Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is rarely simple, particularly for dental assistants who want to accelerate their career growth. Dental assistants work diligently to provide patient care, schedule appointments, take X-rays and perform other day-to-day dental office tasks. Without a healthy work-life balance, however, dental assistants may struggle to thrive at work and risk not achieving their career goals.
Fortunately, there are lots of things that dental assistants can do to find the right work-life balance – and maintain this balance over time. Let’s look at eight tips and tricks we’ve found helpful for dental assistants looking to achieve a healthy work-life balance.
1. Establish Priorities
Prioritize your work tasks – you will be glad you did. Balancing an appointment schedule with the ongoing daily tasks means overwhelm can sneak up with even one missed step. Starting the work day with a list of priorities helps you make the most of your time. To prioritize your time, make a task list, then categorize list items based on urgency and importance. Ultimately, urgent and important tasks should take top priority on your list, while tasks that are neither urgent nor important can fall lower on your list. Most importantly, be flexible: as new tasks come up, reprioritize your list (and don’t be afraid to ask directly if you’re unsure whether a new addition is more urgent than your other tasks).
2. Make Time for Yourself
Work is important, but so is self-care. You can’t support your colleagues and patients to the best of your ability if you fail to take care of yourself! Set aside time for your own needs throughout the work day – take a walk, grab a snack and drink some water. Find moments to recharge so you can return to your daily work activities feeling refreshed and ready to help patients in any way you can.
3. Stick to Your Work Hours
One of the big draws of becoming a dental assistant is the flexible work hours the position offers. It’s appealing to be able to work different hours throughout the week, but this can often lead to dental assistants working overtime. Don’t fall into the trap of taking on too many additional hours; once you know your work hours for a given week, stick to them as closely as possible. Otherwise, you risk working too much, which may lead to stress, anxiety and various physical and mental health problems.
4. Create a Healthy Workspace
Make your workspace as comfortable as possible. Personalize your work environment with your own style: decorations if they’re allowed, photos of your loved ones, a comfy chair to offset all the sitting administrative work requires, and other personal touches. Remember, you may spend 40 hours each week – or more – working in a dental office. If you enjoy your workspace, you can feel good as you work. And as a result, you can simultaneously maximize your work productivity and stay connected to things that make you happy outside of work.
5. Use Technology to Stay Organized
Mobile apps are available to help dental assistants take the guesswork out of time management. Explore a few to find one that works for your purposes; you can try ones made for list-making and priorities, or you can try a time tracking app to monitor your time at work and home. This helps you understand your habits and find ways to achieve a better work-life balance. Other apps can remind you to take breaks and drink water, check in with yourself on your stress levels, and other self-care tools.
6. Stay Active and Eat Healthy
Exercise and diet play key roles for dental assistants that want to establish a healthy work-life balance. If you exercise daily, you can stay in shape and maintain a healthy body and mind. By eating healthy, you can get vitamins and nutrients you need to power through each work day. Of course, don’t forget to make time to create and stick to a healthy exercise regimen and diet. Because once you develop a healthy exercise regimen and diet, you’ll be well-equipped to get the most out of your time.
7. Don’t Hesitate to Say “No”
Dental assistants sometimes struggle to turn down work tasks – even work tasks that require significant time and attention. But if your work schedule is already full, you likely will need to cut into your personal time to complete additional work tasks, which is a big compromise to make if you’re trying to maintain a healthy-work life balance. If a peer or superior asks you to complete a work task that you believe will require you to stay late, ask if the task can be completed the next day. Or, if you need to decline a work task, you can do so politely.
8. Monitor Your Work-Life Balance Daily
Developing and maintaining a healthy work-life balance requires hard work and patience, especially for dental assistants. If you find you consistently spend too much time working, make changes to your daily activities. Keep in mind that family members, friends and other loved ones can provide support as you search for the ideal work-life balance. If necessary, you can always talk to your boss about modifying your work schedule so you can establish and maintain the optimal work-life balance, too.
Lastly, consider tools and resources available through dental assistant school, which are designed to help dental assistants thrive. In addition to providing dental assistant tips, dental assistant schools offer insights into what it takes to develop and maintain a healthy work-life balance. In doing so, dental assistant schools help students prepare for all aspects of a dental assistant career.