It’s clear that COVID-19 has created hardships on many levels, whether they are personal, economic, or financially related. Though some industries have experienced lower demand prompting layoffs, the healthcare industry has experienced the opposite problem. Healthcare workers have felt immense strain as increased demand has led to equipment shortages, working overtime, and sacrificed well-being to help those in need.
Some healthcare institutions have had an especially rough time. We are now seeing the operations of many long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes and retirement homes, breaking down as outbreaks occur in these institutions. These facilities are home to the most vulnerable people during this pandemic: seniors. According to STAT News, those 80 years old and above have a 13.4% chance of death if they contract the disease. Unfortunately, those living in long-term care homes are even more vulnerable as the close corridors make the spread of COVID-19 easy and quick. More and more workers in these affected facilities are contracting the disease, prompting others to pull extra weight.
As leaders of healthcare institutions, it can be difficult to navigate this challenging time. However, below are some initiatives that healthcare institutions can implement to help boost their employee experience.
1. Think Outside the Box to Protect Your Workers
As employees work increased hours and COVID-19 begins to reach its peak, it’s critical that the physical health of staff is prioritized. Not only are community members falling ill, but we are now seeing increased sickness among healthcare workers. Staff are vulnerable in this situation, and it’s important that they have the essential protective equipment so they can stay healthy. It’s no secret that we have a global shortage of protective equipment, but fortunately there are unconventional ways that you can protect your staff.
If you can’t restock from your supplier, consider reaching out to the community. Volunteers are now working with hospitals to sew homemade face masks for vulnerable workers. Additionally, you can also consider ways to safely reuse your masks. An Ohio based company, Battelle, has equipment that can sterilize masks so they can be worn multiple times. If you’re a healthcare institution based in Ohio, New York, Washington D.C., or Seattle this might be an option to explore.
2. Consistently Provide Educational Resources and News Updates
COVID-19 is a new pandemic, and even the most qualified healthcare professionals are still trying to grasp the nature of the disease. To ensure that they are supported properly, make educational resources easily available to them. Whether you email them articles on a regular basis, include hard copy materials at your healthcare facility, or make them available on your website, these resources will be much appreciated. New information on the science of the disease, the history of the disease, and regular news updates are all valued by those who are working to stop this pandemic. Since many staff are working increased hours, they will appreciate having the most critical information related to COVID-19 easily accessible. After a long shift, the last thing that staff want to do is spend hours filtering through the internet to stay informed.
3. Provide On-Site Support and Recognition for Healthcare Workers
In the midst of a long and grueling shift, it can be easy for healthcare workers to put their own well-being on the back-burner. Whether that involves skipping a lunch break or extending a shift, many healthcare workers find that they are spending an increased amount of time providing support to patients. To help lift their spirits, consider small initiatives within your health care facility to help enhance the employee experience. This could include making coffee readily available, providing them with a nutritious meal, or encouraging them to take small breaks to phone a loved one.
Additionally, though the general public is practicing social distancing, many healthcare practitioners are forced to take this to a more extreme level. Many healthcare workers are finding that they have to quarantine themselves from even their closest family members. This isolation can have a huge mental toll on even the toughest workers as boundaries between work and home life are diminished. In these difficult times, it’s important to recognize their hard work and sacrifices. Though internal recognition is extremely beneficial, public recognition can also go a long way. If your healthcare institution has a website or social media channels, consider showcasing the employees that have gone the extra mile during this crisis. Encouragement from community members can help lift their spirits as they persevere through this challenging time.
4. Allow Healthcare Workers to Bank Their Vacation Time
With the increased demand for healthcare professionals and mandated travel ban, many workers are finding that they can no longer take their planned vacation. Instead of viewing this as a lost cause, consider implementing a system that enables workers to bank their vacation time. If workers can’t use their vacation time in 2020, for instance, allow them the flexibility to carry it into the following year. Further, if some employees have put in extra time during this pandemic, consider providing them with additional vacation time down the road to show appreciation for their sacrifice and service. After being consumed by the COVID-19 crisis, healthcare workers will surely appreciate some time to recharge!
5. Up Your Safety Measures
Many healthcare employees also carry the fear of bringing the virus home to their loved ones. They find that there is no good process for changing out of their scrubs and cleaning themselves properly after a shift. Having a designated shower or cleaning area that staff could use after a shift could be a potential solution. Allowing staff to discard their scrubs on-site and washing it for them could also be an extra precautionary measure. Times are tough, but these small initiatives can help show your support towards healthcare workers and their families.
6. Implement a Rewards Program
Now, more than ever, it’s important for healthcare institutions to reward their employees on the front lines. COVID-19 has placed extreme stress on our healthcare system, and front-line workers especially are feeling the weight of this pandemic. Empower your employees through the use of recognition, mentioned above, combined with rewards. There are many rewards and recognition platforms on the market which enables employees to acknowledge those who have gone the extra mile, reached a career milestone, or achieved another significant accomplishment. Additionally, these platforms also have the functionality to distribute rewards points that healthcare workers can redeem for gift cards, items, and experiences. Employee rewards can help raise spirits in times of trial and stress. Our healthcare workers are truly heroes in this pandemic, and this is one small way that employers can recognize that.
Though everyone is impacted by COVID-19 in one way or another, our healthcare workers are experiencing this pandemic on a whole other level. As employers of these workers, consider implementing some of these strategies to support your employees during this trying time. This COVID-19 pandemic will pass, but hopefully healthcare workers can look back on this crisis and smile remembering the support they received from others.
Megan Doleweerd is a Marketing Coordinator at InFlight, an employee experience platform for enterprise companies. InFlight transforms the way that companies attract, hire, and empower talent by making their existing applications mobile, modern, and beautiful.