A Dental Laboratory’s Experience of Building a Wellbeing Strategy

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PD Ceramic’s plan in 2020 was to adapt the business to ensure that we could build-in a wellbeing approach for the team and restructure the business, but then Covid-19 struck. Doing the MSc. had focused me to understand the five pillars that organisational leaders should address in the workplace: financial, career, social, physical, and emotional wellbeing, but we needed to figure out what the next steps should be to prioritise wellbeing onsite using these pillars. To provide this in the business we also needed to be realistic and find the time and money to make it happen. 

By using the 5 Pillars of Wellbeing for each team member, we were able to understand our contribution as employers to the balance we could offer onsite long-term to the team and find a good way to build wellbeing into our business life necessity!

The Five Pillars of Wellbeing

1. Financial

Being able to take steps to improve the financial wellbeing of our employees post Covid was a key goal for us entering 2022. Educating the team on their financial situation and opportunities started with us looking at how we could financially meet the growth of an employee within the company with salary and career growth. 

Getting employees to financially contribute to the business by committing to working with the business was a 2-way conversation. How employees could start to save financially began with a move to a 4-Day work week for our dental technicians for cost of travel in May 2022, but equally reduces the cost of running machines one day per week in the business. Accessing the company pension scheme is another tax incentive that benefits the company and employees. This comes into law next year in Ireland also, but we have started it already.

PD Ceramics wellbeing introduction

2. Career

Our choice of career is important when it comes to wellbeing and fulfilling your passions in life. Being in the wrong career affects us every day. It is a known fact that when you love your career, it is never hard work. We looked at the commitment of team members to their work role in the company and could see satisfaction or dissatisfaction, connection and struggles within the team and a genuine desire for career progression. 

Wellbeing in our careers needs strong support from leaders also to invest in career progression or diversification to keep and grow talent in the dental sector. I always go with my gut when it comes to encouraging regular conversations, evaluations and personal development plans for teams that support this. 

People came and went unfortunately as our joint values didn’t align, but equally we can only ever meet someone where we are personally. It is a braver move to decide to leave than stay in a career or organisation that you feel isn’t supporting your wellbeing either. We welcomed all insights from the team and wanted them to feel they were driving this change also in the business.

3. Physical

Our laboratory team spends a large portion of their day both on the bench producing dental restorations or in front of a screen in a managerial or administrative position. These sedentary roles can affect physical wellbeing the most. 

In 2022, our aim to renovate the laboratory, looked at ergonomics and ways to incorporate movement into the daily tasks. Having strong health and safety policies are necessary in every business. Little things like using the stairs to reach the office on the first floor where our premises are located helps us all on a day, but we equally have a lift onsite to support moving equipment or if anyone needs to use the lift at times within the team and for customers and patients. Having to get up and move to use a furnace, doing certain processes etc ensures the technicians move constantly during the day. 

We also have a standing area in our dispatch routine, so our administration team can stretch instead of sitting at the desk all day. Tasks are designed for us all to move at some point. We have the kitchen set-up for healthy eating options and even having an area for us all as a team to sit and chat is very important. Our team also has a great healthy outlook and are gym members, mountain climbers, fishing experts, and sea swimmers for their own wellbeing. 

As a collective, we are always inspiring each other, especially since Covid-19. We ran our first workplace wellbeing day in April 2023 with the expert support of Bernie Ffrench in SCCUL Sanctuary, Clarinbridge, Galway. It was a huge success, incorporating a Physiotherapist-Pilates instructor, Tai Chi, Sound Bath and Yoga therapies for physical wellbeing and some delicious food from local businesses and fresh air on the day.

4. Social 

Social connection and interactions of employees was something we saw as a vital necessity to understand, as it affected the company and the individual inside and outside of work life. The 4-Day Work Week derived also from a need for our dental technicians to find time to devote to personal and social activities that wouldn’t conflict with work. 

As a work cohort, they traditionally have been under huge pressure, working extremely long hours in sedentary positions and we wanted to change that in our sector. We hope in the future that the dental sector can start to embrace this initiative too as it has turned the tide on how productive and fulfilled our dental technicians feel in the workplace. 

A simple thing like having a proper coffee machine and a kitchen area for the team to sit and have a chat on a day with each other made a huge difference. That connecting piece of checking in on each other or having a laugh about things “like a certain person who always managed to arrive for a birthday cake or a takeaway” helps us all! Those are the things that keep you going. Even within our community in the industrial estate where we are located, we started to regularly run a barbeque event outdoors and a fundraising event that connects us socially with our neighbours. This makes us all feel valued and part of growth in our local business estate also.

5. Emotional

Organisation of the workplace and work culture was essential post Covid. Emotional wellbeing has been a big focus since the pandemic for our team and starting the workplace wellbeing is allowing us to give them a chance to find tools for relaxation that can benefit them long-term. 

Giving the business an overhaul internally in terms of the layout of the laboratory by flooding it with natural light, bright walls and a lovely aesthetic finish creates a spacious feeling unlike dental laboratories years ago. 

Being able to talk openly at team huddles allows us to have open, healthy discussions and this also affords us the opportunity to problem solve together as a team and support each other. By putting problems in perspective and supporting solutions that build a team member’s confidence etc, also helps us with staff retention, training, and future development of a team member. 

As leaders, we also want to encourage open discussion about how dignity at work should be handled between our team and our customers and dissolve stressful situations by knowing that you can always come and talk to us privately.

Conclusion

Focusing on cultivating a supportive approach to strengthening these five pillars of wellbeing in the workforce starts with good leadership. By creating a fine-tuned workforce who are happy and content, we hope that this benefits not only our team members, but also our customers and ultimately their patients. It takes investment and time to bring this to life. 

As a dental sector employer, we are now looking at the new ‘Healthy Workplaces Framework 2022-2025’, which gives strategic programmes and policies to support the health of workers in Ireland. There are great signposts to guide any business embarking on their wellbeing journey. We are looking to benefit from this support even more as we support wellbeing in our company.

We completed our first workplace wellbeing day on April 28th, 2023 at SCCUL Sanctury, Clarinbridge, Co. Galway which proved to be a great success. Our team came away revitalised, enthusiastic and grateful for the wonderful experience which was supported by Bernie Ffrench, who volunteered on the day to bring wonderful therapists to work with us as a team: 

  • Adam Cwik – Thai Chi Master
  • Anita Kerins – Specialist Physiotherapist/Yoga & Pilates Instructor
  • Garrick Hunt – Sound Bath Practitioner & Shalom Smith BA (ISHom) – Satyananda Yoga Instructor
  • Dr. Mahrukh Khwaja Dentist & Positive Psychologist (MAPP) who shared her amazing book and resources also.

Profitability doesn’t just come as a financial reward, it can often be seen represented by a strong and healthy workforce, who feel supported and driven in their sector. We want to leave a legacy behind that wellbeing should be part of our workforces’ strength in the dental sector. We all have a part to play in achieving that though.

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