Have you ever seen a drunk pigeon? I hadn't, until Thursday:
Fantastic. That led me to this:
Then I found these glorious geese:
Coronavirus-mandated work from home gave me the freedom to turn half of (what could have been) a productive Thursday afternoon into a rabbit hole of animal videos—before I knew what was happening, I was making dinner in the same sweatpants I'd been wearing for the majority of the work week.
My failure was not having a plan for the afternoon in question before I wandered into the abyss of internet animal content. Hampered by cabin-fever-induced writer's block and a plan-less afternoon, this is how I managed my time. Assuming you, as dentists and (many of you) small business owners, would want your staff growing skills outside of knowing the alcohol consumption capabilities of pigeons, there are productive ways to spend this time while the coronavirus grips the world.
"I just want us to take advantage of this time because this is going to end, right?" says NiftyThriftyDentists.com founder,
Dr. Glenn Vo, who's finding ways to improve his practice amid the coronavirus downtime. "This whole pandemic is going to end; life will get back to normal and we want to be ready to go once that happens."
A good scrubbing can go a long way and the hustle and bustle of the day-to-day can prevent dark, long-forgotten corners from getting the cleansing they need. "When you're busy in your practice, you never have enough time. Well, there's enough time now. So a deep clean in the office is something everyone can do," says Dr. Vo.
An issue here, an issue there, it can be easy to let small maintenance problems pile up. You don't often have the resources to prioritize fixing issues that won't hinder your productivity… but before you know it, you can have a mountain of issues building up with your equipment.
"Raise your hand if you kind of slack off once in a while," says Dr. Vo. "Sometimes you have to make sure you change out those Cavitron filters and what not and sometimes we fall behind or maybe there's some maintenance on the chairs or what not, here's a great time to do that."
Increasing the communication skills of your team raises the success ceiling on your practice. Dr. Vo recommends working with your hygienists and assistants to improve their abilities with presenting treatment packages to patients. He also says to have assistants learn some lingo from hygienists. "We never have enough time to train our team, right? Well here's a great opportunity to do this team training so that when things get back to normal, your team will be leveled up and you'll be able to produce so much more when that happens," Vo says.
Organizing Lab and Storage Areas
Move one tool here, place one product there, over time, your well-organized supplies look more like the junk drawer at a frat house. "[ . . . ]you don't know where to put something, so you just throw it over there, you kind of just put it in the cabinets and just close it and just forget about it," says Vo, adding with a chuckle that you might even find some supplies you forgot about and save yourself some money. He says one decluttering journey in his office led to moving old lab cases to a rented storage unit. This cleared space for an operatory, making productive space out of the storage area.
Despite the technological capabilities of the modern workplace, my desk looks like someone kicked over buckets of post-it-notes and let a child with leaf blower loose in my cubicle. If I don't clean it once a week, I compile a mess that would make hoarders take notice—and that's enough of an undertaking in just my little 5'x5' corner. De-cluttering an entire office may seem daunting but it will improve functionality by reducing wasted time looking for small things. Dr. Vo says this could be a good time to go paperless and modernize your workspaces. After all, it's a lot easier to find a document when you can ctrl+f rather than pouring through weeks of old handwritten paper scraps.
Hit the Refinance Button?
Yeah, this is a big one. And if I'm calling de-cluttering an office daunting, then navigating the complexities of a refinance/debt consolidation can be likened to Sisyphus rolling his boulder up a hill. The coronavirus and ensuing closures are already impacting finances for basically all industries other than toilet paper, and dentistry isn't immune. Refinancing and freeing up a little more cash month-to-month could legitimately be the difference in small businesses (and dental practices) being able to keep operations running.
Step Up on Social
800 words ago I started this blog by saying how fun it is to putz around on the internet. Well, there are ways to do that while also helping boost your practice's profile—just step up your social media game. This can be especially budget-friendly, as success on social media is found with creativity, not necessarily with a checkbook. Yes, you can pay for ads, but some engaging, personable, original content will take you much further than spamming ads throughout feeds. "You can post it all at once, you can bank [your content] so that when you get busy again, you have two months' worth of posts," says Vo. "You can do at-home-instructions, tips, you can do a Facebook live." He suggests even showing your team going through some of the activities listed above, like cleaning, decluttering, or training, to show you'll be ready whenever things get back to normal. You may not really know how to maneuver through different social media platforms, but I bet someone on your team does. And if not, check out this piece I wrote on
how dental practices can leverage social channels.
Much more than just "employee reviews," one-on-ones should be an opportunity for both parties to share what they hope to learn and where they hope to grow, while also understanding how to improve the lives of your staff members. "Let's take this time to strengthen those bonds with your team, talk to them, see what their struggles and pain points are, and also what they want to learn. Then talk to your team members about what you're trying to accomplish, and maybe you can get both goals to align.
The coronavirus pandemic is forcing industries to be creative in finding ways to remain productive. A direct and concise plan for your team can help you emerge from this situation a better practice, even if it will minimize time for investigating YouTube's stash of critter videos during the downtime.