Boosting Morale in your Rehab Clinic During Covid-19
By: Jennifer Heiligman, PT, MPT
Employee morale, although not physically tangible, is definitely something that can be “felt” within the workplace. Positive employee morale has been linked to higher productivity, better employee retention, increased teamwork, and improved relationships between employees and management. While focusing on keeping employee morale high should always be on an owner or manager’s to-do list, during the Covid-19 pandemic, it is even more important to prioritize this concept.
This past year employees, especially healthcare workers, have had to deal with unprecedented workplace disruption secondary to the pandemic. Between the possibility of a furlough to the additional required safety measures and workflow changes, it’s a lot to handle. Keep in mind, additional employee stresses are not only in the workplace, they are also being experienced at home. It has been an usual year, to say the least. That makes it even more important to focus on improving employee morale within your practice. This can be done by promoting a healthy, positive workplace culture. We’ve outlined a few areas to focus on that should help bolster morale.
Communication with your employees should follow the three “C”s. It should be clear, concise and consistent. When employees are well informed they will be less stressed, in turn, improving their attitudes. This means that you, as management, need to be honest and forthright with the information you supply to your team. Tell them the truth about how the business is doing. Your employees do not live in a bubble, they understand the current environment is very tough on businesses.
Schedule regular staff meetings, whether in-person or virtual. This will keep your employees in the know. During the staff meetings, be sure to leave time for employee questions and feedback. Allowing your employees to be involved in the planning of necessary changes, will improve their acceptance of those changes helping to make them more successful. Make sure the employees feel heard.
Over the past few months, you have probably asked your staff to be flexible on multiple occasions. Whether this was to accommodate the seesaw effect of business closure, business reopening, and then potential for business closure again or asking them to learn a new skill like conducting a telehealth visit, it’s now your turn. Providing some flexibility to your employees will definitely result in a morale boost.
In a lot of cases the employee’s home situations have changed. Some may now have increased child care needs secondary to schools going remote or decreased daycare class sizes. On the other end of the spectrum you may have staff that are caring for elderly relatives and now have increased safety concerns in regards to being around people. There are actions you can take to assist without putting too much stress on your business. Offer to adjust working hours. This may allow your employee to be available at home for childcare needs, but continue to work, just during different hours. Another option would be to have the employee complete telehealth visits during the hours they need to be at home. They are still working and bringing in revenue for your practice, just in a different capacity. If the employee is non clinical, explore the possibility of the individual being able to complete their work from their home. Is it truly necessary to have them physically in the office? A little flexibility on your end can lead to a big impact on employee satisfaction.
This can be as easy as simply making a concerted effort to have a conversation with each individual on your team. Check on them. The public health emergency can take a toll on a person’s mental well being. You do not need to invade their privacy, but simply having a normal conversation may allow you to see any red flags alerting you that the individual is struggling. There are many support groups available virtually to help healthcare professionals deal with the additional stress of the pandemic. Find the ones in your area and post the information on the staff bulletin board. Make sure your staff is aware that help is available should they need it. Encourage them to take breaks during the day and, if possible, take some days off from work. They may not be able to travel, but just a break from the day to day stress of work can be a good thing. Showing interest in how they are doing will make them feel appreciated.
Try to continue to give opportunities for professional development. If there is downtime secondary to decreased patient volume, have them use this time to develop a specialized program that interests them. This may be the perfect opportunity for your clinical and non clinical staff to complete meaningful projects that have been pushed back secondary to time constraints. This will help them focus on something positive and give them goals and purpose.
Give praise where praise is due. Who doesn’t like to get a pat on the back for a job well done? While this should be something that is done all the time, it is even more important to make a conscious effort during the pandemic. Recognition helps encourage good behavior and helps employees feel more secure, leading to decreased stress levels. Give Recognition at an individual level, but also show appreciation for your whole team. Within social distance guidelines, have a staff appreciation lunch. During the holiday season you could set up a staff pollyanna. Anything to assist with team building and to show you appreciate all their hard work and dedication will assist in boosting morale.
In these uncertain times, employee morale may decline. Therefore, it is even more important to take steps to ensure this does not happen in your practice. Implementing some of the ideas listed above is a good start. Let your employees know you are in it together. Employees that feel appreciated and secure will have less stress and higher employee morale which will help your practice be productive and successful.