Without doubt a fundamental principle of the dental profession is to provide the best level of care for patients, and quite rightly something on which the industry holds itself to the highest of standards. It’s important other aspects of care, not least for employees, are given similarly high attention. Ask any practice owner, indeed any business owner or CEO, and they will agree their people are their biggest asset. It makes good business sense to protect your assets, so they can perform to their best, develop to their full potential and add the most value for the long term. And, as Lis Hughes of Frank Taylor & Associates says, “even more fundamental than what’s in your P&L or balance sheet, looking after your people is simply the right thing to do.”
“As well as a team’s physical health, a practice should look after the team’s mental wellbeing. There is still some way to go in breaking down the stigma attached to mental health, and this is particularly important in the dental industry, which has an alarming (and unwanted!) link with higher suicide rates”.
“As dental professionals you are well trained in spotting symptoms of poor oral health in patients, and even to an untrained eye, symptoms of physical ill health in colleagues are usually fairly easy to detect, and quite often the sufferer will be vocal and complain about their ailment anyway! Symptoms of mental ill health are altogether harder to identify, the victim usually suffering in silence, and the consequences potentially more damaging in the long term”.
“Your professional treatment for patients will often revolve around addressing problems before they become too acute or severe; I’m sure we’ve all quoted the old adage “prevention is better than cure” more than once! You need to adopt the same mindset when addressing and caring for the mental health of your staff”.
“There’s no one-size fits all approach”, continues Lis, “it really comes down to knowing your team, understanding their motivations, their styles and behaviours and being tuned in to any changes that may appear out of character. It’s very helpful to create a positive, open and respectful culture where staff can all feel comfortable that they can speak up and bring their ‘whole selves’ to work without fear. It’s not about asking everyone to ‘open up’ if they’d prefer not to, rather ensuring the opportunity and the channels are there if and when the need arises. As managers, or owners, the tone is set from the top, so it’s important senior leadership set the right example and lead from the front. It’s not something that can be delegated, it’s very much something where the whole organisation is in it together”.
“It comes back to what I said at the beginning about it being the right thing to do”, concludes Lis, “Creating the right environment to support mental, and physical, health in the workplace really shouldn’t be an option, it’s a must and should be formalised in a practice’s protocols.”