WFH Survival Guide: Tips for Dental Practices Adjusting to Remote Work

As dental practices across the country are forced into remote work, here are some tips for making each day matter. Working from home can be tough. I write this as a full-time, remote employee of RevenueWell. I also write this while my toddler screams from two rooms over, my mother is blasting Baby Shark to pacify him, and my wife — sitting right behind me — holds a conference call on speakerphone because she can't find her EarPods.

This is a longwinded way of saying that even those of us fully accustomed to WFH life have our challenges. Since you've likely transitioned much of your day to remote working, we wanted to offer up suggestions on ways to adjust. Some of the suggestions below are specific to dental professionals. While others are more general to help you maintain sanity. If you have any tips of your own, please join and drop them in our RevenueWell Rockstars Facebook Group.

Tips for Dental Practices Working Remotely

"Embrace your virtual office" — Jonathan Bass, RevenueWell

The best thing you can do is stick to your traditional routine as much as possible. Wake up, eat breakfast, take a shower, get dressed in work clothes, make coffee ... whatever you normally did before physically going into the practice each day, do that. If your kids are old enough to understand, spell out your work space and set clear boundaries. If they're too young to understand, do your best to keep them entertained, but be upfront with your teammates that there might be a little one running around, making noise.

Over-communicate with your team. Let them know if you're going to make a sandwich or if you have a phone call or if the neighbor started cutting the grass right when you got a call from a patient. Offer a sense of normalcy. Patients want comfort. Anything you can do to provide a sense of normalcy will help them forget that, at the moment, the world is on its head. To do so, embrace your virtual office and make sure you have the necessary tools — phone, remote access to your management software and marketing system, patient portal, online payments — set up. Though you may not be in the terrestrial office, you can still provide that sense of normalcy from home — and if you've embraced teledentistry this goes double.

Finally, know when to log off. I, personally, have a problem picking up my computer throughout the evening and ticking off an email or answering a Slack message. It definitely creates an occasional strain on my relationship. When it's time to punch the clock, go tend to your family and enjoy the evening. Work will be there in the morning. The sun always rises in the east.

"Have a plan" — Katie Franklin, My Smile Advantage

Have a plan. Think about designing and implementing an in-office membership program that is ready to roll out when your practice re-opens. Tons of people are losing their jobs, and some may be losing their dental insurance. They will need and want a membership program that offers access to quality, affordable dental care. Plus, patients will be reluctant to come to the dentist due to costs in our struggling economy. And many who do come in will likely ask for discounts. Have your in-office membership program ready to go, so you can offer patients these cash discounts (legally).

"Ease the fear of your patients" — Sean Hamel, Grow Practice Grow

Never in our history have we been able to take a few weeks of vacation alongside the rest of the world. Use this precious downtime to be productive in building a powerful content mix. People have questions. Start answering them to ease the fears of your followers, patients, and the local community. Once this storm has passed, it's going to be followed by a lot of cautious consumers getting back to their old routines.

Consider positioning yourself and your practice as a guide for them back to normal. For example, educate people on the sterilization protocols your practice adheres to. You know them, but do patients? It's a great time to teach them. Discuss oral health and wellness moving forward. Think about what currently worries or scares you and consider that many others likely have those same fears. Do what you can to speak to them. I've been asking dentists to consider a switch to single-use instruments and to promote that switch through social media and on their website. Explain that it's an extra step you are taking even though you are not required to. Discuss the benefits of single-use instruments and the increased level of safety they provide. Single-use tools provide a lot of other benefits in terms of outcome and efficiency.

However, at this critical time, they also showcase what people are yearning for: safety and cleanliness. Going above and beyond to do what's best for the collective. It will look very good on your practice.

"Stay educated" — Kevin Henry, Dr. Bicuspid

I am a strong believer that how you respond to a situation defines who you really are. During this time of uncertainty, there are a lot of team members and dentists who are unsure of what the future may hold for them and their dental business. They're also unsure about which patients will return to the practice and what dentistry may look like as an industry. Can you put all of those distractions aside and continue to improve as a healthcare provider? Are you still "all in" while working remotely as you would be if you were seeing patients?

Sure, it's a different dynamic, but we all need to give our best to our jobs and careers in order to grow, during a pandemic or during a "normal day" at the practice. There are plenty of distractions when working remotely. How are you making sure you're staying focused and staying educated? How you respond to this unexpected time off will manifest when dentistry returns to normal soon. Make sure your best side is showing.

"Be positive" — Judy Kay, Practice Solutions Inc

During this time of quarantine and social distancing, it's important to keep your team on the same page. Schedule weekly check-in meetings (using GoToMeeting, Zoom, or another video conferencing tool) to keep the team engaged. During these check-ins, it's important to be positive. Cover business, but also discuss feelings, give hopeful words, encourage laughter, talk about fun topics and new things you've tried, and share funny stories.

"Stay productive" — Laci Phillips, Practice Dynamics

We have created a list for each team member to help everyone stay productive, and there's a lot on it. Here are some of the most important items to consider while you simultaneously work remotely and prepare for reopening:

  • Research the new Teledentistry solutions available and determine if it's a fit for your practice?
  • Work with the business team and learn the Continuing Care Module. Create a plan to clean it up and start using it
  • Clean up outstanding and duplicate treatment plans
  • Create a reactivation plan utilizing past present and future due dates
  • Review and update OSHA and HIPAA manuals and policies
  • Clean up the database
  • Check in with your team! Let them know you are all in this together and will get through this. Utilize video calls for better connection

"Communicate clearly" — Lynne Leggett, Victory Dental Management

Create your plan as a team and work the plan. During these extraordinary times, we still need to connect with each other. Communicate regularly and watch out for one another. Stress is a peculiar thing, and each person reacts differently to it. A team member that may normally be very calm, may become easily agitated during your team meetings. Try using a webcam during your team meetings so you can see one another, not just hear their voice. Make sure to communicate clearly and delegate the responsibilities of each team member. Update the team each time a task is completed. This can be accomplished using a Google document or other methods of written team communication. The most important thing is to love on one another. We are all in this together.

"Set a work schedule" — Dana Salisbury, Productive Dentist Academy

Does your workers' compensation policy cover remote employees? Regardless of your answer, there are ways to assure the safety and wellbeing of your employees during this uncharted territory of telework. Use a temporary telework agreement to outline new and temporary work requirements. Note relevant physical safety and ergonomic recommendations. Set a work schedule with recommended breaks and meal periods. Include additional duties that may be requested of the employee, and outline loaned or necessary equipment used in teleworking with the team. To protect your practice and patient data, reinforce the importance of the practice's expectations regarding information security. Continue blending these essential factors of employee and team wellbeing throughout this period by remaining in regular communication with your team. Check your state laws for best practices regarding teleworking, as some restrictions have changed during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Run your practice remotely and continue delivering great patient care with RevenueWell's Virtual Office.