Oral Health Group
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Designing for Style, Comfort & Safety: Smart Office Design for Post-COVID Times

January 29, 2021
by Darcie Galbraith, B.A., Interior Design Coach; Peter Barry C.M.C., R.R.D.H.


The effects of the lockdowns, layoffs and massive public measures to contain COVID-19 will likely last long after any threat from the virus are gone. For many of our patients, working from home is still a fresh memory and for others it has become the new normal. As a result of spending more time at home, they have become acutely aware of how the design of each living space influences their enjoyment, comfort, functionality and quality of day to day life. In the world of interior design there is a definite movement of people taking the initiative to make their living and work spaces more enjoyable places to be each day.

When dental professionals hear the words “interior design” they may think of decorating to suit their tastes, comfort and lifestyle; they often forget the impact accentuating an office space can have on their team’s spirit and the overall experience everyone has in their practice.

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Ask yourself: how does your practice look, feel and support the functions of everyone in it? Does the aesthetic design and décor stimulate better overall patient care experiences? A well-designed workspace is for your team as well as for patients. Think of how someone feels when they move into a home they really love. They will likely entertain more. How you feel in your home impacts how you receive and serve your guests.

The smart design of your practice is no longer a “luxury”; it is a “necessity” that will impact the flow of everything you do, the mood of your team and the experience patients have in your office.

Office Design

Photo: iStock

It’s important to remember that our patients are also consumers. The modern consumer has evolved significantly from days gone by. Today patients want customer service-oriented experiences served in an aesthetically pleasing, warm and comfortable environment. I’m reminded of a highly skilled dentist who was working out of a very dated dental facility that was not in alignment with the quality of his clinical skills and standard of care. For years he was operating under the premise that patients come to him for the quality of his dentistry with no consumer influence from his office design. But in reality, once we moved his practice down the hall into a beautiful, strategically designed, modern facility, his new patient flow for his advanced dental services suddenly started growing exponentially without making any changes to his daily operations or approach to patient care. The lesson? The quality of dentistry is projected (especially to new patients) through the look and feel of your space.

Your professional image is like a blend of great spices that turn a bland, boring meal into a tasty flavour filled dining experience. Similarly, an exciting refresh of your wall colours, furnishings, lighting, décor pieces and flooring can bring any space in your office to vibrant life. Your goal should be to create special ambiance in each area of your office; ambiance that matches your overall theme. It should also project your values, style and clinical standards. Your special ambience will impact the moods emotions and comfort of the people you serve as well as your team.

Here are four easy tips for maintaining a safe, health conscious environment that is attractive and appealing to patients while at the same time being enjoyable and functional for your team.

Organize Clutter-Free Digital Spaces
Due to post-Covid-19 heightened IPAC concerns, your office should be decluttered and organized for the optimal cleaning and flow of people. That means no trinkets or unnecessary items. Choose a calming colour scheme that feels relaxing within a sophisticated, tech-driven space that has minimal paper utilization and more digital solutions.

Use Furnishings that Can Be Cleaned
Are your furnishings and décor items capable of being cleaned and disinfected routinely? The need for surface disinfection has now moved outside the operatories into the common areas of your practice. Each item in public spaces should be easy to move, clean and disinfect with industry standard disinfection agents. Low-quality upholstery and wood can add warmth, but they are porous and cannot be effectively disinfected. Some fabrics can trap and hold bacteria deep within its fibres, making the material a challenge to clean. Design your reception room with furnishing and décor pieces with high-grade leather, metal, or plastic. These materials can be more easily cleaned and have higher resistance to industry standard disinfectants. This will ensure a long and useful life.

Create Ambience with Lighting
There are two kinds of lighting: bright white or warm light. Bright white LED lights create the impression of hygiene and cleanliness, whereas a warm light provides calming feelings. Use specific lighting in each room that is uniquely suited to the needs of that environment. For example, bright white lighting should be in the surgical rooms, to support your high-functioning visual clinical treatment needs. Conversely, warmer light can provide tranquility for patients waiting in reception or public areas.

Intelligent “Social Distanced” Patient Flow & Space Barriers Design
In light of the pandemic, we should anticipate a more social distancing conscious society. In addition to rigorous cleaning procedures, temporary clear space division, should be considered. Simple, freestanding or mobile dividers that are tall and wide enough to block airborne spread are useful. Ensure they do not interfere with sprinkler systems or air handling vents. Be sure that barriers are made of durable, cleanable nonporous material that can take repeated cleanings without becoming foggy or less visually transparent. For some practices, fire resistant materials is also a commercial grade consideration.

Even small, well-planned design enhancements can have a significant impact on your practice. Today’s office doesn’t look or operate the way it did in the past. Ergonomics, functionality, technology, eco-factors and comfort must be considered. Designing for infection prevention is now also a priority. Remember that harmony is created when all the elements act together to create a unified experience that represents who you are and how your practice is special.


About the Authors

Darcie Galbraith is an interior design coach & project coordinator specializing in the field of dentistry. From exciting new builds & space design, to renovating and beautifying your existing space, or simply modernizing & refreshing existing spaces; Darcie helps dental practices to quickly & smoothly achieve their practice décor & space design needs. Bella Vita Designs also provides dental professionals with a large selection of beautifully designed comfortable office furniture solutions. She can be reached at @bellavitadesignsinc / darcie@bellavitadesigns.ca / 905-716-8528

Peter is a highly sought-after Transformational Trainer. For more than 18 years, he has empowered dental teams & dental Industry experts to achieve extraordinary growth, higher income, and exceptional quality of life. He is the founder of “Practice Mastery” a practice and team development company that serves the growth & development needs of your practice. He provides customized team and one-on-one “Success Coaching” to Dental professionals across N. America. He can be reached at @peterbarrycoach peter@practicemastery.com 416-568-5456 www.practicemastery.com


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