The pandemic may be winding down in the United States, which is definitely not the same thing as it “ending.” We’re aware that there are places where COVID is heating up, including India, and our hearts go out to all of the people struggling there.
Even after COVID “ends,” things may never go back to normal for many reasons, even in the United States. There are jobs that have gone remote and will never go back to in-person. There are people who have self-isolated for so long that it has harmed their mental health, and some of these people will find it difficult and painful to reintegrate into society when they are able to do so.
For the purpose of this article, our focus will be on the kinds of decisions that your therapy practice will face while the country begins to “open back up.” Will your practice begin to invite clients for in-person appointments? Are you considering taking a vacation some time this year in order to protect your own mental health? Is your overall client load at a desirable level for you? Let’s explore these important questions below.
Should You See Clients In-Person?
When to begin seeing clients in-person again is a decision to be made with the utmost care. Your health, the health of your team, and the health of your clients is paramount. There have always been risks involved with seeing clients in person, but COVID has introduced additional risks. On the other hand, we all know that people are social animals at heart, and technology has not yet found a way to replace the kind of human warmth that clients can feel when spending valuable time sitting with a therapist in their office.
We can’t tell you how to balance the physical and mental health of yourself, your team, and your clients. However, we can advise you on factors to consider before you open up to in-person meetings again:
- If you once rented office space for your practice and have since let your office space lapse, it’s time to start scoping suitable properties before opening up again. Your old office might not be available anymore.
- Even if you are able to reacquire your old office, be aware that you may be asked to pay higher rent.
- Regardless, if you haven’t been renting office space for the past year, you will have to consider ways to “make room” in your budget for rent and leasing expenses. Remember that rent will likely be your highest or second-highest monthly expense (after payroll). You may need to make a lot of room for this expenditure!
- When you look at ways to cover rent, keep your goals in mind. Reducing your tax savings is probably not a good idea. Cutting employee pay or hours is likely not going to go over well, for obvious reasons. Perhaps the least painful ways to find money for the cost of rent would be to cut expenses elsewhere in your budget, or take on more work.
Do You Need a Vacation?
Speaking of taking on more work, now is a great time to bring up vacation planning. As a business owner, especially a therapy business owner, we’re guessing you don’t just block out 2 weeks on your calendar and let everything go to voicemail. People depend on you!
The best time to plan a vacation, naturally, is long before you need one. A good way to minimize disruption is to take your vacation at the same time each year so that your team and clients know what to expect. Naturally, the Winter Holidays are a typical time to take a vacation. We are aware, though, that you likely have lonely clients who face struggles during this time, so it’s good to have staff available whether or not you’re available yourself.
Part of planning a vacation is being able to afford a vacation:
- The business side: Are you putting money away to cover additional business expenses during your absence? You may need to pay overtime or hire temporary staff to keep up with client needs while you’re gone.
- The personal side: Vacations aren’t free. You’ll also need to save up for plane tickets, lodging, dining out, and any other expenses you’ll face on the road.
- We can help! Contact us if you feel you just can’t find room for vacation expenses.
How Is Your Client Load?
It’s time for the Goldilocks question: Is your client base too small, too big, or just right? Note that opening up the option to meet clients in-person might increase demand, as many people naturally value the ability to meet their therapist in person.
If your client base is too small, consider bumping up advertising and marketing. We’re not marketers ourselves, but we imagine a good way to connect to client prospects is to approach them with an understanding of how difficult the pandemic is for everyone. Bear in mind that many people have lost their jobs in the pandemic and may struggle to pay your regular rates.
What if your client base is too big? Well, you’ve been in therapy for long enough to know that you don’t just “kick out” clients willy-nilly; it’s a decision to be weighed carefully. At the risk of stating the obvious, this leaves you with the option of not replacing clients as they drift away from your practice. Unfortunately, this kind of thing is much harder to predict than, say, the wait for a table at a restaurant.
If your client base is just right, congratulations! Keep in mind that as your business grows and changes, your needs and abilities to handle a certain client load will fluctuate, so you’ll need to adjust how you handle the financial inner workings of your practice. Keep a close eye on potential burnout for not just your team, but yourself as well!
TL;DR: Will you begin to see clients in-person later this year? If so, start scoping out office space in anticipation of this move. Everyone deserves a vacation now and then, so be sure that you have the funds to take one for yourself if that is one of your goals this year. Lastly, now is a good time to assess the size of your client base and ask yourself if it is the right fit for you and your team. Stay safe, and don’t forget to take care of yourself!