The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life and the workplace in many ways. Some of these changes will hopefully revert to pre-pandemic times eventually. Other changes, such as more diligent handwashing and maintaining a healthy weight, should permanently affect our lives. The pandemic changed most business sectors to one degree or another. Some have permanently closed while others have flourished. The one word most experts use to describe the changes in the workplace is flexibility.
Workplace flexibility includes more than “work from home,” which is not possible for the delivery of dental treatment. Now more than ever, employees place a high value on flexibility and control over their career, time, and income. This survey found that 73% of working adults list flexibility as one of the most important factors in choosing a new job or employer. Cloud Dentistry helps dentists connect with talented and skilled freelance RDHs and dental assistants seeking flexibility in their careers.
Addressing challenges to working with temporary freelance employees can help mitigate potential problems. Here are some tips to help your dental staff work successfully with flexible freelance staff.
Prepare the staff. Permanent staff members have their routines and relationships. Each staff member reacts differently to a freelance RDH or dental assistant. Make sure everyone knows their role in onboarding a temporary staff member.
Use the buddy system. For good reasons, the military and business use the buddy system for new employees. The advantages of an onboarding buddy to a freelancer include:
- A buddy provides an immediate personal connection between the freelancer and the dental practice.
- A buddy helps create a warm and welcome atmosphere.
- A buddy can answer questions quickly.
- A buddy can show the freelancer the office’s layout and make introductions to the rest of the staff.
- A buddy provides moral support and an immediate support system.
Condense your office policy manual. Your employee office manual might fill several notebooks but don’t overwhelm your freelancer with it on the first day. Have a condensed version that encapsulates the crucial policies and can be read in several minutes.
Plan ahead. Do not wait until the day you need a freelance RDH to discuss this with your permanent office staff. Plan and discuss all of the onboarding steps for which each staff member will be responsible. Look ahead, discuss, and anticipate when the need for temp staff is more likely to arise in the future. Planning ahead can decrease stress and minimize disruptions and loss of office productivity.
Communicate plainly and concisely with freelancers. Make sure your temporary staff members know the details of the workday. There should be no doubt about details such as the expected arrival time and lunch break. Let them know the name of their buddy and what to expect when they arrive at the office.
There are bound to be concerns related to COVID-19. Fully explain the PPE supplied and all infection control protocols used in the office. Repeat this same information in person before the first workday begins.
Communicate with patients. Have a system in place to fully explain to patients that they will meet a new employee today. Try to have all their questions answered before their treatment time. It is disruptive to the schedule and creates stress for a freelance RDH to explain all day why the patient’s regular hygienist is not providing treatment this time. Make sure to keep your freelancer from the awkward position of explaining why you fired an employee or why they quit working in the office.
Allow time for computer proficiency. Every dental practice uses computers differently. Some might use them minimally, while others are entirely digital. Temporary RDHs and dental assistants won’t know your system when they begin, and some take longer to learn than others. Digital radiography and scheduling can make life simpler for permanent staff but miserable for a freelancer wanting to contribute significantly and quickly to office productivity.
Make sure someone in the office can help temps with computer technology until they learn it well. You do not want to lose a highly competent dental hygienist because of a complicated computer system.
Review the schedule. Make sure everyone knows the patient schedule and what procedures each patient needs. Let the temporary staff know of any particular medical or special needs of patients. Ensure that your freelance RDH is comfortable with the amount of time allotted for each patient's cleaning and exams. Dental hygienists need to know if certain patients need local anesthetic or other care before a cleaning procedure.
Supply proper instruments. Make sure your freelance RDH has a working ultrasonic scaler and sharp, well-maintained instruments.
Schedule patients appropriately. Onboarding takes time, and overbooking patients creates stress for freelancers and the dentist. A flexible schedule sets everyone up for a successful start to the new relationship between permanent and temporary staff.
Integrate temps into office activities. Including freelancers is a key factor in successfully working with flexible and temporary staff members. Nobody likes feeling left out, and it is a sure way to shorten your relationship with a talented freelancer. Whether it is going out to lunch or an office party, be sure to include your temporary staff. Making them feel like part of the permanent staff creates an atmosphere that leads to a productive workday for everyone.
End the day well. Make sure you talk with the temporary staff at the end of the day. Get their input on what went well, what didn’t, and suggestions for improvement. Listen to their comments and suggestions to learn how to make your practice better and more appealing to freelancers in the future.
Bring excellent freelancers back. Using the same temporary staff improves the experience for them and your practice. Bringing them back creates continuance and bonding with permanent staff and patients.
The practice of dentistry continues to change and evolve. With rapid changes constantly taking place, dental practices must adapt to maintain excellence in delivering high-quality dental care. A big part of this adaptation is flexibility which includes utilizing temporary staff.