Billable hours.

Can you feel the collective shudder of every workplace rehab consultant in New South Wales?

Billable hours. There’s that shudder again.

To the many consultants who I’ve managed, and who I most likely pestered to meet their billable hours.

I’m sorry.

I sincerely, hand on heart, apologise.

Please, let me buy you a beverage.

Someone once wrote to me:

“…employment structures, pay structures, billable hours, and billable items, … are all imperative to successfully working as a Rehabilitation Provider”

My initial reaction was pure annoyance, followed swiftly by frustration. The idea that one’s billable are “imperative to successfully working as Rehabilitation Provider” to me, is, utterly ridiculous.

After my initial reaction, however, I spent some time to muse over the comment. I pondered, what is the definition of “success” in the world of occupational rehabilitation. Define “imperative”?

If it means that without billable hours, one would not make money, and if you don’t make money then you lose your job, and if you lose your job, you are not a successful rehabilitation provider, well, then yes, the comment is fair and reasonable. But surely, it’s not the number of hours that a rehab consultant is billing that makes them successful?

Or, is it?

Back in the mid 2000s, I wrote myself a cheque for one million dollars. “When I cash this, I’ve made it” I said to myself as I optimistically wrote my name, and drew six perfectly shaped zeros after the number one. “I’ll show them”, I said. “Them” being one specific person who had told me that I was never going to “make it”. The person who laughed at me when I told her that I was going to be successful, and I was going to make one million dollars.

I did the math – as an employee on an average hourly rate of say, $35.00/hr (approx. $70,000 salary), earning one million dollars would be about 28,500 billable hours. And, factor in an average billing requirement of 6.5 hours/day across the occ rehab industry, it would would take 12 years to collate those hours.

I got rid of that cheque about seven years later. Not because I cashed it in and I’m now a millionaire, but because I consciously broke myself free from the shackles of working for a company whose whole focus was about billable hours. Since then, I’ve spent my time trying to convince myself, and others, that rehabilitation is about care, kindness, empathy, and compassion. Focusing more on the Social Heart, and not the Commercial Mind.

I believe that good rehab means supporting a person through a difficult time, and helping clear a path that promotes recovery, healing, and ultimately a resolution.

When I focus my consultancy on good rehab – I am successful.