How to Bring Fun Back to Your Practice During the Pandemic

Pandemic fatigue is real. You feel it, and so does your team. A poll conducted in February 2021 revealed that approximately 40% of U.S. adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder during the pandemic. As a practice manager, you're keenly aware that veterinary teams have been hit hard. A survey conducted by Not One More Vet found that 67% of veterinarians and 47% of veterinary support staff report their mental health is in worse shape this year than last.

You can't make the pandemic disappear — although recent vaccination efforts show promise — but you can bring fun and joy back to your practice. After a year of nonstop worry, fear, and sadness, everyone could use a little positivity right now. Making an effort to spend quality time together and laugh more often can do a world of good for your team's morale. Here are five ideas you can use to help jump-start your practice's return to fun.

FREE HANDBOOK: Improving veterinary team morale

1. Bring Back Engaging Team Meetings

Remember when you spent days planning team meetings your team would love? It's likely that all that went by the wayside when you went into pandemic survival mode and could no longer safely sit around the same table. Now that you have mastered curbside care, and are possibly moving back to a more normal routine, it's time to reinstitute team meetings. And, it's time to bring your A-game. Think of creative ways to get important information across to your team. Games are always popular — think infectious disease Jeopardy, or an online polling game, such as Kahoot, to bring everyone up to speed on your new PIMS.

2. Plan Creative Mid-Day Breaks

Once a month, schedule a few hours in the afternoon for team-building activities. Lock the doors, turn on the answering machine, and focus on reconnecting. Some ideas your team may enjoy include the following:

  • Yoga: Move your lobby chairs aside and ask everyone to bring a yoga mat and water bottle. Whether you hire a yoga instructor or simply find a great YouTube video, stretching together can remove built-up physical and mental tension.

  • Board games: Someone on your team is bound to own Vets Against Insanity or another similar game. Break it out, and provide gift cards for the winners.

  • Field trip: Plan a picnic at a nearby park for some rest and relaxation — and maybe a game of Frisbee.

3. Focus on Your Practice Culture

Things have been tough, and you may have granted a pass for short tempers or grumpiness, but let your team know that the grace period is over. Make an effort to create a lighthearted practice culture that keeps your team happy. Simple details, such as playing music in the treatment area, can reduce tension. Humming along to oldies helps keep the overall mood light and your team upbeat.

4. Reward Your Hardworking Team

The past year has likely been your practice's most challenging, and your team deserves to know how much you appreciate their daily efforts. Whether you've done a great job all along showing your team how vital they are or the year's busyness got the best of you, now is the time to let your team know how incredible they are for sticking by your side. Write an individual letter to each team member thanking them for their specific role during the pandemic, and include a token of appreciation, such as a bonus or gift card. Or, splurge and plan a team trip. It doesn't have to be a big one. You could all take a weekend away somewhere. Studies show that anticipating a vacation provides a significant mental health boost and can improve your team's morale during the months leading up to the trip.

5. Venture Outside the Practice

If your team members are vaccinated, consider planning a fun evening or weekend outing. Head to a local restaurant, bowling alley, or pub for some much-needed camaraderie. If your team is uncomfortable with indoor activities, find a restaurant with an outdoor dining area or try something new, such as paintball, to take on a new experience together. The activity you choose is not as important as the opportunity to spend time having fun and bonding. Don't forget to take photos to share on your Facebook page or practice bulletin board.

After the challenging last year, your team desperately needs to laugh to help them remember why they love working at your practice. Injecting some fun now will keep your team engaged and excited to come to work.

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Sarah Rumple
Owner, Chief Creative Officer of Rumpus Writing and Editing

Sarah Rumple is an award-winning veterinary writer and editor. Since 2011, her work has focused on pet health/behavior and veterinary practice management topics. Her clients include individual veterinary practice owners, national corporations, nonprofit associations, media companies, consultants, and others. Learn more at sarahrumple.com.

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