Real Office Policy Examples and Checklist

Below is a list of items that should be included in any basic office policy or policies:

  • Patient Relations
  • Sexual Harassment
  • Orientation and Training
  • Work Hours
  • Fringe Benefits
  • Solicitation
  • Equal Opportunity Statement
  • Terms of At-Will Employment
  • Definitions of Full Time and Part Time
  • Pay Periods
  • Vacations
  • Sick Leave
  • Maternity Leave
  • Tardiness
  • Personal Time Off
  • Absenteeism
  • Staff Meetings
  • Breaks and Lunchtime
  • Unemployment Insurance
  • Problem Resolution
  • Wage and Salary Guidelines
  • Retirement Plans (if any)
  • Holidays
  • Funeral Leave
  • Leave of Absence
  • Jury Duty
  • Disciplinary Measures
  • Continuing Education
  • Workers’ Compensation Insurance
  • Health and Safety Rules
  • Appearance
  • Office Security
  • Telephone Use
  • Where to Park
  • Voting
  • Job Performance Reviews
  • Uniforms
  • Dating of Patients
  • Confidentiality of Records and Information
  • Cleanliness and Maintenance
  • Reimbursement of Expenses
  • Outside Employment


Policy is very important to establish so that the entire group understands the rules and agreements upon which the office operates. When you have good policies known and understood by all staff, you get an effective and efficient team that coordinates and cooperates at a high level.

Below are some sample policies about the subjects suggested previously. Always consult with a good employment attorney before implementing your policies to make sure that they conform with the laws of your area.

Example General Policy Introduction

Welcome to our practice. The following policies are designed to provide working guidelines for all of us. Written office policies help to:

prevent misunderstanding and lack of communication;
eliminate hasty, unrefined decisions in personnel matters;
ensure uniformity and fairness throughout the practice; and
establish the basic agreements that everyone in the office operates on.

Our practice is open to change. Changes happen as a result of internal growth, legal requirements, competitive forces or general economic conditions that affect our profession. To meet these challenges the practice reserves the right, with or without notice, to change, amend or delete any of the policies, terms, conditions and language presented in this manual. Changes in personnel policies are made after considering the mutual advantages and responsibilities of both the owner and staff. All of us need to stay aware of current policy and, as revisions are made, new pages will be given to the personnel to place in staff manuals.

Remember, your suggestions are welcome. Just notify the office manager whenever problems are encountered and wherever you think improvements can be made.

Example Harassment Policy

This practice is committed to providing a work environment free of discrimination. This policy prohibits harassment in any form, including verbal, physical, religious and sexual harassment. Any employee who believes he or she has been harassed by a co-worker, manager or agent of the practice is to immediately report any such incident to the office manager or next highest authority. We will investigate and take appropriate action.

[As harassment is a big legal issue in today’s world, we also suggest to all practice owners that a more extensive policy be written that further defines the types of harassment and the exact steps to follow should it occur. We also suggest that you check with your attorney on proper policy in this area.]

Below is a sample policy on employee classification. These classifications are important for any employer to know because they affect the type of working hours, pay, benefits and bonuses that various employees are eligible for. Some of these classifications and their accompanying benefits or restrictions can vary from state to state. Therefore, it is important that you consult with an attorney who is familiar with the employment laws in your state before implementing this type of information.

Example Employee Classification Policy

  • New Employees: this category would include those employed for less than a specified number of days, during which they are on probation.
  • Regular Full-Time Employees: this could include staff who work a minimum of 32 hours a week.
  • Regular Part-Time Employees: this would include staff who work less than the minimum required.
  • Temporary Full-Time Employees: this would cover staff who work full time but are hired for a limited specific duration.
  • Temporary Part-Time Employees: this would include staff who are hired for a limited duration and work part-time.
  • Exempt Employees: this covers staff who qualify under the Fair labor Standards Act as being exempt from overtime because they qualify as executive or professional employees. Make sure you know the exact rules and regulations on this before you exempt anyone from overtime.
  • Non-Exempt Employees: such employees are required to be paid at least minimum wage and overtime.

Example Overtime Pay Policy

Overtime pay is paid according to the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act and our state’s wage, hours and labor laws.

Exempt Employees: employees exempt from the minimum wage, overtime and time card overtime provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act do not receive overtime pay.

Non-Exempt Employees: employees not exempt from minimum wage, overtime and time card provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act do receive overtime pay.

