Employee engagement: COVID-19 holiday edition

After a long and challenging year, there is a lot to be grateful for this holiday season. As we give thanks for our health, our families, and our support networks – let’s also remember to thank the employees who help run and manage optometry practices across the country.

Whether a front desk coordinator, optometric assistant, recaller, or optician, your staff members have worked hard throughout the pandemic to deliver quality care to your patients. Many have gone above and beyond to address problems that have arisen during this unusual year.

Normally, December would see staff holiday parties, bonuses, and maybe some extra time off. Whether a gift or a gathering, these are important ways to increase employee engagement. They make staff feel valued, and they help foster a strong team culture.

In the absence of being able to gather in many jurisdictions, practices need to think creatively about supporting and thanking their employees this year.

While not the same as gathering in-person, hosting a staff holiday party online can be a fun alternative. I’ve seen some organizations deliver food, drinks, and other goodies to the homes of their employees, so that everyone can break bread together, virtually.

As an essential service, optometry practices may not have been hit as hard financially as other kinds of businesses. While it’s important to keep costs down in periods of uncertainty, I encourage practice owners to think of employee bonuses as investments. Some businesses have recognized frontline workers with additional pay throughout the pandemic. Pay increases across the board may not be feasible for every business, but financially recognizing the hard work of your employees at year-end is one way to make them feel valued.

If you would rather recognize your staff without cutting a cheque, give the gift of time. After a long and tumultuous year, extra paid time off – particularly around the holidays – can be a generous and thoughtful gift.

Finally, a handwritten card, a personal phone call, or a short one-on-one meeting devoted to thanking each staff member can go a long way. It can be easy to forget that your employees choose to work for you – there are other practices and other jobs they could apply for. And though their jobs come with responsibilities, not every employee cares about exceeding expectations, and not everyone meets new challenges with motivation and a positive attitude.

However you choose to thank your team this year, make sure you acknowledge how they’ve contributed to your practice in 2020. There are a lot of employees who have added sanitization procedures and other COVID-19 safety protocols to their responsibilities. Many go into work even though it might be safer for them at home.

At the end of the day, practices don’t run and revenue doesn’t flow without the people who book appointments, recall patients, and take care of them when they visit your practice. Make sure they know that you recognize all that they do.

Stay safe, and have a happy holiday season.