dental team

The end of the year brings good tidings and cheer. It also brings full hygiene schedules and a rush of patients wanting to use up their dental benefits. College students are home for the holidays, and a plethora of dental patients with broken crowns from holiday candies also stampede through the doors. While other professions seem to have the privilege of taking time off during the holidays, dentistry pushes through the last weeks of the year, often working longer hours and accommodating procrastinating patients. 

As I reflect on the grind of the coming holiday season, I like to think of the things that spark holiday cheer. Often, it’s actually the “little things” we do around the dental practice that can brighten the team’s day and make this busy time more enjoyable. Here are some ideas to bring more holiday cheer to your team’s day! 

Decorate Your Dental Practice

Psychologists say holiday decorations are nostalgic and bring people back to simpler and happier times. They also help boost dopamine, the feel-good hormone. So if you’re feeling like a grouch this season, consider putting up decorations around the office and in your operatory.

Bright lights and colors increase energy levels and boost happiness, so I string lights around the windows and cabinets. I place wreaths on all the doors of the operatories and small Christmas trees at the end of the hallways. Some practices put out a menorah or even wrapped gift boxes to brighten up the space even more.

One of my guilty pleasures is plugging in my air diffuser with gingerbread or warm vanilla sugar scents, which are much more convenient than candles. I swear that comforting aroma can make even the coldest person feel warm inside. 

Add Ambiance with Holiday Music

Listening to certain holiday songs can make people feel warm, fuzzy, and almost childlike. In one study, researchers examined people’s ability to recall memories after hearing a clip from a song. While they couldn’t think of an exact event from when the song came out, they could recall the general emotion they felt during that time. So, listening to feel-good holiday tracks might make you feel wistful about your childhood or just generally festive and happy because your brain has already created positive associations with the music. I use Pandora to play a holiday music station throughout the day. I sing along to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas” with my coworkers; it always makes our patients laugh. They sometimes sing along too! 

Have a Holiday Potluck

As the work days get busier and busier, our lunch hours seem to become shorter and shorter. We have all been there where we choose quick and convenient protein bars or snacks over a nutritious, protein-rich lunch. With a busy schedule, fueling our bodies properly is more important than ever.

My office has a tradition of throwing a potluck on days we know a lunch hour will be lacking. We make sure to have a wide variety of delicious dips, casseroles, and finger foods to quickly eat in between patients or while waiting on an exam can help make up for the lack of a full lunch hour. People love food almost as much as they love each other, so together, they bring happiness and joy. 

Introduce Holiday Activities

We start the day on the right foot in December by introducing a fun holiday activity during the morning meeting. These morning meeting activities help energize our team and our brains at the start of the workday. We pick a simple and easy game to explain since some employees may not be as alert before coffee kicks in. 

This year, we are guessing each other’s favorite holiday movie quotes. Everyone wrote down a movie quote such as “I thought maybe we could make gingerbread houses, and eat cookie dough, and go ice skating, and maybe even hold hands…” or “Will you please tell Santa that instead of present this year, I just want my family back.” Each morning, we draw one quote out of a hat and read it aloud to each other to guess which movie the quote was from and which coworkers said it was their favorite movie quote. This has brought minutes of laughter before our busy work day! 

Last year, we completed Holiday Mad Libs. If you are unfamiliar with Mad Libs, they are a phrasal template word game that consists of one player prompting others for a list of words to substitute for blanks in a story before reading out loud. We found hundreds of free accessible holiday templates on the internet. We sat around the table, and each took a turn filling in a blank until the template was complete. Our dentist read the finished phrases back to us and almost couldn’t complete the whole story due to laughing uncontrollably at some of the answers! After these activities, I felt energized and encouraged to get through our busy day working closely together as a team who enjoyed each other’s company. 

Throw a Team Holiday Party 

Holiday events at work always help me and my coworkers feel appreciated and improve the overall mood in the practice. Having a break from routine is a morale booster, especially when the celebration is fun!

If schedules can align, coming together as a team outside the office, whether at a local restaurant or someone’s home, it is a refreshing way to celebrate the holidays with coworkers. Each year, my dentist and office manager come up with a new outing for us all. In the past, we have gone to Top Golf, Zoo Lights, and taken a limo ride to dinner. Good food and strong drinks always bring my office closer together! 

Host a Holiday Gift Exchange

The gift exchange is a major part of celebrating the holidays, but did you know the whole act of gift-giving can offer psychological benefits? Giving a gift is a universal way to show interest, appreciation, and gratitude and strengthen bonds with others. There is an enormous sense of satisfaction when seeing the expression on the face of someone you’ve given a gift to.

My office has always enjoyed hosting an annual Secret Santa gift exchange. Never done a Secret Santa exchange before? Simply put, everyone participating draws a name of someone else in the group and purchases a gift for that person, all while keeping their identity a secret until after the recipient has opened their present (and typically, guessed who their Secret Santa is). 

Speak Up If You’re Feeling Burnout

If you are feeling burnout, do not put yourself on the back burner. I strongly encourage you to have a serious conversation with your manager. The holiday season can be an extremely busy time professionally, but that does not mean it should start to affect you personally. If you feel your schedule is too busy to maintain the standard of care for your patients, or you are starting to feel physical pain from a lack of proper breaks, speak up!

Before the conversation with your manager or dentist, you need to consider the following: What am I asking? What is it that I’m looking for? Is it just inserting an important boundary, or is it that I need to take a break? What solutions can I propose? Make sure to be very factual and frame your thoughts as ‘I see’ or ‘I feel.’ State what you want to accomplish or what you’d like to be the outcome, then invite your boss to respond. Always remember you deserve respect and ethical value from your employer. Never accept anything less for yourself. 

Happy Holidays from Our Team to Yours!

The holiday season can bring even the jolliest person some seasonal stress. Remember to appreciate the little things that make this season so wonderful. Holiday celebrations do more than improve morale for a day. Having annual traditions in the workplace can increase employee motivation and encourage everyone to come together.

We wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from all of us at DentalPost. 

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