4 Ways to Promote Happiness in the Healthcare Workplace

Senior Director of Marketing

Healthcare employees often experience personal satisfaction from their work — helping people is a great motivator. But sustaining happiness over time can be a challenge, and the high-pressure environment can put employees at risk for stress and burnout.

Fortunately, the mission of healthcare — serving patients — is a strong foundation for any organization that wants to boost the happiness of its employees. “Employees in healthcare are driven to serve their patients and clients,” says Joshua Kuehler, a Consultant and Analytics Manager at FMG Leading, a business advisory firm that works with healthcare clients. “They have already bought into the mission of their work, and any way to celebrate accomplishing that mission or the impact they had on a patient/client will refuel their drive to fulfill their mission.”

Here are four ways healthcare HR can help sustain happiness in the workplace.

1. Listen to Employees

One of the biggest challenges healthcare employees feel they face is not being heard in the organization. Front-line employees may spot improvements they could make but are discouraged by the understanding that things have “always been done this way.” Letting people know that they are seen and heard is vital to keeping their morale up, Kuehler says.

Listening strategies such as surveys and engagement initiatives can show employees that the organization is interested in what they have to say about how to make things better. When you listen to employees and create a better experience for them, they’ll be more likely to deliver better service, says Shane Green, a business consultant who specializes in organizational culture. In addition, they’ll be more likely to stay with the organization and be more productive.

2. Act on Feedback

Listening to employees is an important first step, but it’s just as important to act on what you hear, experts say. “While companies may have been willing to listen in the past, the reality is that they must be willing to act now,” Green says. So once you’ve gathered data from employees about improvements that can be made, commit to acting on that information.

Change can be difficult in healthcare because of regulation and legal mandates that organizations must meet, Green says. But many of the changes employees request are practical and easily implemented with a little effort, he says. Small changes such as an improved break area or increased autonomy in some decision-making processes can make a big difference in the level of happiness employees experience.

3. Empower Employees

In a fast-moving environment like healthcare, people resent being tied to policies implemented from “on high” without regard to conditions on the front lines. Running into internal bureaucracy can discourage people from bringing up ideas that might improve working conditions, patient outcomes or the bottom line.

Wherever possible, give people the power to solve the problems most directly related to their jobs, Kuehler says. Pushing problem-solving down while allowing employees to escalate issues as necessary will reinforce that they do have a voice and autonomy in their work, he says.

4. Express Appreciation

The work healthcare employees do can have high stakes. In addition, it takes a wide variety of roles to heal and help patients, both in direct care and in support and administrative staff. No matter where people work in healthcare organizations, recognizing the work they do and congratulating them for a job well done can go a long way toward boosting their happiness.

Peer-to-peer recognition is especially effective, Kuehler says. “It doesn’t have to be a highly intensive process or program, because a simple acknowledgement for doing good work is what matters.” In addition, celebrating milestones, goals met and improved outcomes can boost the “fun quotient” at an organization, Kuehler says.

As healthcare organizations look for ways to meet new challenges in an increasingly fast-moving and complicated industry, keeping employees happy will be an important part of success. Even small efforts can have big rewards when it comes to employee happiness; try a variety of measures to see what works best for your organization.

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