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As dentists and dental teams have returned to practice over the last month, some offices are noticing tension among team members that comes with getting back to patient care during a global pandemic.
Working in this new environment may cause staff to become anxious and fearful of contracting the virus, passing it on to loved ones, or even having to take time off from work. Some may have a hard time managing the many changes that the office has implemented, while other team members may be dealing with personal stress around a child or family care, finances, or current events.
These concerns can lead to tension in the workplace that may be difficult to navigate. Along with updating office policies and implementing new safety and cleaning protocols, the following tips could help with reducing employee fears and mitigating tension in the dental office.
Letting employees know what plans are in place can make them feel more confident about working in the office.
Let staff know you're on top of things by keeping them updated on policies and protocols that may continue to change as health officials learn more about the pandemic and update their guidance.
Give periodic updates and keep employees informed on the latest COVID-19 developments, as well as changes related to the crisis that could affect their jobs. Use trustworthy sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, California Department of Public Health, the World Health Organization, and other regulatory agencies to collect the most reliable and up-to-date information.
This shows that the employer takes the health of staff and patients seriously and is being proactive about understanding how the virus spreads, who is most at risk, and how to minimize the chance of exposure.
If your office offers employee assistance programs, such as free counseling sessions, remind staff that this benefit is available to them.
Employers should also notify employees of their rights to expanded employee benefits under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. Post the required notices and distribute your policy so employees are aware of the benefits. Find resources for managing FFCRA in CDA’s Back to Practice Resource Center.
If you must lay off or furlough employees, notify them of their right to unemployment compensation and the expanded eligibility requirements afforded to them under the CARES Act. As a best practice, document any changes to an employee’s status and any agreements in writing using a Change in Relationship Notice.
Let your employees know that you are interested in hearing their concerns. Consider offering a channel for staff members to submit their concerns anonymously, which may especially assist any individuals who are afraid to speak up, and follow up individually where possible.
Effective communication means listening with the intent to understand. Employers should have an open and receptive attitude when staff member is voicing their concerns. If an employee has a complicated concern, see if you can restate it back to them in a more simplified manner. Doing so will not only show that you are listening but may also help you determine how best to help them.
Relaxing some normal practices and policies could help ease tension among employees who are nervous about returning to work. To reduce the number of employees in the office at one time, consider implementing alternative workweeks or staggered shifts or rotating telecommuting weeks among staff. This may help employees who must report to work feel their employer is taking measures to protect them.
Overall, open dialogue between dentists and staff will help to establish clear responsibilities and expectations and improve employee morale as dental offices get back to practice.
Visit CDA’s Back to Practice resource center for more practice management tips.