Admit it: Your veterinary hospital is your baby. You’ve dedicated your life to keeping animals healthy, and your facility allows you to reach those goals. Maybe it’s a brand-new building, or maybe it’s an older model. Either way, it’s hard for you as a practice owner to not get attached to such a vital part of your livelihood. But your team members also earn their paychecks there, so they deserve some say in how the facility looks and functions.
If you’re planning to build or remodel soon, you have an opportunity to make them happy. Here are 25 ideas for making your practice a great place to work.
1. Provide a dedicated employee parking area.
Giving team members their own parking area eliminates one potential source of stress in their lives. If you want to take it a step further, consider offering assigned spaces, or a special “Employee of the Month” parking spot.
2. Install a “fishbowl’ in the treatment area.
Many practices are foregoing doctors’ offices in favor if the treatment-area “fishbowl,” an on-deck office space where a doctor can sit down and review charts, make phone calls, and consult with other doctors. Performing these tasks while remaining accessible to your team members will help your practice run more smoothly, says Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Mark Hafen, AIA, founding member of Animal Arts in Boulder, Colo.
3. Use sound-absorbent building materials.
Have you ever tried to fill out a medical report with loud music blasting in your ear, a car alarm going off outside, and a child throwing a temper tantrum nearby? That’s what it can feel like for team members working in a noisy practice. By using sound-absorbent materials like ceiling tiles, flooring, and insulation, you can help them focus on the tasks at hand.
4. Think about workflow.
A good building design reduces stress, says Dan Chapel, AIA, a Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member and owner of Chapel Associates Architects in Little Rock, Ark. A logical traffic flow will make it easier for team members to care for patients in an efficient manner. And it may reduce a few headaches during those especially busy days. So provide wide hallways and walkways, locate similar services near each other, and think about how your team members will move during a typical workday.
5. Include technician workstations.
In many veterinary hospitals, doctors and managers have offices but technicians have no place to call their own. Often they work elbow-to-elbow, fighting for any available counterspace. Try placing technician workstations in the treatment area, lab, pharmacy, radiograph room, and any other places your technicians work, Chapel says. It doesn’t have to be huge or elaborate, but a designated spot allows technicians to do their jobs more easily and efficiently.
6. Install ergonomically correct countertops and cabinets.
If team members are constantly hunched over to work on the countertops and workstations or are standing dangerously on chairs to reach supplies in the cabinets, you’re putting them at risk for fatigue or even injury. Talk to your employees to see what works for them and how you can make their lives at work more comfortable and safe.
7. Provide a staff library.
Your team members won’t always have all of the answers—and frankly, neither will you. Provide them plenty of medical reference books and a quiet place to read so they can continue learning and growing as team members, Hafen says.
8. Build a pleasant break room.
“I visited a hospital recently and the receptionists were sitting behind the reception desk scarfing down pizza,” Chapel says. “They need a place to go to do that.” Give team members a respite from the daily chaos in your practice, complete with windows, full-sized kitchen appliances, and comfortable furniture. They’ll emerge from their breaks re-energized and ready to work.
9. Install carpet behind the reception desk.
Tile and other types of hard-surface flooring make it awkward for wheeled chairs to roll—they’ll either roll too easily or make loud clacking noises as they pass over the grout lines. Instead, try installing a nice commercial carpet that’s easy to clean, Chapel says. You might even consider using carpet tiles. If part of the carpet becomes stained or damaged, you can easily replace a tile or two.
10. Use calming paint colors.
A veterinary practice can be a stressful place, so take every step you can to create a calm, soothing environment. That includes paint colors. Opt for cool colors, like blue, violet, and green—particularly in staff areas—to encourage a feeling of Zen.
11. Construct a serene outdoor area.
Sometimes, team members just need to get out of your practice and breathe a little fresh air. Consider constructing a garden, seating area, patio, walking trail, or any other spot where employees can enjoy the warm sunshine.
12. Purchase premade partitions to separate runs.
While many practices use painted block walls to separate runs, premade partitions are easier to clean and maintain, says Wayne Usiak, AIA, a Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member and owner of BDA Architecture in Albuquerque, N.M. They don’t cost any more initially, won’t need to be repainted, and will save time and effort in the long run. “That small change makes everyone’s life better,” Usiak says.