Overtime hours must be authorized by the office manager or owner in advance of extra hours worked or as soon as possible thereafter. Time not worked but paid for, such as vacation, holidays and sick leave will not rate or count for overtime calculation purposes.

Example Time Tracking Policy

Each staff member is individually responsible for recording work time on the attendance sheet and/or time card when reporting for work, leaving for lunch, returning from lunch and leaving at the end of the day.

The attendance sheet and/or time card is a legal document and must not be destroyed, defaced or removed from the premises. Never allow another employee to enter your time for you and vice versa.

Overtime must be authorized in advance of extra time worked or as soon as possible thereafter. Overtime, changes or omissions on the attendance card must be authorized by the office manager and initialed.

When you leave the premises, let us know. If you have to go out of the office or the building on personal business during your scheduled work hours, first, get permission from your supervisor. Then, check in and out on your attendance sheet or time card.

Whether you use the above examples or not, having written office policy is vital to the smooth operation of any practice. It is the foundation of education, training and correction in your office and can make the difference between a well oiled machine and a machine that is constantly having problems and is in need of repairs.


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Forming Office Policy

Forming Office Policy

All doctors are extremely well trained in their profession. Unfortunately, very few doctors are trained in business or employee handbook policy creation and their appropriate implementation.

Every healthcare practice is a business that provides a beneficial service to its patients and clients. The less the practice owner knows about business management, the less service he or she will be able to deliver. The more he or she knows about practice management, the more successful their practice will be.

Forming office policy is one of the most basic and important practice management tools that any owner can implement to make a more successful practice.

Why is policy so important? Why do we consider it a fundamental practice management tool? The answer is simple but important.

Policy is important because it sets up the group agreements, the rules of the game, the procedures to follow. It is usually based on what has worked and what legal guidelines are important to know and follow. Without good office policy, you get a chaotic environment because people end up making up their own policies. This results in inefficiencies and lack of teamwork.

Policy that is understood, agreed upon and adhered to will strengthen the office and provide the best means to achieve practice goals. Even those policies that are unspoken and assumed to be known should be put in writing. By putting all policies in writing, problems and confusions that could otherwise surface will be curtailed and even eliminated. Additionally, in this litigious world, having written office policies that are attested to as read and understood provides a layer of protection from potential disgruntled employees who have violated the policies.

Policy is vital to achieving teamwork, cooperation and efficient coordination in any group activity. If everyone knows the rules of the game, the game is much more easily played. These rules and procedures are outlined in office policies.

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Internal and External Marketing

There are two areas in a practice that are targeted when marketing your practice. The first is internal; the second is external.

“Internal” deals with dissemination and promotion within your practice and to already-established patients. It includes things such as:

  • In-office patient referrals
  • Reactivation of old patients through letters and calls
  • Newsletters
  • Mailings to existing patients
  • Events, such as open houses and patient appreciation events
  • “Thank you” notes for referring patients
  • Welcome-to-the-practice letters

“External” deals with locating and reaching markets outside of your practice. It includes things such as:

  • Prospecting outside of the office for new patients
  • Advertising by using direct mail, yellow pages, etc.
  • Forming referral networks with other professionals
  • Having events and/or lectures for groups within the community

When starting out on a new marketing plan it is usually smartest, easiest and most cost effective to begin with internal marketing, as you have ready access to information about your current patients. Current patients are also more valuable because they are familiar with you and your practice.

Once you have an effective internal marketing program going, you can then look at what external marketing actions you want to do to potentially increase your stream of new patients.

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Leadership Attributes and Management Qualities – Part II

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Active Leadership

It is very important for the owner of a practice to maintain excellent communication with his/her staff and to provide active and visible leadership. The following are some key points for the executive.

Communication of Goals

Determine what the purpose, the mission statement, of your practice is and communicate it to your staff. Let them know what the goals for the office are and keep them informed of the programs that you intend to implement to achieve those goals. A well-informed staff will have greater understanding and will be likely to join you in mutual motion.

Communication Tools

The implementation and use of basic communication devices is key. These tools can be kept in place by your office manager but must also be reinforced by you as the senior executive. These tools include: written requests or proposals, written office dispatches, written policies, and the use of an effective communication relay system.

It is important that written communication is responded to swiftly. When people do not hear back regarding their communication within a reasonable period of time, they become less willing to communicate. As a result, the business can have more problems on its hands.

