3 Tips to Improve Post-COVID Work Culture

Erika Pusillo, FAADOM with text, "Real-world insights from AADOM authors"

In 2020, the world literally stopped.

We were forced to seclude ourselves from co-workers, friends, and even our own family members in an effort to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

At least in some way, most of us have felt the negative effects of the forced isolation in terms of feeling depressed or lonely.

In complete honesty, at the start of the lockdowns, I thought a forced, long-term “break” would be just what I needed to relax and have time to myself.

In reality, it was the toughest, most emotionally trying time I’ve been through. I still remember the faces and the tears of my team the day we had to lay them off. It was like a scene from a horror movie I won’t forget anytime soon.

Without the support of the team, the brunt of the workload fell on my shoulders. Everything from patient correspondence, emergency scheduling, and rescheduling to assisting and even office security was now my sole responsibility.

My workdays were longer than ever, and yet I felt no sense of progress being made. This was the furthest thing from a “break” that I could imagine.

Let’s not forget the absolute scramble to secure PPE and the desperate attempt to create a safety strategy to have the team come back to work eventually.

I know there were many practice leaders and team members who folded under pressure. Certainly, there were many who rose to the occasion. For me, failure was not an option.

The new normal after COVID-19

There’s no doubt the effects of COVID-19 will likely last beyond the “end” of the pandemic, if we can even say that such a thing exists.

Now, more than ever, we need connection.

Even with the vaccine, many are fearful of returning to a “normal” social lifestyle.

How can we cultivate a post-COVID culture that begins to rebuild personal connections?

Reach out to your team proactively.

I try my best to stay engaged and involved with my team as much as possible. It’s way too easy to get caught up in the “business” and to forget that we are messy, crazy human beings.

At a minimum, I meet with each team member every three months to not only discuss performance but to check in on them personally. Everyone needs a friend and to feel loved and cared about.

Most often, the ones that seem the most “OK” are the ones in most need of connection. Too many tragedies happen within our industry, and now more than ever.

Perhaps we can be the lending hand for support and guidance to help our team through tough and uncertain times.

Create an acknowledgment system.

Practice leaders, let’s design a reward system that incentivizes community and contribution.

At our office, we created a peer-to-peer recognition system where each team member gets to choose another to acknowledge for their demonstration of one of our core values. This team member gets a $50 “buck” that can be redeemed for an experience of their choice.

Now, the dollar amount isn’t critical. Even $10 is great! Set the allowance to whatever is comfortable for your practice.

Our team can save up the “bucks” until they have a certain amount saved to purchase that experience.

For example, our team members have redeemed their bucks for movie tickets, theme park tickets, gift cards to restaurants, and airfare.

The idea behind the program is that if one team member is helping another in such a way that improves the other’s work experience (helps the clean a dirty op, takes out the trash when it’s not their turn, stays late to accommodate a patient) they too get an experience.

Memories last a lot longer than money.

Plan office-sponsored social events.

Social events may look different in today’s environment, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less impactful.

Even if we can’t go out and participate in the same pre-pandemic activities, we can think outside of the box to achieve the same goal.

The whole idea is to get people to communicate on a personal level.

The better the relationship is between your team members, the better they work together.

A WOW patient experience comes from the feeling they get from a team that feels valued and loved.

Host a socially distanced paint and sip night at the office or a get-together outdoors.

If the in-person option isn’t in the deck of cards, host a virtual happy hour. They are actually pretty fun! Everyone grabs a drink of their choice and jumps on a Zoom call with the team to enjoy.

Rebuild your work culture post-pandemic

Humans are hardwired to connect and create relationships. We must cultivate a sense of community at work, too.

After all, we spend almost as much time with our work family as with our real family! The laughs, the smiles, and the silly stories are the ingredients to mend any severed workplace culture.

The time we spend outside of the office improves the experience we provide within the practice, all for the benefit of the team, the patients, and the office.

Meet the Author

Erika Pusillo in blazer with pink flowers in backgroundErika Pusillo is the practice optimizer at Spodak Dental Group… This text opens a new tab to the Spodak Dental Group website… in Delray Beach, Florida.

She began her dental career in 2009 as a dental assistant and now leads a team of 50 in a single location, multi-specialty, state-of-the-art practice with a goal to empower the team to take the very best care of their patients. Her passion is bringing out the potential in others.

When she isn’t busy in the office, you can hear her speaking to dental teams with the BulletProof Dental Practice… This text opens a new tab to the BulletProof Dental Practice website….


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