10 things Google can teach veterinary practices about a happy workplace
There’s a reason Google has topped Forbes’ “Best Places to Work” over the years. Employees enjoy free, onsite exercise classes; a break room fully equipped with pool, ping-pong and foosball tables; scooters for getting around the office and slides when employees want to skip the stairs. Now wouldn’t it be great if you could create that kind of environment in your veterinary practice?
You can, Dr. Ruth MacPete told attendees in a packed session at CVC Kansas City. “I’m not saying you have to hold hip-hop dance classes at your clinic, but you can definitely create a workplace that’s more like Google,” she says. Here are just a few of Dr. MacPete’s ideas for bringing a little bit of that energy into your practice.
1. Be happy. Come in positive and be ready to work, says Dr. MacPete. “Channel a Labrador retriever when you’re at work—just be happy,” she says. And if the day takes an unpleasant turn? Stay calm, take a deep breath and get your emotions in check before you react.
2. Be approachable. Be open and willing to communicate with coworkers, suggests Dr. MacPete. “Tell employees you want them to come to you,” she says. “If you don’t, little concerns can become much bigger problems.”
3. Hire happy people. Stack the deck in your favor with positive, happy employees. “A negative person can bring down the clinic’s morale as much as a positive one can raise it,” Dr. MacPete says. Plus, happy people tend to be more productive—and that leads to increased profitability for your practice.
4. Promote a healthy lifestyle. Encourage wellness by offering nutritious snacks like fruit, vegetables, nuts and protein bars. Replace soda with water, tea and coffee. Dr. MacPete says Google keeps its healthy snacks in plain sight and “hides” not-to-healthy options, like chocolate, in opaque canisters so they’re not as visible.
5. Encourage active lunch breaks. Just 20 minutes outside in good weather has been shown to improve employees’ moods and memory, so encourage your employees to get outside and take a walk over their breaks, says Dr. MacPete. “And don’t forget to set a good example and do it, too,” she says.
6. Encourage participation in fitness events. Check with local shelters or humane societies for charity dog walks or similar events. “You’ll foster a sense of team spirit, improve your employees’ health and well-being, and do a good thing for charity,” Dr. MacPete says.
Other ways to promote fitness could include biking or walking to work or holding a walking challenge. “Give everyone a pedometer and see who moves the most,” she says.
7. Give praise freely. Everyone needs affirmation—and your employees are no exception. Don’t be an employer who only points out mistakes or tells team members they don’t work hard enough. Instead, be willing to say “good job,” or give out thank-you notes, gift certificates or rewards.
Dr. MacPete also suggests setting up a system to recognize employees who have gone above and beyond at work. Ask staff members to write a quick note when they see someone doing a great job and put it in a “good job” box. Then read the notes of praise at the next staff meeting. “It’s a great way to make team members stop and think about what others are doing,” she says.
8. Promote professional growth. Continuing education helps keep employees sharp and strengthens their self-esteem and sense of worth. “Set up lunch-and-learn meetings or send your staff members to conferences,” says Dr. MacPete. “When they return, ask them to teach the rest of team what they learned.”
9. Foster team spirit. Creating enjoyable experiences outside of work promotes camaraderie and goodwill. Dr. MacPete suggests activities such as karaoke, bowling or rolling skating. (Your practice’s holiday party doesn’t count.) She also recommends breaking staff members into teams with people they don’t usually work closely with to get them out of their comfort zone. “Your staff will be more effective if they can work as a team outside of your practice and really enjoy being together,” she says.
10. Finally, start with yourself. Remember, only you can control your behavior—and that behavior can set the tone of your practice and influence others. “We work in a great profession,” says Dr. MacPete. “Don’t forget that we should be happy and grateful to come to work every day.”