What does wellbeing look like?
We’re sure you don’t need us to tell you it’s important to pay attention to wellbeing in practice. Especially in practice workplaces. Especially now. But what do we mean actually mean by wellbeing? How can we promote it in a stressful practice environment?
Wellbeing can be a difficult concept to pin down. It’s complex and rarely clear-cut. We know it can involve multiple inter-related factors, which can include physical, mental, or social. As these factors interact, we tend to move along a kind of spectrum – from well to unwell or any stage in between.
Our workplace is not the only factor that influences our wellbeing, but it is important. Work environments can promote wellbeing, or they can make it harder to maintain.
Navigating stressful environments
When we have higher levels of wellbeing, we tend to have higher levels of happiness, engagement, and self-confidence.
Improved wellbeing has some particularly important benefits for today’s busy practice environment. Greater wellbeing means we are better able to take in and process information. We find it easier to handle stress.
You might think improving wellbeing means we need to remove all stresses. That’s not the case though. Realistically we’re never going to remove all the stress from a workplace. We might even need a degree of stress to help keep us motivated and improving. But when stress is too high, or it goes on too long, it can lead to distress. That’s when we can become exhausted, unwell, burned out.
We know that practice workplaces can be stressful, even before we factor in the effects of COVID. So finding ways of helping practice teams to navigate stress and uncertainty has become even more important.
Communication is key
Perhaps the most important thing you can do as a practice leader is offer your team direction and reassurance, help them feel supported.
A big part of that is how you communicate. Sharing information clearly and in a timely way can help staff feel more confident and empowered.
Experienced practice managers emphasise how important it is to communicate openly and honestly. It may be tempting to protect teams from difficult news, but mostly this doesn’t help. When people believe there are things going on they’re not being told about, they’re likely to become more fearful and distrusting.
Another important tip is to do your best to make sure communication is inclusive. Do everything you can to involve the team. Reassure them they have been heard and their views valued. Always be respectful of people’s different situations and individual circumstances.
Finally, it is not news that checking in regularly is important. If you need some suggestions, one framework some teams are finding useful is the ‘golden’ check-in.
Cognitive and behavioural strategies to support your team
Many of us will have experienced for ourselves the way thoughts can affect feelings. Too much ‘doom-scrolling’ social media, or obsessively watching the news, can send our mood and motivation spiralling downwards. But the reverse is also true. Trying to focus on the positive and keeping problems in perspective can have a profound effect.
There are some tried-and-tested ways to help shift our thinking and our mood:
- finding ways of having fun
- continuing social interactions
- exercising, especially in nature.
While remote working and lockdowns have made some things more difficult, the pandemic has also shown us how ingenious we can be. There are all kinds of virtual and remote experiences on offer now – from virtual gallery tours, remote cooking classes, online yoga classes or language lessons. Team catchups can be an opportunity to share discoveries and suggestions. See what resonates for different people.
Planning to succeed
“Over the past year we seem to have been designing the way we did business every day, sometimes we’d start out one way and be doing something different by the afternoon.”
While crisis situations can mean constantly having to react, there are things we can do to prepare.
Does your to-do list seem overwhelming? Some practice managers we spoke to swear by Stephen Covey’s Four Quadrants (also known as the Eisenhower Matrix). This model can help bring some structure back to an out-of-control list. It can help you decide what you need to do now, and what you can delegate, delay, or ditch.
If you can, try to plan and test communications in advance. That will help you iron out any misunderstandings and make your messages as simple and easy to understand as possible. You may have some advance warning of upcoming changes, or you may be able to plan for some likely scenarios. Don’t forget to check PracticeHub and see if you have access to templates or guides that could help.
Difficult patient encounters
One scenario it can be really helpful to prepare for is the difficult or aggressive patient encounter. These can be easier to manage if you have already taken some steps. You can put in place agreed standards of behaviour, make sure staff know you support them in enforcing those standards, and share guidance on effective ways to respond.
As the practice manager it’s easy to think you need to take everything on, be across all the issues, keep calm for your staff, solve all the problems. Often a better strategy is to look for resources and support from your community.
- Your peer networks or a trusted friend may be able to provide a sounding board for non-confidential issues.
- Check whether you have access to an employee assistance program through your practice or professional organisation.
- Invest in your team. Many of them are only too willing to help and support. They are keen for opportunities to develop their own skills and build their expertise. When you encourage them to come up with solutions you’re also benefiting from their perspectives, as well as helping to make sure they feel heard and valued. Developing your team also means you get to take a proper break without being constantly on call.
- Remember to check with PracticeHub and Avant. Take advantage of the resources, templates and guidelines we’ve developed. These are based on many years of experience and supporting others through the challenges of practice. PracticeHub policies cover issues ranging from managing leave requests, privacy, social media, managing a difficult or violent encounter in the workplace, debriefing, return to work policies, to managing a practice shutdown.
Find out how you can draw on the experience of the PracticeHub team to develop processes and policies to support your practice environment, phone us on 1300 469 866 or book a meeting with one of our helpful consultants.
This article is not comprehensive and does not constitute legal or medical advice. You should seek legal or other professional advice before relying on its content, and practise proper clinical decision making with regard to the individual circumstances. Persons implementing any recommendations contained in this article must exercise their own independent skill or judgement or seek appropriate professional advice relevant to their own particular practice. Compliance with any recommendations will not in any way guarantee discharge of the duty of care owed to patients and others coming into contact with the health professional or practice. Avant is not responsible to you or anyone else for any loss suffered in connection with the use of this information. Information is only current at the date initially published. © Avant Mutual Group Limited 2023.