There is more to dental practice renovations than making things look good and bringing in the latest technology. Kirsty Hague explores the all-important but often overlooked linked effect on team well-being.
Kirsty Hague is the Interiors Director at Hague Dental.
It is unlikely to come as news to you that many dental practice leaders are struggling to retain and recruit great team members.
There are a variety of reasons for this, some of which are beyond the best efforts of recruiters, including there being too few qualified people in the UK at the moment.
However, there is one tangible effort that can be made that will have a hugely positive impact in this area – that of factoring in employee needs and wants during a practice refurbishment or renovation.
Like many of us, dental team members are working 40-plus hours a week and they can afford to be choosy about the environment in which they do that.
If your practice has no staff room, no office for confidential meetings, no ergonomic design, apart from the die-hards who have been with you forever, employees will start walking out the door for pastures new.
Change can be simple and value-driven
The good news is that we aren’t necessarily talking about spending a fortune, although you can, of course, if you have big dreams.
To begin the process of exploring what your practice is really like for your team, let’s start outside. What does the exterior look like? Do you think they feel proud when they walk up to the door to start their day?
Then let’s journey through the interior. What does the waiting room and reception look like and how does it feel? More and more dental team members are looking to work in a relaxed environment that feels homely, rather than a clinical feel with bare white walls and wipe down vinyl chairs.
Where are they spending their working day? Is there access to a kitchenette, a table and chair for lunch in a pleasant environment for a proper break? Where can they go to talk to the boss in confidence if things aren’t quite right? Is there a room for team CPD and meetings to be held comfortably?
The importance of ergonomics
Then we come to the surgery itself. In the UK, 7.3 million working days were lost due to work-related musculoskeletal (MSK) disorders in 2022. Data also indicates that 41% of employees are currently experiencing MSK pain (The Workplace Health Report: 2023).
Furthermore, recent statistics demonstrate that a high prevalence of MSK has been noted among dental healthcare providers, with about seven out of ten having experienced related problems in the past, placing dentistry higher than the average (Chenna D et al, 2022)
How many times do you go into a practice, be that reception or surgery, and see a staff member sitting on an inappropriate chair that is not fit for purpose? Consider what would be acceptable for yourself and then think again about staff well-being.
I’ve seen detrimental set-ups for myself too many times, for example with the receptionist squeezed into a tiny cubby with screens at the wrong height and printers that can only be reached with an uncomfortable twist. Can you really expect them to stay sitting in that position for the next 20 years?
We hear too many stories of people leaving the profession prematurely because they are working in pain, which may result in mental and physical health problems.
And it’s not just about personal preference – the CQC is getting really strict on such elements, as is only right for team welfare. They require dentists to observe five specified standards, one of which is safety. Your design must ensure a safe environment for staff, patients and visitors.
Just like the non-clinical areas of the practice, there are equipment, tools and décor elements to suit all budgets and get the workflow right.
I truly believe you can create a really lovely working environment with a little bit of thought and some good ideas behind it.
Consider the options carefully
What I would reiterate at this point is that whatever you are thinking having done, don’t rush into it.
Take the time to consider the options fully so that you get it right first time, creating an environment that will have the greatest effect on staff well-being. This is at the heart of recruiting and retaining the very best dentistry in the UK has to offer in this day and age.
This is where the design stage comes into its own, and I can’t emphasise too strongly the benefits of getting a proper CAD plan created – 2D is good, 3D is even better if you can afford it.
A design team, such as Hague Dental’s, will carry out a proper site survey and take measurements. They will then create CAD drawings where you can see for yourself what will fit and the flow of the interior, as well as providing you with something tangible to show the team to get their all-important input before making any decisions.
For example, if you are designing a surgery and you are going to have a new specialist coming in, take them to a showroom and get their input on the design, because they are much more likely to stay knowing that they’ve selected that work environment to meet their own needs and that of their patients.
To recap, the bottom line is making these kinds of changes doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, but it does needs time and care during the design process. At the very least, spend enough time to consider all your options and to get feedback from your team. Allocating sufficient time for planning offers an additional advantage: it provides you with ample opportunity to compare products, services, and design options thoroughly.
As an Interior Designer and mental health therapist, I firmly believe that will help you to create an inspirational and life-changing positive environment for your team.
Why not reach out?
Hague’s services include end-to-end expert advice on all the essential requirements for designing and refurbishing a practice or dental surgery that is safe, effective, ergonomically efficient, CQC compliant, and visually appealing. Our case studies speak for itself.
“Wellbeing at work is incredibly important to us. Recognising the links between physical, mental, social and financial wellbeing allows for a more balanced approach within the workplace. Designing the practice with this in mind allowed us to recognise the true value of our staff’s wellbeing. Spacious surgeries, hallways, reception areas, and especially a substantial staff room, improves productivity and boosts overall life satisfaction – an essential part of keeping both employers and employees content and motivated.”
Dr. Annalize Van Zyl, The Dental Practice, Shoreham-by-Sea