Your dental staff needs a space of their own

Dr. David Ahearn, DDS, founder and president of Design Ergonomics

By Dr. David Ahearn, DDS, Founder and President of Design Ergonomics

I know that many doctors are frustrated by the recent dental office staffing shortages. It can be just so difficult to find, and keep, great people. But, despite the difficulty that you may be experiencing in finding new dental staff, please don’t forget that the most important thing is, and will always be, to retain and nurture the great team members that you already have! In a market where there are far more open positions than there are qualified candidates, your existing team members have lots of employment choices. You need them to choose to stay with you, and providing them with a comfortable, private space to unwind and socialize will likely be a factor in their decision making. And, getting that space right starts with your floor plan.

The team at Perfect Smiles in Seekonk, MA gathers in the staff lounge to celebrate Sheila’s 40th … and Halloween

Your floor plan should isolate the dental staff lounge from clinical and business zones

Your staff lounge should be a place for your team to relax and just be themselves, and so my team typically locates this space away from the treatment rooms and business areas. This increases privacy and prevents patients from overhearing conversations not meant for them. If a private staff restroom is not possible, we will try to place one of the clinical area restrooms nearby. It’s beneficial to have a private staff entrance in the lounge, or close by, especially if your practice operates a split shift where the reception area cannot be used for mid-day huddles.

The staff lounge at Washington Dentistry creates an environment that is serene and private

A “free” dental office floor plan may come with some hidden costs

Every year my team at Design Ergonomics reviews hundreds of “free” floor plans drafted by dental equipment manufacturers who are focused on equipment sales, and not necessarily the optimization of space. And you can be almost certain that there will be no consideration for how the floor plan impacts office culture. The issues we see on these “free” plans are … numerous. All too often these plans place the staff lounge in an area that is not sufficiently isolated. For example, the poor placement of the staff lounge in “A” below will allow a substantial amount of conversation and other noise to impact the checkout area. This is distracting to the staff working at those stations, and will be poorly perceived by patients checking out. Example “A is also a totally inadequate space for any significant group interaction!

This staff lounge is like a megaphone pointed at the checkout area

Careful planning will make for a happy team

Staff lounge “B” below presents a much better solution. It is far enough removed from patient areas to prevent sound-bleed, yet is easily accessed from clinical and administrative areas. It is also large enough to accommodate a staff meeting, huddle, or training session (by the way, you really need all of those).

Halloween party in the staff lounge at Perfect Smiles in Seekonk, MA

The decor and lighting at Forever Smiles is modern and elegant. The staff lounge provides a sanctuary for the dental team.

Dr. Tracy Wilkerson’s Children’s Dentistry features bright, colorful elements throughout the office. The staff lounge maintains privacy from clinical areas while providing outdoor views.

Your staff lounge design is an opportunity to differentiate your office and to show how much you value your team. That starts with correct placement within your floor plan to create a space that is private, and isolated from clinical and business areas.

For more inspiration, take a look at our recent dental office design work. If you have any questions, please reach out to my team at Design Ergonomics.


Dr. David Ahearn, DDS, founder and president of Design Ergonomics
Dr. David Ahearn, DDS, Founder and President of Design Ergonomics and Ergonomic Products. To learn a little more about my journey in dentistry, and other principles you can apply to make your practice a fun, easy, and productive place to work, take a look at our This Can All Be Easierplaylist on YouTube. If you enjoy these videos, subscribe to our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/designequiptrain. Turn on notifications to receive our latest video updates.