11 Steps to Creating a Healthy Work Environment

Most people in the dental profession work approximately 40 hours per week - some more, some less. But even if you are seeing patients 34 to 36 hours per week, when you add in administrative time, travel time, and continuing education time, it is not unreasonable to consider the average 40-hour workweek applicable to dentistry. There are 168 hours in each week. So, if you are working an average of 40 hours per week, you are spending approximately 24% of your time at work.

by Cathy Jameson, PhD

Most people in the dental profession work approximately 40 hours per week - some more, some less. But even if you are seeing patients 34 to 36 hours per week, when you add in administrative time, travel time, and continuing education time, it is not unreasonable to consider the average 40-hour workweek applicable to dentistry. There are 168 hours in each week. So, if you are working an average of 40 hours per week, you are spending approximately 24% of your time at work.

That's not much time, considering that you are working in a great profession, serving people every day, working in a nice facility (most of the time), and making good money. In 2013, the average dual income of a family in America, according to the U.S. 2013 Census ACS National Household Income survey, was $51,371. The average individual income was $27,312. So, compare your salary to those figures!

However, no matter how good the hours may be, no matter how much money you make, no matter how beautiful the facility in which you work, if the work environment is not healthy, it will not matter. You will not be happy and will not stay, or you will lose your enthusiasm and become less productive.

The key to a productive practice, where outstanding people come, stay, and perform productively, is to create and maintain what I call a "healthy work environment." In a survey on stress control that I conducted with 3,000 dental professionals (of every position in the practice) for research I performed during my doctoral work, the leading causes of stress for these professionals were problems among team members. The next leading causes of stress were difficulties with the business and financial management of the practice - "glitches in the system."

At Jameson Management, Inc., we have consulted with over 2,500 practices. The practices that are the most productive, the most profitable, and that have the least amount of stress are the ones that have their systems in order and are constantly working to improve those systems. However, the other major reason that certain practices are productive is that the practice environment and the relationships of the team members, including the relationships with the doctor, are healthy, enjoyable, and productive.

Here are 11 factors that I have found most beneficial to a healthy work environment:

1. Statements and expression of appreciation

This is the number one thing desired by people in the workplace today. While money is important, it is rated the fifth most desirable attribute for people in the workplace. It's worth saying again: Appreciation is number one. Remember to say "thank you."

2. Involvement

Include your team in establishing and working toward goals. Include them in decision-making. When you include your team in the decision-making process, they are more likely to buy into the decisions being made.

3. Trust

Team members want to be trusted and want to trust dentists to make decisions based on integrity, ethics, and honesty.

4. Respect

People in the workplace want to be respected and honored for their talent, their abilities, and their rights as an individual. They want to be known as people who have a life outside of the practice, but who bring their best to the practice. When you expect people to be great - and give them an opportunity to be great - they become just that.

5. Pride

Team members want to feel proud of what they do, proud of how they do it, and proud of what they gain for patients. There is nothing more debilitating for a business than for people on the team to know that the dentistry is less than excellent, as well as being a part of service that is subpar. Build a practice on excellence and integrity, and your team will exemplify pride in that service. They will epitomize what the leader sets as the example. Do not ask people to be great if you are not willing to do whatever it takes to be the same.

6. Openness

Openness about problems and involving the team in solutions is critical. Every business and every person will have problems in their lives. Face those problems and involve the team in the solutions. While there will be problems and challenges, when you face those head on, there will be solutions available to you. Involve the team. Trust them. Get to the bottom of the problem. Identify what is causing the problem. Growth comes at the other side of problems. Trust your team to step up to the plate.

7. Sharing the rewards of work well done

As the owner of your business, be ever aware of your cost of operation and your margin of profit. Be interested in increasing the margin of profit. "It's not how much you make but how much you keep." Set goals related to each of these critical factors and monitor these on a regular basis. You have to monitor before you can measure. You have to know where you are before you can determine where you need to go. Why work as hard as you do without developing a margin of profit that can be shared amongst the members of the team? Be generous, based on continuously improving profit margins. Take the lid off the salaries for your team members. Then, stand back and watch energy exude and productivity increase.

8. Clear definitions

Clear definitions of job descriptions, systems, and expectations are paramount. Accountability is based on clarity of expectations.

9. Celebrating an accomplishment and giving credit where credit is due

Dr. Ken Blanchard of The One Minute Manager fame says, "We find it so easy to catch each other doing something wrong. Let's spend time catching each other doing something right." Step outside of yourself and see the things that people are doing to make your practice successful. Look for the large and small efforts put forth. Then, acknowledge these from a place of sincerity. Dr. Michael Le Boeuf says, "That which is rewarded is repeated," and acknowledgment of work well done is the best of all possible rewards.

10. Clear, constructive communication

Establish lines of communication both as a team and as individuals. Dr. John Jameson says, "Schedule time to communicate with your team. The time you schedule for this communication will move people forward and will prove to be productive." In addition, mistakes will be reduced, as well as disappointments. Disappointments come when people do not know what they are supposed to do and why.

11. Be willing to say "I'm sorry"

When a mistake is made, whether with a patient or team member, do whatever it takes to rectify that mistake. You set a tone for honesty, integrity, and outstanding leadership when you take measures to make things right when something goes wrong. A leader has the strength and courage to take responsibility for anything that happens in the organization. Leaders do whatever it takes or costs to make it right. Remember: In the end, ethics and integrity are the ultimate measure of success.

Summary

In terms of stresses in dentistry, there are three major areas: patient management, business management, and personnel management. Get your systems in order. Organize your practice to nurture your team members and light the way to expanded productivity of each person on your team. The result will be increased productivity for your practice and rewards for work well done by all team members, including the doctor.


Cathy Jameson, PhD, is founder and chief visionary officer of Jameson Management, Inc. The Jameson team of advisors help improve the lives of dental professionals worldwide through practice management, marketing and clinical coaching. For more information, visit JamesonManagement.com, or call (877) 369.5558 to speak with a Jameson team member about your practice.

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