The three things responsible practices are doing now in response to COVID-19

COVID-19 plannerMark Topley gives his three Cs, explaining what dental practices can still do in this current time of the COVID-19 crisis.

The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the way we live, work and socialise in ways that would seem impossible after the first case on 31 December 2019 in Wuhan, China. Less than three months later, We’re in the midst of a national lockdown.

Already the impact on business is huge – businesses and shops are closing, people are losing jobs, our teams are either working short time or companies are furloughing staff. Cash flow has become a major headache, and we also have our own family’s safety to protect. It’s stressful and exhausting as we get use to a new normal.

In addition to addressing the critical challenges of finance and HR, which all businesses do, the responsible and purpose driven practices also respond in ways that will genuinely help the community now, and build trust for the future. Here are the three Cs.

Care for your team

Your team need you to lead – now more than ever. They are reading the same news and are susceptible to the same fears as anyone. So it’s important to communicate clearly about the situation, even if you don’t know what’s coming.

In situations where there is a lack of clarity, human nature is to go to create their own ‘worst case scenario’ narrative. So take control, show your team that you’re in it together, that you’ll keep them up to speed and involve them in problem solving.

If you have team members who are furloughed, you need to increase the level of contact above the normal. Take time to connect in groups or individually. There is no barrier to checking in to see how people are doing. Show empathy, keep their spirits up.

For staff who are still working, make sure you recognise their efforts. They will inevitably have additional family pressures at the moment and so it’s even more important that they feel valued.

Overall, you must communicate you have your team’s back.

Communicate

It’s no surprise that all the forums I visit are talking about quality communication.

Communicate with patients

You have an opportunity to care for your patients in ways that few other providers can at the moment. ‘Care calls’ are providing a lifeline to the vulnerable and alone. You’ve got a patient database, use it to call people in the at-risk groups, and offer help where you can.

You can encourage and support your patients with information at the moment. Your social media and newsletter are a good opportunity to get some important messages across. Emphasise how people can get clinical help if they need it, profile additional services they can access, and share what you’re doing to help out the community – whether that’s delivering care packages, volunteering or supporting your neighbours. You can also share ideas that will help people deal with isolation, whether that’s keeping kids occupied or dealing with the mental and emotional health challenges.

Communicate with the public

The pandemic is your opportunity to really step up as a business and show that you care about your community. Your social media channels are a great way to push out information that will help people to access services and be better informed. Use sources like the WHO, NHS and informationisbeautiful.net.

You’ve also got the opportunity to inspire people with your actions. If you’re doing good things in the community, talk about it and encourage others to do the same. Acts of kindness inspire us all. Whatever you do, do not switch off your public communication or raise the drawbridge – use this opportunity to connect with the public and demonstrate your values.

Connect with your community

Finally, responsible practices are using their time and resources to make a difference. They are connecting with their community at a time when it’s never been more important. This outward focus not only makes a difference, it also has the knock on effect of giving the practice a sense of greater purpose.

Sign post people and connect with others

There are a multitude of local groups springing up to support each other. So where that exists, don’t dilute efforts and reinvent the wheel. Join COVID-19 Mutual Aid UK, download apps like Nextdoor to find out how you can join with others and find people who need help.

Support food banks

My local food bank saw a 200% increase in genuine demand in the first week of the pandemic. That’s now growing even more with the impact being felt by the self employed who rely on weekly cash flow to service. Without donations and volunteers, they will not be able to serve people in need in the coming days. You can help:

  • Donate food – check their Facebook page first to see what they need, or get in touch, then follow through. Some will collect
  • Donate time – in the short and medium-term, they may need help. Many food bank volunteers are retired, and so are now self-isolating. Ask – they may need you and have ways that you can help at home.

Encourage your team to volunteer

Furloughed staff can volunteer with no risk to their income. Again, connect with local groups to see where people are needed and encourage and support your team to play a role.

We’re living day by day through a very challenging time. But it will pass. We have an opportunity to respond personally and corporately in ways that will help us to be proud of what we did.

With a calm, intentional and consistent approach to our CSR in crisis, paying attention to the ‘three Cs’, we can emerge from the next few months united, resilient and resolute. Ready to rise to the challenge of rebuilding our teams and our businesses. What’s more, we will make a difference.

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