Three Ways Healthcare Leaders Can Help Their Employees Overcome Burnout and Reduce Workplace Stress

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By Sean Glaze 

In 2019, the World Health Organization brought increased attention to the issue of employee burnout by defining it. According to the W.H.O., workplace burnout is a syndrome “resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

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According to an article on MedpAgeToday, one of the greatest challenges for leaders in healthcare industry is helping their team to successfully deal with and overcome the exhaustion, burnout, and workplace stress that they have experienced. 

Burnout is a significant global concern. 

In fact, Deloitte surveyed over 1000 respondents, and 77% said they have experienced burnout at their current job.  91% say that stress has affected the quality of their work.

What is surprising is that these statistics are from a 2018 report.

The issue of workplace burnout didn’t start with pandemic… 

And while it is certainly arguable that these statistics have worsened more recently, my experience in working with high-performing teams and leaders suggests that there are three ways that organizations can help their people to overcome the same stress and burnout that has contributed to unprecedented employee turnover and dissatisfaction.

So what are those three things that leaders can do to ensure their teams are more fresh, engaged, healthy, and positive teammates?

  1. Vacations

According to Fortune, in 2020 American workers left an average of 33%, or 5.6 days, of paid time off on the table.

There are now numerous studies that suggest taking time away from a job can have significant physical and mental health benefits. When people take vacations, they report having lower stress, less sick leave, and improved morale

Your best employees and teammates may feel guilty about leaving to take time for themselves and investing in their own well-being.  The fact that they give so much of themselves is often the reason that they may be feeling burned out, though.

As a leader, it is tremendously important that you encourage your team to occasionally decompress and get away from the office or escape from the requirements of zoom meetings. 

Added responsibilities and burdens carried for extended periods of time can lead to feeling overwhelmed.

Time away from work can make employees more productive – and happier – when they return, which usually translates into higher retention and a more positive workplace culture.

  1. Recognitions

One of the main contributors to employee burnout is a lack of appreciation.

The 2021 Global Culture Report states that when there’s no consistent strategy for recognizing the people on your team, the odds of burnout increase by 29%.

The reality is that, in most organizations every position may be incredibly valuable, but not every person feels their efforts are sufficiently visible.

We all desire to feel SEEN.

Great team cultures focus on timely and intentional rewards and recognition to ensure that what they want to see repeated is what gets rewarded.

One way you can do this on your team is to build celebrations and recognitions into EVERY team meeting – remote or in-person.

Find 3-5 minutes to build in an expected, consistent, and impactful segment that highlights the efforts and impact of the people who deserve appreciation for their work.

Recognizing people for their work – and acknowledging the progress they have made in the midst of adversity – can be powerful medicine for people sick of thinking they are unimportant.

  1. Connections

Loneliness, according to Psychology Today, can lead to and intensify burnout. 

And yes – one of the industries that reports a higher risk of burnout due to workload and stress levels is healthcare. 

But while workplace burnout is often experienced as a deep sense of fatigue and exhaustion, that perceived emotional strain is not always a symptom of workload only.

Sometimes burnout can be a symptom of disconnected loneliness.

Developing meaningful relationships at work provides a sense of belonging, a network of support, and a feeling of safety that makes it easier to request help.

As a leader, one of the most important responsibilities you have is to ensure the quality of connections on your team. People are motivated by connection to a compelling common goal, and by connection to the other people that they are working with to accomplish it.

Connection to teammates improves resilience and helps people to deal more effectively with unexpected challenges.  Having someone to share frustrations with, and to ask for help or advice, can significantly mitigate the daily stress that your team experiences.

And deeper connection requires an intentional investment.  

Improving workplace trust and building personal relationships strong enough to support the weight of difficult experiences or conversations does not happen overnight.

Even in my conference keynotes and team building programs, I emphasize that while a catalyst event will ignite awareness and impact behavior, lasting change only occurs with reinforcement and repetition.

So if you want to boost connection and inspire more collaboration and supportive conversations in your organization, consider working teambuilding activities into your weekly meetings.  

Use connection cards to get to know people better and spark interesting interactions.

Invite people to share something about themselves at lunch or in breakout groups.

Schedule opportunities for teammates to learn about what they have in common with others that they may not already know or appreciate.

The discovery of significant similarities inoculates us from the divisiveness of our differences.  

And sometimes just using a few helpful phrases will improve connections and morale.

– – – – –

You may have noticed this list of ideas to overcome workplace stress and burnout does NOT include anything resembling “rekindle your passion.”

The omission was intentional.

Yes, lack of passion and purpose and a meaningful mission can definitely contribute to burnout.

But the Deloitte survey mentioned earlier discovered something quite surprising.

Nearly ninety percent of people said they STILL had passion for their current job.

Surprisingly, nearly two-thirds of those also said they were frequently stressed.

This finding seems to suggest that even passionate employees are not immune to the threat and impact of stress or burnout.

If you want to help your team deal with the incredibly challenging daily grind of responsibilities they have, and want to provide them support to overcome the burnout that so many others are affected by, focus on three things.

Vacations. Recognitions. Connections.

Leadership is about service and influence.

And if you truly want to build a ore positive and profitable workplace culture, the good news is that you can.

Providing your people the psychological safety to take a break… to feel valued… and to feel supported and encouraged… those are the keys to reducing stress and burnout.

Your team will be happier and more productive.

And you will too!

Sean Glaze is an author and keynote speaker who helps leaders build and sustain more positive and profitable workplace cultures. His engaging programs improve communication and trust so your people can have more success working together.  

As a successful coach and educator for over 20 years, Sean gained valuable insights into developing winning teams – and founded Great Results Teambuilding to share those lessons with smart leaders and organizations…  

Sean’s conference keynotes and interactive teambuilding events equip managers to become effective leaders, and transform employees into Winning Teammates! 

And his four books, The Unexpected Leader, Rapid Teamwork, The 10 Commandments of Winning Teammates, and Staying Coachable are entertaining parables with powerful take-aways for team growth and leadership! 

What issues are you dealing with that would disappear if you could build a team culture that inspired connection, accountability, and a team-first attitude?

Healthcare Business Today is a leading online publication that covers the business of healthcare. Our stories are written from those who are entrenched in this field and helping to shape the future of this industry. Healthcare Business Today offers readers access to fresh developments in health, medicine, science, and technology as well as the latest in patient news, with an emphasis on how these developments affect our lives.