Jobs Special: How Optometrists Customise Their Work/Life Balance

A job is a job, right? Not if you’re a UK optometrist in 2017. As modern life continues to change the way we allocate our time, the fusion of part-time employment with locum work is becoming an evermore attractive proposition to in-demand optometrists. In this post, we’re going to find out why.

It’s for long been a widely held view that locum work means abandoning job security, completely quitting permanent work, and pitching head-first into an unpredictable arena of emergency call-outs.

But for optometrists, this could not be further from the truth. Here at Team Locum – the leading UK agency for optometry and community pharmacy locum cover – we’ve seen consistently high demand for optometrists creating a market which, perhaps unusually, favours the ‘seller’. As one might expect, high demand has pushed up the average daily locum rate, but that’s not the only way in which it’s improving the optom’s career outlook.

Today, demand for optometrists is so high, that completely new lifestyle options are not just becoming possible – they’re gathering momentum. It’s the perfect time for an optometrist to think about issues such as work/life balance. It’s much harder to establish a great work/life balance when market conditions are poor. That’s why optometrists are starting to set up their perfect career systems right now, while the going is so good.

So, how might that perfect career system look?…

For your enquiries… 0121 451 2707
or visit the TEAM LOCUM HOMEPAGE for more info.


One of the less well recognised elements of work/life balance is that the ideal ratio may differ from week to week. One week an optometrist may need to earn more money. The next they may need more free time. But due to the strict routine of business, it’s often difficult for employers to offer staff this kind of flexibility within a full-time role. The obvious alternatives are part-time work, and locum work. But which is best? Why choose, when you can combine the two?

Building a timetable around a basic, part-time schedule, and then adding days as desired through a reliable locum agency, achieves two very important ends. It guarantees a certain level of predictable income each week, but allows the optometrist’s timetable to be customised so that his/her work/life balance can vary according to need.

Of course, that’s not all this clever combination achieves. A notable problem with locum work is that holidays remain unpaid. Taking a part-time employed role provides paid annual leave on a pro-rata basis. If you know you’re going to work at least three days a week, except during your holidays, why not guarantee those days, and the holiday pay they will accrue, with a secure, part-time role? Led by Josephine Barley, Team Locum’s Permanent Optometry division is seeing lots of new part-time roles emerging. Finding the right one is getting easier all the time.

But equally, notable issues with employed roles include tie-ins such as long notice periods. Switching from a full-time role to part-time could take three months. Locum work is much easier to scale up or down depending on circumstance.

Then there’s the heavily enhanced connectivity associated with locum work. Locums can meet a lot of people, and that enables them to keep a finger on the pulse of the broader industry. They can see what sort of rates the various different clients are paying, and gain wider experience, which can increase their value as an employee. It’s hard to find any negatives with the part-time-employment-plus-locum-bookings arrangement.


Team Locum places many locum optometrists who build their entire timetable around locum bookings. They often have different visions of the perfect way to organise their working lives. Some will call the agency and say:

“My plans have changed, and I’m now free tomorrow. Can you find me a booking please?”

This is where a locum agency really shows its value. Grant Smillie and Joe Woodall, who run Team Locum’s Optical Locum divisions, have an enormous array of clients across the UK. They’ll likely have a contact in mind before the locum finishes his/her sentence.

Other locums like to map things out well in advance, so that the foreseeable future is fully planned and taken care of. They may want to restrict their travel to within a moderate mileage radius. They may, alternatively, love to go on block bookings at the seaside during the summer – expenses paid!

The very nature of locum work means that an annual work quota cannot be guaranteed. However, agency clients will ask for good locum optoms by name, so if you know you’re good, and you’ve always wanted to try locuming, this is the time. The clever locums build great relationships with clients while demand is at its peak, so that if demand does reduce, they’re still going to remain the preferred choice and consistently secure those bookings. Remember, with some of the large clients, a locum will only have to impress one Regional Co-ordinator in order to become a preferred choice for every practice in the area.

Optical businesses who really understand the current market will have a great appreciation for good locums, and treat them accordingly. That’s the kind of picture we’re seeing at Team Locum.

Good, experienced, locum optoms in higher-demand locations, know they’re going to get the bookings they want. And the substantial rates they’re able to attract mean they don’t have to worry about the lack of paid annual leave. But for the optometrist seeking to build a new, customisable career from scratch, a part-time role can provide the perfect foundation, which is then augmented to taste with locum bookings.

For your enquiries… 0121 451 2707
or visit the TEAM LOCUM HOMEPAGE for more info.


Agency registration is always free, and the agency never takes a cut of the locum’s fee (or any other charge of any description from the locum). There’s therefore no reason why a full-time optometrist who wants to fill a few extra days should not try it out.

If, twice a month, an optom wants to increase his/her five days per week to six, those two extra days could prove extremely valuable to a locum agency. Financially, the agency is not going to get rich on two modest booking fees per month from a client. But for the agency to have the resources to help clients when they’re struggling will mean an awful lot. The clients remember who provided their cover in a crisis, and that really can result in a large amount of repeat business for the agency. It’s how Team Locum built its high-volume cover model. If the agency can keep saying “Yes!” to clients, clients will keep saying “Yes!” to the agency.

The soundbyte is that demand is high enough for optometrists to make choices. Whatever their current situation, Team Locum can probably help.

You can get in touch with Team Locum to discuss permanent optical work (whether part-time or full) by calling 0121 451 2707 and asking for Josephine.

And if you’d like to try locum work, you can register without any commitment by going to Once you’ve completed the online sign-up, Team Locum’s Registrations Team will be in touch to gain a picture of the type of work you’re looking for. They should then be able to complete the registration process without taking up any more of your time, and pass your details straight to Grant or Joe, who will ask you to update your online availability calendar. Once they know when you’re available, they’ll immediately start seeking to fill those available dates with bookings for you. It’s as straightforward as that.

Unless you ask them to, they won’t book anything without consulting you first. It’s a highly people-sensitive system. An agency that only looks after clients, or which only looks after locums, will fail. Team Locum has a core policy of keeping everyone happy. Matching the right people with the right bookings, so that everyone gets exactly what they want.

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