equally important. Our legal and regulatory team gets more and more enquiries from members about the effect of pressures in practice. The support we provide on health and wellbeing is growing, in addition to the increased support from our legal team.

Our recent webinar entitled Mental Health Awareness gave members an insight into the difference between mental health and mental illness, and the AOP membership committee has also identified health and wellbeing topics for 2020 including nutrition, sleep, musculoskeletal health and managing fear and self-doubt.

The Peer Support Line continues to provide members with a confidential and supportive link to another professional who understands the pressures that are experienced at various points in an optometry career from students onwards.

As the year ends, and we make time for reflection, we should use the opportunity to celebrate the successes of the year and to thank colleagues for their part in that success. Motivated, happy teams mean happy patients. No amount of ‘data’ can beat the feeling of walking into a place where you feel valued and looked after. And, that’s smart business too.

Image credit: Getty/arthobbit