May 23, 2024

Holistic Pulse

Healthcare is more important

What Businesses Can Learn About Burnout From The Healthcare Industry

4 min read

Neepa Patel, CEO, WellRight.

Burnout among healthcare workers remains a top issue facing health systems today. You can’t read an industry publication without seeing headlines on the subject or visit a hospital’s career page without noticing a significant number of job openings. Now, many hospitals are dedicated to tackling burnout head-on.

A recent article in Modern Healthcare highlighted two health systems of vastly different sizes that are using technology to address this widespread problem: Phoebe Putney and Pullman Regional Hospital. Phoebe Putney, a four-hospital health system in Georgia, has prioritized well-being, and Washington-based Pullman Regional Hospital has invested in several well-being strategies, including employee support programs. Both systems are seeing improvements in employee retention, health and satisfaction thanks to their well-being initiatives.

Organizations across all industries can learn from these success stories, which show that even if a company is facing a pervasive burnout problem, intentional investment in employee well-being and consistent outcomes measurement can move the needle in a positive direction.

So how can you do the same for your organization?

Commitment Matters

Gone are the days of simply handing out step trackers and suggesting that employees take more walks. Organizations need to adopt a more inclusive view of well-being. For example, a 2022 study by HR.com found that a majority of companies surveyed were committed to improving employees’ physical, financial, social, emotional and occupational well-being.

Currently, workplace wellness programs are available to 51% of U.S. workers, and the positive effects are clear. A systematic review of wellness programs for mothers found that they helped reduce issues related to obesity, depression, burnout and stress related to childcare, finances, work‐life balance and other areas of individual health. Harvard Business Review found that healthy employees can increase a company’s cost savings and reduce turnover. Healthy employees are also more productive, less stressed and take fewer sick days.

Furthermore, a study of more than 600 family medicine residency program directors found that the greatest indicator of satisfaction with well-being programming for in-training physicians was appropriate funding, identifying a wellness champion and setting aside protected time for wellness activities. This is an important lesson learned for us all. If busy clinicians can prioritize time for well-being, the rest of us can, too.

Where To Invest Your Wellness Efforts

It’s exciting to see this shift in organizational priorities, considering it manifests real budgetary commitments. In fact, the U.S. corporate wellness market size was estimated at $18.49 billion in 2021. Much like consumerization has become increasingly customized over time with predictive analytics about content preferences—just look at your Netflix account!—we’re seeing similar expectations for personalized individual and organization-wide programs.

There are many ways you can set up employee wellness programs, but remember that best-in-class offerings share common approaches that lead to success and return on investment.

Customizable Programs

Personalization is essential for an effective program as your employees’ life events and individual priorities change. A first-time home buyer may want to learn more about finances one year, then focus on their diet after a chronic illness diagnosis the following year. The C-suite can’t pretend to know what employees need at a given time, but providing a wide variety of well-being programs allows everyone to select what they need, when they need it.

Virtual And In-Person Offerings

From night-shift nurses to 9-to-5 desk employees, everyone’s schedule is unique, and that includes their availability to engage in wellness activities. For ultimate engagement, you should allow people to mix and match virtual and in-person opportunities. Virtual offerings—such as in-app programs that can be used on a desktop or mobile phone—allow for quick check-ins. Webinars on building resilience skills can be live-streamed and saved for evergreen access. Meanwhile, in-person training, heart-healthy walkathons and meetings with investment advisors are valuable onsite reminders of all available resources.

Gamification And Incentives

According to Corporate Wellness Magazine, “Gamification leverages the innate human drive for competition, collaboration, and achievement… This can be especially beneficial for corporate wellness programs, where employee engagement and long-term commitment are essential to achieving tangible results.” Utilizing these strategies can look like encouraging employees to compete to achieve incentive-worthy results either individually or on teams.

Incentives can span the spectrum of both financial and nonfinancial rewards. Some examples include HSA contributions, additional PTO, gift cards, company swag or even priority parking spaces.

How To Measure And Stay On Track

No one wants to pay for services that aren’t being utilized. So prior to investing in new wellness programs, outline the metrics you want to achieve and use them as a guide for success. Common metrics relate to usage, employee satisfaction, turnover rates, engagement rates and outcomes data. You can mix quantitative indicators, like the percentage of employees attending workshops, and qualitative feedback from surveys that allow event attendees to share whether the content was helpful. The combination of employee listening and quantitative metrics provides a rich data set to support decisions on where to invest moving forward.

Once you’ve established your metrics and budget, start rolling out your programs. Each quarter, review your expenses related to employee wellness and see whether the return on investment matches your expectations. Hint: If your programs aren’t being utilized at the rate you expected, amp up communication around their availability. At a macro level, measure employee satisfaction and turnover rates to understand the true value of your investment.

I’m optimistic about the healthcare industry’s investment and commitment to personal well-being among their workforce. The success stories from Phoebe Putney and Pullman Regional are examples that show us that no matter the industry we work in, it’s vital to help employees shift from survive to thrive, build resilience and support everyone’s unique needs.


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