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The Myth of Work/Life Balance in Dentistry


Work/life balance is anything but easy in today's labor shortage climate.


Work/life balance is a concept that we all strive for, but let’s be honest, it isn’t possible. In my opinion, it was not possible before the pandemic, and it is even less so now.

I know that is a loaded statement. So, let’s unpack it. Prior to Covid in 2020, we had a robust dental workforce. Many years ago, consultants introduced a concept of how we needed balance in our lives between work and our personal lives. The concept was obvious, but the reality of it was always hard to achieve. Companies spent big bucks to try to make it work, but it failed miserably in every industry. Why am I so cynical? Simply put, I was part of the problem by giving presentations to corporations about balancing work and life. The sad truth is that it wasn’t possible then and is impossible now.

Fast forward to post-2020. So many dental professionals left the field after Covid. Some decided to retire, and others were fearful of catching this infection. Some didn’t see the value of staying in the field as they could earn more money in retail. That is sobering.

We are not recruiting and graduating enough dental hygienists, dental assistants, or EFDAs in dental programs. Here in Cleveland, Ohio, one school was only graduating 14 dental hygienists and 12 dental assistants. We are in the middle of a labor shortage that will not end anytime in the near future.

Then you have vultures like me (I mean recruiters.) We are doing a cardinal sin and recruiting from your competition. Whether it is researching the competition and approaching your staff, or just simply matching candidates on Indeed, grabbing employees is the biggest problem we are facing right now in the industry. Every day I get on the computer and reach out to 50-100 dental professionals. This constant barrage of emails, texts, and voicemails is creating a retention challenge. Why stick around when sign-on bonuses entice your staff to leave? In fact, last month I wrote about attacking this staffing shortage by having flexibility due to childcare issues for your staff. So, remember, retention is your problem, not recruitment. If your people are happy, they delete my emails and don’t consider leaving.

This situation is like popcorn. You reach out to candidates and fight the clock trying to have them apply, screen, and interview as soon as possible. Otherwise, they are gone. I bring the staffing issue into this conversation because it goes together with work/life balance. If you are hiring, you need to take calls after hours, and maybe facilitate video interviews vs. coming into the office. I know this infringes on your home life, but these are challenging times with no relief coming down the pike. This staffing cycle can’t be broken if your staff doesn’t want to use their cell phones to call and text candidates. I respect that your office leaders want boundaries between work and family. But that isn’t an option in this current climate. That is one reason why recruiters like me get hired. You don’t have the time or flexibility to screen people at 6 a.m. or 8 p.m. But you really have no choice. If you receive a text from your recruiter that you have a candidate, jump on it. It is not something that can wait for tomorrow because those candidates will be gone.

When I was speaking on work/life balance to corporations, these are the things I shared:

  1. Make a goal. One that is achievable. You want to go to the casino on Friday night. If you have a goal, you will socialize less with colleagues or skip lunch to get ahead of the paperwork.
  2. Have a plan B. Realize that you can not control certain variables such as the patient coming in late and throwing your schedule off. Push your plans to meet at the casino at 7 p.m. instead of 6 p.m.
  3. Take your vacation and PTO days. Why leave money on the table? Everyone is expendable. The place will roll without you. Your teams will adapt.

I believe that when you have a goal, you can find more peace. It is amazing how much time is wasted in every industry with nonsense. If people worked smart and complained less, you would have a better balance. But the more I schmooze, the longer it takes for me to get out of there at the end of the day. Instead, stay focused and go after what you want. Make some boundaries but realize you may have to be flexible in trying times like right now.

Email me at diana2@discussdirectives.com and share what you think about work/life balance and if you have one.

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