3 Ways to Build a Positive Culture at Your Practice


We hear a lot about the importance of culture at work and it is more than a tagline on an email signature. Workplace culture is a set of values, beliefs and attitudes that guide your business. Think of culture as your practice’s personality, which is reflected in everything from the way patients are treated to how your team approaches work. 

That is why it is so critical to ensure your office has a culture in place that cultivates positivity and engagement. But how do you measure the impact of a positive culture? And how do you build one in the first place? This article will take a deep dive into this topic and help get you started. 

What are the effects of workplace culture?
There are countless studies that emphasize the effects a positive culture can have on a business. For one, happy employees will want to stay in their jobs. A recent study at Columbia University showed the turnover rate for companies with thriving cultures was only 13.9 percent. But for companies with a negative culture, the turnover rate soared to 48.4 percent. 

Positive workplaces also contribute to employee engagement and overall excitement about their jobs. Another study witnessed a 12% spike in productivity among happy employees, while employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered and perform their best. 

Conversely, a negative work environment fosters disengagement, which can be costly to your bottom line. Studies have shown that workplaces with stressful, negative cultures lead to 37% higher absenteeism, 49% more accidents and 60% more errors and defects on the job. 

But it’s not just the business that suffers. According to the Harvard Business Review, it is estimated that 550 million workdays in the U.S. are lost due to stress. What’s more, 80% of doctor visits are estimated to be stress-related and can have effects ranging from cardiovascular disease and even mortality. 

Three ways to start building a positive culture 
Obviously, we want your employees (and your practice!) to be happy and healthy, so we are giving you a roadmap to start your journey toward building a positive culture. Before taking this endeavor on, understand that a culture shift will not happen overnight. The changes will come with time and, more importantly, with employee buy-in. So, make sure your entire team is involved in the process and make a conscious effort to frequently gather and implement their feedback.  

Determine what your core values are
Core values are more than words: they are the guiding stars your practice will follow and build into how it treats employees and patients alike. This is a thoughtful process that should not be rushed, so take as much time as you need to develop your core values and get buy-in from your team and any applicable stakeholders.

If you are struggling to come up with core values, simply look within: chances are, you already know what your core values are! Patient satisfaction, dedication to oral health, the value of teamwork: these are just a few values you already practice every single day. Start with those and see where that takes you. 

Inc. also has a great suggestion to add to the brainstorming process: try assigning an imaginary dollar value to the ideas on your list and see which ones rise to the top. Assign each core value idea $1,000 and give yourself $4,000 to spend on them: where does your money go? We bet you’ll see certain values start to stand out from the rest!

Respect everyone’s time
You don’t need core values locked in to respect the time of your teammates. If you have a team meeting on the calendar, start it promptly and refuse the urge to go over time by “just a few minutes” when the meeting is scheduled to end. (Bonus: we have an entire post on running effective meetings here!)

If your practice also conducts one-on-one meetings with teammates, do everything you can to not cancel them or kick them down the road until they are forgotten about. These types of meetings are usually great platforms for teammates to share feedback and talk about their personal development, which are key engagement factors. 

Another way to show respect for a teammates’ time is to recognize when an employee has gone above and beyond. Paying for overtime or rewarding exceptional effort will make teammates feel appreciated and inspire them to want to perform their best, knowing that it will be recognized. 

Encourage taking an actual lunch break
This is another one that you don’t need to have a finalized list of values for: taking a lunch break is just a good practice in general! While we all know the many benefits of eating lunch and taking a breather during the workday, there is still a stigma in some workplaces that make employees feel like they will be judged for doing so. 

In a recent survey, 38% of employees felt lunch breaks were not encouraged in their workplace, while almost 20% of North American employees felt their supervisor would judge them for taking one. And, probably most disheartening of all, nearly one in four North American supervisors surveyed said employees who take a regular lunch break are less hard-working. 

Unfortunately, it is that kind of environment that drives employees toward disengagement or leaving a job altogether, so it is important to encourage a culture that understands the necessity of a proper lunch break. If teammates absolutely must eat a quick lunch due to logistical reasons, still encourage them to take a much-needed break and get a change of scenery!

The bottom line: Building a positive work culture has countless benefits for your teammates and patients. Take the time needed to develop core values that will drive your practice. Things like respecting time and encouraging lunch breaks don’t require an official decree but are huge ways to foster a positive environment. A culture shift will not happen overnight: be patient and continue to take feedback from teammates throughout the process.