Sarah Barnard shares her insights into why your team’s wellbeing is vital for the future and how to encourage it in your practice’s work environment.
COVID-19 has highlighted many things for us all in 2020. The importance of wellbeing in a work setting would appear very highly on that list.
The dental profession has had to work through a huge amount of uncertainty caused by the pandemic. Alongside the upheaval of work processes that under normal circumstances would have provided a level of comfort through regular routine. These challenges came together to create a large amount of stress for dental practices across the UK.
The pandemic has shown that taking the time to care for your own wellbeing through times of hardship is vital for personal and professional development.
With the news of a vaccine, we can look forward to a more normal way of life in 2021. However, in the meantime we are beginning to transition through further change in how we practise. Through this, we need to look after ourselves and each other.
Why wellbeing is key to a well-performing practice
Before we delve into the top wellbeing habits to develop, it’s important to understand why they are needed. It’s not just for mental health and team morale, but also to successfully run your business.
You’ll be better set to achieve business goals when you have the backing of a happier, healthier and receptive team. A happier team is more productive and proactive, which impacts the efficiency of day-to-day work processes.
It’s also worth taking into consideration the link between wellbeing and the likelihood of sick leave. The level of work-related stress, depression and anxiety has increased in recent years. The public health industry has come in as the third highest impacted area for this issue, according to a recent study by the Health and Safety Executive.
Staff absence can cause a knock-on effect to stress levels for the remaining team members too. The increased workload and blow to morale inevitably affects the performance of the business.
To keep staff turnover at a minimum, creating a practice culture that they want to belong to is key. Increased turnover is stressful for the whole team when valuable experience and knowledge of how the practice works is lost.
The environment in which you and your team work also influences your patient experience. There are patients entering the new dental environment as a result of the ongoing pandemic. Some of those being of a more nervous disposition. Stressed staff who are unable to communicate as well under these circumstances could further negatively affect this.
Addressing these issues requires tact, good communication and observation. Both inwardly toward your own wellbeing and outwardly to those around you. Here are a few good habits that will put you in good stead.
Keep your team connected
Communication with the team needs to be open and forthcoming. Shying away from difficult topics only leads to speculation and uncertainty. Keeping your team in the loop with ongoing changes will help ease anxiety levels.
Touch base with individual team members regularly. Set a time every week or month for open discussion and feedback. Here, you can raise concerns and resolve them where possible.
Rewarding members who are performing well helps to keep them engaged with the tasks at hand and encourages a sense of accomplishment that boosts morale.
Respect work boundaries
While it’s important to keep the team connected, there is also a need to keep work-related communication. For example, email queries, to within working hours (except for emergencies).
Allowing work to spill over into personal time tips the work and life balance in the wrong direction. It’s important for us to set aside time to do what we enjoy. Over-burdening yourself and team members with out-of-hours work can lead to work-related burnout.
When you require team members to do extra work, make sure that you put plans in place where they can claim back their free time at a late date.
Never skip lunch
Make sure you and your team are taking time out of your working day, not only to get a much-needed mental break, but also to ensure you are properly fuelling yourselves.
The mental health organisation Mind recommends at least 30 minutes break for lunch during a working day. Physical and mental health are closely related, so consider nutritious foods that incorporate your five-a-day and stay hydrated with at least six to eight glasses of fluid throughout the day.
Embrace the outdoors
Physical activity levels and the likelihood of depression are linked. It’s easy in a busy practice to get tunnel vision when there is a never-ending list of tasks to complete. Encourage your team to go on walks for lunch. You can take this a step further by setting challenges with a reward at the end.
Taking time during the day outside of the work environment will help members refresh and refocus their mindset. Otherwise they may have felt overwhelmed by the challenges of the current climate.
No man is an island
Finally, while the wellbeing of your team is important, you need to remember that, as a leader for the business, your own wellbeing must be looked after too.
It would be easy to fall into the trap of sacrificing your own wellbeing due to the fear of appearing selfish, but this is simply not the case.
Consider your position as a leader to your team – would you perform better for your team from a place of wellbeing, or from stress-induced burnout? Giving yourself ‘me time’ to make the best decisions for yourself and your team will be rewarded in the long run.
As we look forward to a more hopeful future in the coming year, investing into good wellbeing habits at the practice will give you the achievement of being responsible for creating a working environment that allows mental health to flourish.
If you’re looking for more independence or freedom from the NHS and a more fulfilling and rewarding future, call 01691 684165 or visit practiceplan.co.uk.