How do you create a positive work environment in your dental practice? It simply comes down to having happy team members!
Developing a workplace that staff members enjoy spending their time in, is crucial for a successive dental practice. Happy team members are engaged and take pride in their work, resulting in reduced employee turnover, improved patient’s satisfaction and increased revenue.
With over 9 years of experience as a dental associate in both the NHS and private sectors, I have learned the key factors that contribute to a productive work day. Essentially, this means establishing positive relationships and effective communication between team members.
When staff members are happy, they engage more in the work environment and are more likely to embrace the practice ethos. Whether you’re a practice owner, dental associate, or practice manager, there are simple and actionable steps you can take to create a positive work environment in your dental practice. In this article, we will discuss effective strategies for building a positive work culture that will benefit your staff members and your practice as a whole.
Step 1 – Improve relationships with team members
The dental surgery setting is unique, in that even in a large practice, often a single dentist and nurse spend a long part of their day together, as they look after their patients. As two individuals that are so reliant on one another to provide a service to their patients, it’s so important to develop a rapport.
Take time to get to know your team members personally. Ask about their interests, families, and hobbies. Show interest in their lives and actively listen to what they have to say. In surgery, offer your nurse her choice of radio station for the day, or make the next tea/coffee. Have lunch with your team members.
Remember to thank your reception and nursing team at the end of the day. Small gestures, and making people feel appreciated is a big motivational tool.
If you care about your team, the feeling is often reciprocated. It is much easier to work together in harmony, if you can find common ground.
Patients can sense a relaxed and comfortable environment, and are more likely to feel at ease too when they visit.
Step 2 – Keep team members informed
Everyone in the dental team should feel like a valued member of the practice. This is key to a positive work atmosphere. As a practice owner, work to create a comfortable environment where team members can regularly share their thoughts, ideas, and concerns.
Keep everyone at work updated on changes in the practice eg, building work, or changes to protocol. If you have a vision for your practice, involve others and invite them to be part of the process. If they feel that their opinion matters, they are much more likely to participate and care about changes. Team members that aren’t kept in the loop, can feel out of place or undervalued.
Regular team meetings, one-on-one meetings, and team messaging tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams are useful to keep close contact.
Provide clear written summaries to follow up any developments in meetings, as this can help to avoid misunderstandings, and ensures everyone is on the same page.
Step 3 – Be supportive
To create a positive work environment, it’s crucial to support your team members by offering guidance and assistance when needed. Allow your team members to tell you what they’re struggling with and provide them with the necessary resources to succeed.
Be mindful of your team members- If someone is feeling overwhelmed or stressed, take the time to find out why and explore if there’s anything that can be done to enhance workflow and manage workloads for everyone.
Discuss goals and share upcoming challenging cases with your dental associate colleagues. Looking to each other for advice and expertise helps to unify a team, allowing you to work together for the best possible outcome for your patients.
Step 4 – Listen and try to understand team mates
Listen and speak to one other with respect and empathy, even in situations where you may not agree. Respect and empathy are two essential components of a positive work environment. Team members should be mindful of each other’s opinions, feelings, and personal lives.
When shortcomings arise and such a colleague fails to complete a task, take the time to understand why. By understanding of each team member’s needs and struggles, you can offer help or signpost them to opportunities to improve or learn. Providing constructive feedback is important for improving communication, but it should always be done in a supportive manner to help achieve goals.
Step 5 – Indulge in Team building activities
Team building activities are a great way to build relationships and improve collaboration among team members. They can be fun and help foster a positive work culture.
Consider regular activities like escape rooms, team dinners, or volunteering opportunities. When planning team building activities, keep in mind that everyone has different interests, so try to choose activities that everyone will enjoy.
It’s also important to create a safe space for team members to speak and share their thoughts and experiences outside of the dental office. This can help build trust and strengthen relationships within the team. Make sure to also provide opportunities for team members to have fun and unwind together, as this can further contribute to a positive work environment.
Step 6 – Celebrate successes with positive reinforcement
Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool for creating a positive work environment. When team members feel appreciated and recognized for their hard work, they are more likely to be engaged and productive.
Express gratitude and recognise the hard work and dedication of your team members. Celebrate milestones, such as work anniversaries and project completions together. Practice owners could consider an employee recognition program; offering a care package or a day’s holiday. These incentivise team members and encourages practice wide positivity and growth.
Step 7 – Promote well-being
To promote well-being in your dental practice, it’s important to prioritise a healthy work-life balance. Encourage your team members to prioritise self-care and provide them with the necessary resources to maintain their well-being.
Here are some steps you can take as a practice owner:
- Offer flexibility in work schedules, such as occasional late starts or early finishes, to help team members balance their personal and professional obligations.
- Provide mental health resources such as counselling services, stress management programs, and access to mental health professionals to support team members who may be struggling with stress or burnout.
- Encourage your team members to take full lunch breaks
- Ask your staff to use their full annual leave entitlement to rest and recharge.
Creating a positive work environment takes effort and dedication, but the benefits of a healthy and happy team are well worth it. By prioritising effective communication, team building, respect, positive reinforcement, and work-life balance, you can create a workplace that is not only enjoyable but also productive and profitable. Remember that creating a positive work environment is an ongoing process and requires constant attention and effort. By prioritising a positive work environment, you can help your dental practice thrive.