Staff Meetings

It is vital that you ensure that the practice holds a staff meeting once per week. This is one of the most valuable opportunities available to you for educating staff, setting goals and targets, and handling problem areas. The staff as a whole can address such matters. The communication lines within the business will strengthen considerably as well.

The owner and the office manager should continuously strive to establish strong coordination and leadership for the staff. Any problems or disagreements between the owner and office manager should always be sorted out outside of the staff meeting and should never be addressed in the presence of any staff.

Staff meetings are run most effectively if the owner and office manager meet prior to the staff meeting to plan and coordinate the issues to be addressed with the staff.

Setting Goals and Targets

When targeting your weekly and monthly quotas, it is advisable to plan in advance of your staff meeting. You should really confront how much production you did the week/month prior and how much can realistically be produced within the upcoming week/month with expansion in mind. Realistically look at what CAN be done. Then go over it with the rest of your staff at the staff meeting.

Each week you should bring your graphs to the meeting and keep the staff informed as to how the group is doing in approaching their goals.

Group Member Responsibility

The more each staff member takes responsibility for the office as a whole, the better your office will perform. It is very helpful to have each staff member come to the staff meeting prepared to contribute. The owner should support the efforts of the office manager to show the staff the importance of this format and to gain staff compliance. The goal of the executive should be to show the staff how to take on more responsibility and how to contribute to the creativity, growth and expansion of the practice.

Policy

To create stability for the practice and to keep the lines straight, it is very important that you continue to implement written policies. There should be a written policy to govern each and every activity in the practice.

When you write a policy, place the original in a Master Policy Manual. The office manager would then distribute a copy to each applicable staff member indicating that the policy is to be read and verification is to be sent to the office manager confirming that this has been done. A copy of the policy would be placed in the Staff Job Description Manual under the General Staff Section.

The office manager can be very helpful in policy development but needs to know exactly what your policies are. Policies can be written and submitted to a lawyer for final approval. The office manager can and should suggest areas where policy is needed. Staff should also be encouraged to propose policy via the office manager.

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Leadership Attributes and Management Qualities

As the owner of a practice, you need to ask yourself about your own leadership attributes and management qualities:

  • Are you a good leader?
  • Do you run from conflict?
  • Are you able to motivate your staff?
  • Is your office a harmonious environment, or is it filled with conflict?
  • Do you feel that your staff “own” their jobs, or do they just punch in and out?
  • Do you ever feel “held hostage” by your staff?
  • Are you running your practice, or is your practice running you?

These are areas that you should look at in your practice. Most doctors are not trained in leadership and executive skills. Because of this, they often find themselves in management situations in which they are not sure what to do.

If your leadership skills are lacking, you can easily end up with poor staff performance, unhappy patients, unneeded stress, and lost income.

Believe it or not…

Believe it or not, staff members like to do a good job. They like to know their jobs and improve on them, and they like to be acknowledged for a job well done. Simply put, they like to prove their competence.

We use the following maxim:

The Morale of the Staff Is Based Upon Their Individual and Office Production.

This may seem obvious, but let’s take a look at why this is so. When anyone produces a good product, it is a reflection of their competence. A demonstration of competence raises the morale of any individual. As a leader, you have an opportunity to enable your staff to prove their competence and thus increase their personal morale and happiness. This will then snowball into more successes, more confidence for the staff, and thus more competence and morale in the workplace.

So, how does one go about becoming a good leader? Is there a magic personality trait that some are blessed with and some just aren’t? Luckily, that is not the case. Leadership skills can be taught, and with practice, they can be put into use in daily life.

The first quality a good leader has to have is the ability to confront situations. In this sense, the definition of confront is the ability to face up to situations. If you are the type of doctor that runs and hides from conflict and staff problems, then you are in need of some work in this area.

If you are having a problem with confronting, what should you do? First, decide that you are going to face up to the problem. Simply take a moment and make the decision. Spend a few minutes to do this simple step. It is very helpful.

Now, grab someone – a friend, your spouse, or a colleague and do some role playing on the problem. Have the other person play the part of the troublesome individual, and have him or her hit you hard with back-talk, new problems, can’t-be-dones, etc. Be sure to do this drill until you find that you are more confident and actually feel a bit excited about trying out your new skills and presentation. You will be surprised at how easily the situation will resolve once you do this.

Remember, your staff can’t and won’t follow you if you don’t lead them.

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A Few Topics of Part II:

  • Staff Meetings
  • Setting Goals and Targets
  • Office Policy