How to Have a Positive Work Environment

August 12, 2020

Who likes to get up in the morning and DREAD going into the office? How many of us work for fun? (Being honest, MOST of us have to work)! So, how can we make this a great place to be? How can we make our teams feel secure, appreciated, and that each and every one of them MATTER?

Over the years, as generations change, and studies are completed regarding mostly women in the workplace, we find that women don’t care about the money as much as we think they would.

Their focus is more on feeling fulfilled

As long as a team member understands their responsibilities in the office (See previous blog about creating checklists)

Show appreciation

In order to support our team it is SO important to show them you care.  Most offices consist of 12 or fewer team members, which can be so EASY to appreciate.  We want to steer clear of making them feel like “just a number” or “just a warm body”.  So how can we show them we appreciate what they do for the team, the office, and the patients?  

  • Bonus/Incentive-Offering an incentive or a bonus system is a way to show your team you care.  If the team goes above and beyond, honor that.  
  • Praise, Praise, Praise!-Let them know how WONDERFUL they really are!!   Recognize any team member that steps out of their role and does something special for a patient or a team member. We know how much you do appreciate them, so why not show it?

Family leave benefits

Being in a small office doesn’t mandate (In most states) that you have to offer any benefits for a team member that leaves for an absence, or a maternity leave.  It can be difficult for an office to offer full family leave benefits when a team member is out of work for an extended period of time.  So we can’t put the team out because we are losing one temporarily.  So what can we do?  

  • Weekly Allowance- What about offering a small amount for a weekly pay?  Maybe enough to cover groceries, or uncounted for baby supplies.  It doesn’t have to be a huge amount.  Anything you offer will show that you care, and that you would like them to return back to you.
  • For the good of both parties, offer them to come back 1-2 days for the first few weeks, before coming back full time.
  • Let them know you care:)  

Flexible work environments

Most people today are looking for somewhat of a flexible schedule, or at least know they have the option when a particular time arises.  Team members want flexibility.  (One reason we lose team members over time).  Are you too caught up on policy?  Are you offering early outs, or days off to meet family needs, outside of vacation time? What could that look like to you? It can be hard to manage this in an office to make sure it doesn’t get taken advantage of, but it IS possible. Set deadlines, know how long they need to leave early on Tuesdays, and make it clear to the team. But get comfortable with saying no, when it can become a burden to the team.


  • Early outs- Ask why? How long, and mark it on the calendar. Communicate it to the team and how we can make up for that extra hour of time.
  • Rotated schedules-If you work every saturday, are you rotating your team so they can have a 2 day weekend every now and then?  

Stay Interviews

Just as important as initial interview, and performance evaluations, are “Stay” interviews.  We want them to stay, right?!  How can we ensure that we are on the same page with them, and they are happy in their position.  We conduct annual, or semi-annual interviews!  It’s hard to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday, but connecting with your team and be very beneficial in the long run.  You may find out some really great, quality information from them, and had you not sat with them, you wouldn’t have known!!

  • Stay Interview-Ask your team what they LOVE about the office? What makes them come to work everyday?  Also dive into what they would change if given the opportunity, and listen.  You may find that they have some SUPER awesome ideas!  This also opens up communication with your team, and they feel heard.
  • Goals-Ask them where they want to be in a year?  It may be the same place, and it may be somewhere you never would have guessed. They may be returning to school, in which you had no previous knowledge.  They may be interested in another role in the office, and you may just be looking for that position to fill in the short future.  My point is really to connect with them, building trust and open communication.  

Have fun!

What are you doing for fun with your team?  Are you sitting down once a week and having lunch with them?  Engaging in conversations weekly?  Do you know about their family, their kids names?  Birthdays?  Some of these things seem so easy to do, yet we steer clear of them in order to keep the office “professional”.  You can still be professional, AND be involved:)

  • Team Dinner-Set up a team dinner once a year, outside of the holiday, just for fun:)
  • Community event-This can be inside or outside the office.  Better yet, let that super excited, high energy dental assistant lead the project! She will LOVE it!
  • Local Sports game-Go to a local sports game and invite the family.  You can contact the company and ask about group pricing.
  • Social hour-Have an after work social hour.  Keep it 1-2 hours.  Enough time to chat, eat, and be social:)
  • CE-Go to a CE with the team, or host one right in your community with local offices. Bring in some education. Its a great time to learn, eat, and be social:)
  • Read “The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace” as a team-Set up some lunch hours and talk about this book.  Either chapter by chapter, or as a whole. Write down appreciation languages for the team to see.  This is so FUN! Getting to know what makes them tick is a really good way to show your appreciation!
  • Do a drawing-Be creative! Whether its for accomplishments in the office, going above and beyond, or just because you appreciate them! Talk about it in the huddle and acknowledge them.  
  • Offer some swag- This doesn’t have to be done from above. Again, find that AWESOME team member that you know from the “stay” interview would like to be more involved.  Ask her to work with a local company and design some cute winter hats, or workout shirts.  Give them away.  Maybe down the road you can even include patients with the swag?  :)

Maximize your team

Now that we talked about our “Stay” interviews, and how to show appreciation, are you able to utilize the information you have?  Maybe you found that your team member really isn’t fulfilled in her position and would like other a different opportunity within the office? Is that position available? Can we talk about a timeline? Maybe begin some slow training so when the position is available, she/he will be ready.  Are they on the right seat on the bus? You may find they would like to take on more.  We NEED that.  Our roles are so heavy, take advantage of that opportunity.

  • Be open to listening-Maybe they would like to be a leadership role. Can you offer that? This could be a good time to enter them into some outside leadership, or even management, training.  Also,  a good time to have them shadow your office manager and see if they would even be a fit for the role.  
  • Offer opportunities where/when available- try not to overlook your team when an opening arises.  This goes for any size office.  Offer your team the open position before you post it publicly.  (Please reach out if you have questions regarding this in more detail).

I hope you find this information helpful.  If you can take one tidbit of information and use it in your practice, you are WINNING.  It will show with your team, and with your patients.  During times like this it is even more important to show appreciation and care than ever.  Our team members can be down, and scared with all of the unknowns.  There is no I in team, and no one is successful alone.  Find ways to be productive, positive, and enjoy every day!  Be the leader, and the boss your team is looking for:)

Kellie Black, RDH

Disclaimer: This article is the sole opinion and research of the writer and doesn’t reflect the opinions of ZenSupplies.

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