Insights From Our Editors

How Do I Re-Energize My Burnt-Out Employees’ Thinking?

By Mark Wright, OD, FCOVD,
and Carole Burns, OD, FCOVD

Oct. 21, 2020

The pandemic has been a stressful time. Working in a health-care office can make it doubly difficult, with new safety protocols to implement and track. Here is how to refresh your employees for their wellbeing, and to enable them to continue delivering superior service to your patients.

The Mayo Clinic Staff published an article, “Job burnout: How to spot it and take action,”1 that gives helpful information on this topic. Job burnout, as defined by the authors, is “a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity. (It is important to note that job burnout is not a medical diagnosis.)

A questionnaire is offered to help determine if a person has job burnout. Every doctor and staff member should take this questionnaire. Here are the questions:

If someone answers YES to any of these questions, they may be experiencing job burnout. Ignoring or not addressing job burnout can contribute to:
• Excessive stress
• Fatigue
• Insomnia
• Sadness, anger or irritability
• Alcohol or substance misuse
• Heart disease
• High blood pressure
• Type 2 diabetes
• Vulnerability to illnesses

Job burnout must be addressed or there is a risk of having compromised patient care and/or loss of a staff member. Look for staff members who have a high workload – including overtime work, trying to be everything to everyone, feeling they have little or no control over their work, and/or feeling their job is monotonous.

What can be done in the workplace to help solve the problem of job burnout? Start with these suggestions:
• Create an open-door policy where staff can talk to the practice manager (or to you) to discuss the work-place environment and how to make it better.

• Make sure every staff member knows exactly what they produce, what is expected of them and what resources are available to help them.

• Make sure you are completely staffed.

• Keep a sharp eye out for dysfunctional workplace dynamics such as bullying, undermining and micromanaging.

• Have the office manager work with staff members to prioritize work determining what must get done now and what can wait.

• Since monotonous or chaotic work requires high energy to remain focused, break the work up and reduce the chaos to create a better work environment.

• Ask each staff member what motivates them, then create a rewards program that allows each staff member to work toward things they want.

There are also things the staff member can do to help have an impact on job burnout:
• Reach out to the office manager when the symptoms of burnout begin to appear.

• Seek out programs that deal with stress such as yoga, meditation or tai chi.

• Engage in regular physical activity.

• Make life-style changes to create a better sleep pattern. (Good sleep patterns contribute to wellbeing and also helps protect health.)

We all want the same things. We want to be productive while we provide excellent patient care, in a healthy work environment, where we have supportive relationships with our co-workers. It is each of our responsibilities to contribute to make this happen. Take this week to re-examine your workplace and make changes where necessary.


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