Practice team guide

Managing team wellbeing

Optometrists Neil Retallic and Peter Greedy provide guidance on fostering mentally healthy workplaces

people stretching

A growing number of workplaces are recognising that failing to address factors that compromise employee happiness is not only counterproductive in terms of individual wellbeing – but leads to a less productive workforce.

A study of call workers by University of Oxford researchers in 2019 found a strong link between happiness levels and sales performance.

As well as reducing productivity, drains on employee wellbeing can lead to staff requiring extended breaks from work.

The latest registrant survey by the General Optical Council found that close to one in 10 optometrists and dispensing opticians had taken a leave of absence as a result of stress.

So how can you foster wellbeing within optical practices? OT asked optometrists Neil Retallic and Peter Greedy for their thoughts.

Workplace culture

Retallic encouraged practices to adopt a positive mental health culture by encouraging open conversations.

“Individuals within the workplace can help shape a culture that encourages acceptance that mental health issues are not a failure or taboo subject and that actively talking about personal experiences and how they have overcome challenges is a strength,” he observed.

He noted that simple steps, such as setting personal daily targets to achieve a work-life balance, can be useful. This might include practising relaxation techniques or going for a walk during breaks.

Reflecting on the key features of a happy workplace, Retallic described a team that is communicating with each other and feels free to outline changes that are required to support their personal and professional needs.

Actively talking about personal experiences and how they have overcome challenges is a strength

Neil Retallic

“Teams who take time to understand their colleagues’ personal interests, how to work best together and self-reflect will outperform those just focused on business operational activities,” he said.

Seven steps to wellbeing

Optometrist, coach and leadership consultant, Peter Greedy, highlighted seven areas that optometrists can focus on to improve wellbeing: nutrition, sleep, exercise, mindfulness, learning, service and creativity.

Practice managers should reflect on how they can encourage healthy food choices at work – for example, by having suitable facilities to prepare food at work.

They could also provide the space for weary employees to have a recharging power nap.

A lunchtime walk with a colleague can help to incorporate exercise into the working day – and walking with a peer provides accountability and motivation.

Greedy shared that mindfulness activities can easily be done in a quiet, dark room

“I focus on my breathing, note when my mind wanders and refocus on breathing,” he said.

Greedy encouraged practices to provide access to online learning for staff. He also highlighted that while optometry is a service profession, staff should consider how they frame their work.

“Do we approach it as an act of service or just go through the motions of the customer service playbook?” he asked.

Social media, frame selections, window displays and seasonal themes all provide opportunities for creativity within practice, Greedy highlighted.

Peter Greedy fosters workplace wellbeing through personal coaching and leadership development services. Find out more through his website or contact him directly on 07906 632378