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Creating a Culture of Well-Being for Healthcare Organizations

Creating a Culture of Well-Being for Healthcare Organizations

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Leadership Strategies and Employee Benefits

Healthcare workers are undoubtedly the most important resource our society has for maintaining mental and physical wellness. But what about the wellness of these professionals? They have needs just like everyone else, particularly given some of the significant challenges they face in the workplace. Building a culture of well-being is one of the approaches many healthcare organizations find effective.

A culture of well-being is about more than just providing basic healthcare benefits to workers. Rather, administrators and other leaders work toward creating workplace policies and strategies that positively influence employees’ holistic wellness. Naturally, this can take some time, planning, and effort. Therefore, it’s worth examining some of the actions that can really make a difference as a starting point.  Why Create a Culture of Employee Well-Being?

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Developing a culture of employee well-being in healthcare spaces is something that takes consistent and regular action. Given that time, energy, and resources are so often tight in medical environments, why is this something that leaders should strategize and implement? 

Well, firstly, there’s an ethical imperative here. Healthcare workers spend their professional lives tending to the wellness of others. It is only right that they should expect the strongest possible support from employers for their own well-being. Developing a culture of wellness is one of the most robust approaches to this, as it often keeps workers meaningfully involved with the elements that keep their workplace healthy.

Additionally, a culture that prioritizes healthcare workers’ wellness tends to improve retention and engagement. Professionals who don’t have to navigate wellness challenges alongside their work duties tend to be more effective and happy in their roles. Not to mention that this culture provides evidence that leadership is prioritizing their well-being, which can boost workplace satisfaction. This messaging’s effect on retention and engagement is especially important given the widespread employee shortages in healthcare at the moment. 

Perhaps above all else, though, a stable, healthy, and engaged workforce can have a positive impact on patient outcomes. They may be less likely to cause errors due to wellness-related distractions and burnout. A solid employee base that isn’t hampered by absenteeism can also give greater consistency of care. In all, a culture of wellness is vital for all stakeholders in healthcare spaces.


Working With High Levels of Stress

Healthcare professionals face some distinct mental wellness challenges. According to research, there are particularly high instances of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Leadership strategies that prioritize a culture of well-being should include assessing the presence of common conditions in the workplace with a view to addressing the causes. 

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While there can be many contributing factors, among the most common in healthcare spaces is the presence of stressors. These can both trigger and exacerbate workers' mental wellness challenges.  Some of the common stressors in healthcare workplaces include:

  • Understaffing: Staff shortages tend to mean that healthcare workers are expected to take on excessive workloads during their shifts. It can also mean they have to work longer hours and more shifts to fill gaps. Over time, this can pile on the pressure that leads to burnout and other mental wellness challenges. 
  • Emotional Labor: Healthcare workers tend to face more highly emotional circumstances than those in other industries. They may witness deaths, provide empathy to patients going through extreme challenges, and even face anger and abuse. Unless the culture in the workplace is geared toward helping workers manage this labor, employees can experience undue stress.

It’s important not to simply assume these stressors are in place in every facility. Leaders should regularly assess what specific issues are affecting teams and the extent to which they are causing wellness concerns. 

This might involve issuing surveys with qualitative and quantitative questions on workplace stressors. It’s also vital for leaders to actively engage in conversations with employees to gain a more nuanced understanding of workplace stress and its impact. As a result, not only do administrators get valuable data to make more informed changes, but employees also see there’s a culture in which leaders care about their well-being.  


Provide a Range of Health & Care Resources

Healthcare benefits are particularly important for medical professionals. This isn’t just because they face highly stressful conditions and are exposed to potential hazards. Hospital and clinic employees also understand perhaps better than anyone how having access to various wellness resources can improve holistic health. 

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Yet, these can often be expensive or not always practical for those in care fields. One leadership strategy can be to bolster benefits with a more diverse and convenient range of resources that empower employees to take control of their own wellness.  Some options around resources would be:

Therapy Options

Subsidized therapy can be an important tool for healthcare workers. They’re faced with highly emotional and stressful situations every day. Therapists can be a good outlet for their stress and provide them with techniques to better manage these experiences. 

That said, leaders can make this more convenient by providing telehealth therapy alongside in-person options. This allows staff to fit sessions in around their schedules and even during break times if they feel in need of help.

Gym Access

Regular exercise is vital to physical and mental wellness. Unfortunately, paying for gym access isn’t always top of the priority list for healthcare workers, particularly if they have other financial and personal responsibilities. Working with local gyms to provide discounted or subsidized memberships can be a helpful approach. If these gyms are close to the workplace, this can also make it more practical for employees to exercise before and after work, or during breaks.

