Burnout Is Real. Here’s How To Protect Employees and Yourself.
May 5, 2021
It has been over one year since the introduction of COVID-19 in the United States. Senior living employees have had to quickly adapt to fight the challenges of the pandemic.
They have faced long hours and a constant barrage of changing directives on visitation, testing, and vaccination protocols, all while endeavoring to provide the best services to residents possible.
As a result, we’re facing a hazard: Employee burnout, defined as “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation, usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.” And burnout is not confined to direct care workers. It can happen to managers and senior levels as well.
How do you recognize burnout when it occurs—and how can you help prevent it from happening? Here’s an overview.
Recognize the signs
Employees expressing frustration and snapping at co-workers
Forgetfulness and difficulty focusing
Low excitement for the job; just showing up
Not sleeping well, not exercising, consuming more alcohol or unhealthful foods
Ceasing participation in spiritual or social activities (even virtually)
Arguments and difficulties in home life
Personal recognition can be a burnout vaccine. Set your calendar to acknowledge employee birthdays and other important life events (passing an online course, graduations, weddings, etc.).
Keep recognition and celebrations realistic in consideration of time. A personal note and a treat or sitting down for a chat and a coffee can make a big difference.
Highlight individuals’ COVID-19 efforts and their dedication to resident care.
Be consistent in showing recognition—what you do for one, do for all.
Share information and resources on healthy eating, how to get restful sleep, relaxation, and exercise.
Encourage listening to your body—this helps prevent health problems that can be caused by or exacerbated by stress.
Establish a culture that values taking earned time off as important to health.
Try to reduce or eliminate stigma about asking for help.
One of the most effective ways to help prevent burnout is to add courtesy. The state of being frantically busy can lead us to forget the practice of common courtesies. Even through a mask, people can tell if you’re happy or stressed.
Saying please and thank you and speaking genuinely and warmly is a sign of professionalism. It can also help reduce frustration and increase gratitude, not only among employees, but within yourself as well.
Sheela Stevens has worked in the senior living industry for 20+ years. Her firm, Stevens Consulting, LLC, has helped national and local businesses with resident care operations, policies and procedures, and professional trade content on senior living, regulatory compliance, and quality assurance.
TIPS TO IMPROVE SLEEP
Better sleep is a big help in preventing burnout. These tips are from the CDC:
Before you begin working a long stretch of shifts, try “banking your sleep”—sleeping several extra hours longer than you normally do.
After you’ve worked a long stretch of shifts, remember it may take several days of extended sleep (for example, 10 hours in bed) before you begin to feel recovered. Give yourself time to recover.
Avoid sunlight or bright lights 90 minutes before you go to sleep, when possible. Exposure to light just before bedtime can cause you to feel more awake.
If you work a night shift and drive home during sunlight hours, try wearing sunglasses to reduce your exposure to sunlight during your drive home.
A 90-minute nap before working a night shift can help prevent you from feeling tired at work.