Does the very idea of staying calm and focused at work sound impossible? Front desk employees at a dental office wear dozens of hats. From last-minute cancellations to insurance company snafus or dealing with difficult patients, there’s always something to do—and it’s usually interrupting the three things you were already doing. But if you implement the right tactics and tools, it is possible to stay calm and focused at work.
What happens when you can’t focus
When you’re frazzled at work, it affects all areas of your job. You might
- Forget important tasks, like calling your waiting list to fill an empty slot
- Make mistakes in billing, insurance coding or patient charts
- Be impatient or short with coworkers or patients
- Work harder but accomplish less
Some 38% of dental office managers already work more than 40 hours a week. When you’re able to stay calm and focused, you can accomplish more in less time and do a better job at it. You’re also more pleasant to be around, both at work and at home.
The nature of running a dental office can make it difficult to remain calm and focused. You’re jumping from the phone to the computer to the patient at the front desk to your coworkers. How can you find your inner Zen master?
Tactics to help you stay calm and focused
“Breath work, meditation, yoga and walking are all quick, easy ways to increase your ability to process life’s hardships productively and calm your nervous system,” says Holly Anne Mitchell, a leadership trainer and consultant specializing in dental practices. Calming your body can help you calm down mentally. Here’s how:
- Set a reminder to take a few deep breaths. Deep breathing oxygenates the brain and helps us slow down. The great thing about deep breathing is you can do it pretty much anywhere, anytime. Try setting a reminder on your smartphone or smartwatch to pause for 60 seconds of deep breathing every hour or so. Breath+ Simple Breath Trainer or iBreathe are two breathing apps to try.
- Do a short, guided meditation. “Five minutes of meditation at lunch or before the day starts can work wonders to set intention and tone for the day,” says Mitchell. You can do this in your car before going into work, during a work break or on your lunch. Calm and Headspace are two popular meditation apps that are free and easy for beginners to use.
- Get physical. “Using both sides of the body activates both hemispheres of the brain, called bilateral stimulation, which helps us chill out,” explains Mitchell. Take a quick walk (ideally, outside in some fresh air). Can’t leave the desk? “Grab an object—a water bottle or coffee cup—and move it from side to side, following it with your eyes,” Mitchell says. Even flossing your teeth can help reduce stress, because it activates both brain hemispheres.
- Do yoga. It’s hard to stay calm when your body is aching from being hunched in a chair or typing on a keyboard all day. Try Glo.com, Simply Yoga or the Office Yoga app, which focuses on stretches you can do at your desk. You can also find hundreds of free yoga videos on YouTube. Doing some quick yoga stretches in your chair or in the back office can energize and calm you.
Noticing a common theme? “Taking breaks is one of the easiest and most effective ways to help the team stay calm,” says Mitchell. Even “micro-breaks” have been shown to reduce stress, improve performance and promote mental wellbeing. Socializing during breaks also boosts mood, so try to get the whole team involved. “Integrating these habits into your operation will shift the culture,” Mitchell says. An environment that prioritizes your team’s wellness along with that of your patients helps to attract the best employees, prevent staff burnout and reduce anxiety.
Tech tools to help you stay calm and focused
Using automation in your dental office can help take tedious tasks off your plate so that you have more time to focus on what really matters, whether that’s the patient in front of you or your loved ones once you get home from work.
Lighthouse 360 can help by automating patient communications such as appointment confirmations and reminders, patient recall and dormant patient reactivation. No more worrying about whom to call; just use Lighthouse 360’s pre-written messages or customize them to your practice, and you can “set it and forget it.”
Every dental office manager’s head is full of little details. Wouldn’t it be nice to hand those off to somebody else? Every night, Lighthouse 360 software reviews every patient on tomorrow’s schedule and checks for over 20 issues, such as missing contact information or outstanding payments. It compiles those issues into a Front Desk Task List Front Desk Task List, emailed to the office manager or practice owner early every morning. Team members simply consult the list to know what actions to take.
Lighthouse 360 also reviews the previous day’s Front Desk Task List and prepares an Automated Accountability Report summarizing that day’s activity, highlighting successes as well as areas that need improvement. It’s a great way to help your team prioritize, which makes it easier to remain calm and focused.
Dental office employees touch a lot of lives every day, which can lead to burnout. Using technology can free up time to look your team in the eye, have conversations that aren’t rushed, and truly engage with patients. Putting the habits above into practice and integrating them into your dental office will make you feel better and leave you with more energy at the end of the day to give to the ones you love.
Looking for more strategies to improve and maintain mental health for yourself, your team and your patients? Lighthouse 360 is sponsoring Holly Anne Mitchell and Brandi Hooker Evans’ free 90-minute course, “Mental Hygiene,” Wednesday, June 30, 2021 at 4:30 PM Pacific/7:30 Eastern. Sign up now to reserve your (virtual) seat.