13. Monitor air quality.
Have your team members ever passed around a particularly nagging case of the sniffles? The one that seems to last for weeks? Help prevent these illnesses by installing a high-quality HVAC system to boost your practice’s air quality. “When you have high indoor air quality, you’ll see fewer viral problems among team members,” Usiak says.
14. Install employee lockers.
Employees will appreciate having a place to lock away their valuables instead of just piling them up in the break room, Chapel says.
15. Install plenty of windows.
It’s normal for veterinary team members to go a little stir-crazy at times. Allowing them to see the blue skies, the towering trees, and the green grass can help them stay focused and stress-free. Even if you’ve incorporated skylights or other natural lighting techniques into your design, team members still need actual views to the outside, says Wendy Wheeler Martinez, architect at BDA Architecture in Albuquerque, N.M.
16. Incorporate a phone room.
During an early morning rush, it’s often best to assign a couple of receptionists to solely answer calls. While you don’t have to have a dedicated phone room for this, you do need some type of quiet space away from the chaos. “Sometimes I’ll call a practice and it sounds like a war zone,” Chapel says. “Pets are barking and kids are crying. Receptionist is a tough job, so it’s nice if you can lift some of that pressure off of them by giving them a designated phone area.”
17. Use rounded flooring base.
A standard base (the protective covering where the wall meets the floor) is a magnet for dirt and hair. Softer flooring, like rubber and PVC materials, gives you the option of rolling the base a few inches up the wall, making it much easier for team members to sweep or mop the corners and edges, Usiak says.
18. Provide adequate lighting.
Consider incorporating clerestory windows, light tubes, light baffles, and skylights to bring natural light into the building. And make sure that any artificial light you use is bright enough. Studies have shown that errors in human pharmacies decreased dramatically when the foot candle (brightness) level was increased, Usiak says.
19. Buy a barbecue grill.
Nothing says “teamwork” like a nice summer barbecue. Whether you use it for team meetings, community open houses, charity events, or just as a nice Friday-afternoon treat for your employees, you’ll find plenty of ways to use a grill. It doesn’t have to be fancy, Hafen says. A simple grill will work just fine.
20. Hang pleasing artwork.
This one’s simple—everyone enjoys a nice painting or photograph. Consider hiring a local artist to bring some of your community’s culture into your practice. If you’re on a budget, perhaps one of your team members has artistic talent.
21. Invest in quality workmanship.
You might need to cut corners here and there to save money, but don’t accept subpar work during the building process, Usiak says. For example, if you’re installing a drainage system, make sure it’s installed correctly and have it demonstrated to you before you open your facility. Otherwise, you’ll create a whole new set of headaches for our team as they try to perform even the simplest daily tasks, like cleaning.
22. Install PVC or rubber flooring in team member areas.
Have your team members ever complained about achy feet or a throbbing back? The problem could be your floors. After all, they stand for hours every day in your practice—often on hard, unforgiving surfaces. Try PVC or rubber flooring, which are soft enough to ease some of that pain, Usiak says. These types of flooring are resistant enough to withstand a heavy workload, and best of all, they don’t need to be waxed (though they do require a thorough scrubbing every six months or so).
23. Provide a place for exercise.
Admittedly, this feature is a bit of a luxury for most practices, Hafen says. But if you have the extra space, consider purchasing a stationary bike or elliptical machine for your health-conscious members who want to feel the burn on their breaks.
24. Provide a bike rack.
Sometimes the little things can mean a lot to team members. A simple bike rack will allow team members who live within biking distance to ride to work on sunny days.
25. Invest in new equipment.
It’s only natural for team members to want the newest and best equipment to work with. “Technology enhances team members’ ability to do their jobs,” Chapel says. “That’s something that’s critical now.” In addition to making patient care easier, new equipment can help team members enhance their skills by working with the newest technology.
You may not choose to incorporate all of these features into your veterinary hospital, but your team will appreciate the inclusion of any of them. Keep your employees in mind when you’re designing your hospital, and they’ll repay you with their loyalty and hard work. So what other features would your team members enjoy? Have you asked them?