How to Prevent Burnout and Reduce Turnover

4-minute read


This past year was one for the history books. A global pandemic, social unrest, political discord and the changes in our everyday lives have been emotionally difficult and draining. 

People are exhausted. So how do you move forward when you’re running on empty?

Doing nothing can lead to burnout and staff turnover, which impacts production, growth and employee morale.

Download our guide “How to Prevent Burnout and Reduce Turnover” for real-world tips on how to handle the challenges you’re facing. 

Below are some quick take-aways from dental industry experts.

How to Prevent Burnout

Burnout accelerates when people are forced out of their comfort zone – which has happened to just about everyone this past year. It’s magnified when people feel unheard or unappreciated.

One key to preventing burnout is to create a culture of community and belonging. Smile Brands, a DSO with more than 650 dental practices, created an initiative called S³: Safe. Smile. Space.

The initiative encompasses not just the physical safety of team members, but also psychological and emotional safety. That starts with understanding other people’s experiences and developing a culture of inclusivity, equity, and diversity.

“S³ was born out of the need and necessity to ensure our teams were safe and felt safe, from COVID and from some of the behaviors we began to see from patients as well as the stresses from the social justice events that played out,” said Tanisha Wicker, the Senior Vice President of Human Resources at Smile Brands.

Now it has another rallying cry: Embrace. Empathize. Evolve. 

“When we shared some of our very personal experiences around bias and micro-aggressions, it resonated with people and that helped catapult the desire to ensure we empathize with others. We treat people with respect, dignity, and empathy.”

Tanisha Wicker

Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Smile Brands

Practice Culture & Communication

One of the keys to preventing burnout and reducing turnover is creating a positive culture. That often begins with increasing communication and showing respect for each other.

Here are some ways Smile Brands has communicated with its team members that can be replicated for any practice of any size.

  • Hold Listening Sessions

Smile Brands hosted Zoom meetings in the evenings to give people a chance to share their experiences.

  • Ask “How Are You?”

Just asking team members how they’re doing is an easy way to show that you care. One phrase that can be effective is to say, “I want you to know that I’m here, and if you want to talk, I welcome it. I don’t want to intrude, but I do want you to know that I’ve been watching the news, I know what’s happening, and that I’m here for you.”

  • Provide Resources

Even if your practice doesn’t have an HR specialist, there are resources available online, through your benefits provider, and in the “How to Prevent Burnout and Reduce Turnover” guide. Click here to download it.

  • Create a Private Facebook Group for Your Team

This gives your team a way to share information, including good news. At Smile Brands, team members share pictures from vaccination sites, thank you notes from patients, and fun moments throughout the day. They have also rallied around team members who have lost loved ones, creating a virtual support system.

  • Outline Code of Conduct Expectations

Smile Brands created both patient-facing and employee-facing materials explaining their commitment to keep each other safe.

For resources to help create a positive culture, click here to download our guide, “How to Prevent Burnout and Reduce Turnover.”

How to Reduce Turnover

Every practice, regardless of size, can create a culture where team members feel welcomed and appreciated. It’s also important to make sure pay and benefits are in line with local industry standards.

“Look at a reputable site for market pricing such as PayScale that will identify the average comp rates and you can see what that looks like for your area,” advised Tanisha Wicker of Smile Brands. 

It remains a challenge to replace hygienists and dental assistants, often taking up to 60 days to identify candidates. Many people left the industry completely to care for their kids because childcare centers and schools were closed. Others dealt with health-related concerns. 

Usually there would be a pool of new graduates that could fill the vacancies. Unfortunately, many hygiene and dental assisting schools paused operations, limited capacity, or went online, which meant students could not receive hands-on training. That severely reduced the number of graduates, and eliminated the opportunity for team members to receive certifications in expanded functions. 

What does this mean for practices? It costs more to hire, and practices are feeling the squeeze. 

One way to help is to streamline tasks such as scheduling appointments by adding online scheduling and 24/7 live chat options to practice websites. Another way is to automate payment processing to free up team members’ time. Technology has made it much easier to perform what used to be time-consuming tasks – and that’s more important than ever when teams are short-staffed.

How to Lead Through Difficult Times

Jodi Evans, the CEO of Revolutionary Tribes, spent a decade at Community Dental Partners where she became the COO as the group grew to 50 locations. 

Years ago, she inherited a team where several employees clashed – to the point where one person slashed the tires of a colleague’s car. She fired the destructive employees, evaluated the remaining team, defined what a positive, productive workplace looked like, and turned around the department in six months.

“A lot of leaders are afraid to ask the question ‘How are you doing?’ because they’re afraid people will unload. But what it does is allow people to work through what’s going on and they feel empowered to get to a place where they can get comfortable with their experience and get the right support to manage it.”

Jodi Evans

Founder & CEO, Revolutionary Tribes

Now Evans teaches executives and employees that being uncomfortable isn’t bad. Feeling alone, isolated, and disconnected is. 

People’s personalities and work styles play a huge role in how well they manage stress. 

Learn how to determine people’s strengths and skills in our guide, “How to Prevent Burnout and Reduce Turnover.”


“How to Prevent Burnout and Reduce Turnover”

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