Let’s face it. 2020 has been a year! Many practices have seen weeks or even months of low and nearly no volume followed by playing catch up with patients who are long overdue for care (all while implementing new waiting room protocols, sanitizing like never before and enforcing strict PPE requirements). Some had no choice but to cut hours or furlough employees in the early months of the pandemic due to decreased revenue or kept up hours and payroll just to meet the forgiveness period as dictated by PPP loans. Others were awakened to “true colors” when veteran staff members chose to believe that the word TEAM contained an “I.”
As we approach the middle of October and nearly 7 months into what is now considered the “COVID era” the struggle continues to ensue but now in a different way. Although clinic sessions have returned to a new normal (in many cases lower volume but higher new patient numbers), a prolonged delay to “get back into the swing of things” (like returning from an amazing beach vacation where you long to see the smiling face of that lovely cocktail waiter by the pool who brought margaritas with just enough salt and not too much ice) is causing mistakes to be made, frustrations to rear their ugly head and chaos to ensue.
We’ve all read the stories about major corporations like Google and Apple taking employees away from the office for a few days to wine and dine them in Vegas or sending them on nature filled retreats consisting of trust falls and circle sharing. That’s all well and good for corporations with endless dollars to spend and revenue continuing to generate while employees are taking in a Cirque du Soleil performance, but what about small businesses (like most podiatry practices)? What can they do to boost morale and give TEAM members the motivation they need to get back to business with efficiency and a smile behind the mask?
There are lots of ways to accomplish this and most often require time to be carved out of the clinic schedule (during normal business hours in order to accommodate all employees and respect family time). For those who just stopped reading (I know. . . how can I possibly carve out time when there isn’t enough to begin with?). . . consider this. How many hours in a week do you, your manager, or biller spend fixing mistakes and putting out fires when lower level employees are too complacent to pay attention to detail?
Or, how many hours could have been saved if essential tasks and responsibilities were done correctly the first time (or completed at all)?
Holding an “In-Service” for even just a few hours may be just what you need to rally the troops once again. I recently organized and moderated an in-service for one of my practices that consisted of an educational, practice related game with prizes for all (based on practice protocols and the cash products and services offered), a “get to know the doctors” where both DPMs told their stories (where they attended undergrad and podiatry school as well as residency and why they chose to become a podiatrist; one of the doctors even fabricated part of the story for some appreciated comic relief), a TEAM building exercise where doctors and staff broke into 2 groups and competed to see how they would hold up in a “survivor” situation, and concluded on a positive note relaying thanks and appreciation to both doctors and staff for hanging tough through the most trying of times and working together to provide the best possible care to their patients and support to each other.
You can create your own morale-boosting session without it becoming overly complicated, expensive or burdensome. The idea is to help individuals reach their fullest potential by realizing or remembering the benefits of TEAMwork. Show them that they are appreciated and say thank you at the end of every clinic day. Staff members are the eyes and ears of your practice and the first voices and faces that patients encounter when scheduling appointments and arriving for care. They are a direct representation of YOU (the podiatric physician and surgeon), so choose your support team wisely and never allow complacency to stand in the way of success.