Financial Wellness Programs

Employee wellness isn’t always about directly addressing their mental and physical health. Financial difficulties can also contribute to stress and other psychological health issues in employees’ lives. Therefore, access to financial advice and guidance can be part of a good holistic wellness benefits program. This helps workers better manage challenges surrounding debt, savings, and other issues that may be distracting or concerning them.


Address Broken Systems

Poor operational systems in healthcare spaces can be a key contributor to employees’ mental and physical unwellness. For instance, inefficiencies in working practices can contribute to unnecessarily high workloads, thereby impacting stress. These same inefficiencies can also extend waiting times, which frustrates patients and may expose employees to potential anger or abuse. Even needlessly repetitive physical activities can lead to injuries. Therefore, one of the ways leaders can boost a culture of well-being is to fix broken systems.

This begins with regular assessments of processes. Wherever possible, involve those professionals who are intimately involved with processes, as they’ll have the most nuanced and practical insights into what may be problematic. It’s also important to take note of complaints employees have about systems. Creating flow diagrams of each operational process in the organization can highlight areas where actions are needlessly repeated or where steps can be condensed.

From here, leaders can redesign processes in line with employees’ needs and preferences. It’s always important to test processes before widespread implementation, though, to identify aspects that may present additional issues. Keeping employees involved with creating a more efficient and, ultimately, healthy working practice contributes to their overall sense of well-being in the workplace. Not to mention that greater efficiency often tends to result in better patient experiences.


Encourage Outdoor & Relaxing Activities

If leaders help healthcare employees thrive outside the workplace, it can positively influence productivity. This is a testament to the power of a healthy work-life balance. Gaining a sense of personal fulfillment beyond their professional work helps them to feel holistically happier and enriched. Not to mention that what they do away from their career can be a vital stress-buster for the challenges they face at work.

Unfortunately, the demands of healthcare can feel all-encompassing at times. Particularly if employees are burdened by staff shortages. As a result, employees might not feel they have time or energy for vital personal interests. It’s important for leaders to encourage and even facilitate regular engagement in hobbies.

Source: David Bartus

This can begin with providing advice to employees about how to effectively balance their work life and hobbies. Creating a schedule with dedicated hobby time can be helpful for some, as this helps people visualize the time they have available and assign tasks effectively. It’s also important to communicate the value of occasionally saying “no” to extra work duties. When this particular advice comes from leadership, it may help employees feel more comfortable with occasionally prioritizing their own interests and needs, rather than always feeling obligated to work longer hours. 

Another important strategy is for administrators to collaborate with human resources (HR) and departmental supervisors to get ahead of staff shortages. Beginning recruitment processes before it’s absolutely necessary can minimize the pressure workers may feel around doing overtime. As a result, they may have the time and energy to dedicate to their interests which, in turn, informs their wider well-being.


Create Healthier Environments

Where your healthcare professionals work is a key part of the culture of wellness. The quality of their surroundings can influence their well-being in multiple ways.  Badly designed furniture can cause injuries and the constant hustle and bustle of medical environments might push their stress levels. By making environmental improvements, leaders can reduce the often overlooked factors that contribute to negative health experiences.  Some of the environmental elements that can influence a culture of well-being include:

Peaceful Spaces 

The healthcare environment can be filled with stimuli that are quite overwhelming at times. This can impact stress, cause distractions, and may be particularly difficult for some people with neurodivergent traits. Therefore, access to peaceful spaces can be a vital tool. These can be break rooms that are designed to be quiet areas and decorated with softer colors. It can also include office areas where workers can go to attend to paperwork without disturbances.

Decluttered Workplaces 

Clutter is the enemy of both efficiency and peace. Having a lot of paperwork, equipment, and other unnecessary items around can make working more stressful. It’s important to work with department heads to implement organizational routines that minimize clutter and keep areas clear. This could include implementing paperless operations and providing sufficient storage for all equipment. 

Healthy Diet

One of the workplace environmental factors that can have a negative wellness impact is unhealthy snacks and drinks. Healthcare workers’ busy routines often lead them to resort to fast foods that aren’t necessarily good for them. Therefore, leaders taking steps to stock break rooms and cafeterias with healthy food and drinks — and even arranging for occasional deliveries of healthy meals — can be useful.

As with so much of a culture of wellness, it’s important to keep workers involved in any improvements to their environment. Each team will have different needs, preferences and challenges. Holding all-hands meetings occasionally to discuss these, alongside reviewing current efforts, can enable administrators to make the most relevant and impactful changes.


Final Conclusion

Developing a culture of well-being in healthcare organizations helps employees and patients alike. While there are some common steps to take, each organization and every team has its unique needs. Thorough research and a commitment to investing in change are keys to making a positive impact. 

Remember, too, that new resources and challenges emerge all the time. Regular refresher assessments and checking in with staff members can help administrators provide the right resources as early as possible. It’s not always an easy process, but the benefits certainly outweigh the labor involved. 

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