Article Summary

We see report after report of a burnt-out workforce and high staff turnover.

·        According to Crain’s Business Report, the average state-wide turnover for direct care workers in the mental health field is 37%.  Amid an opioid crisis, substance use treatment facilities across the nation are struggling to retain staff, are in a constant state of recruitment with average turnover rates of 18-20 percent.

·        Looking at the Center of Excellence for Integrated Health Solutions (Center of Excellence for Integrated Health Solutions ( studies have shown that more than half of individuals working in the substance use field were over the age of 45 with more than 60 percent of the clinical directors over the age of 50.

Some individual agencies are reporting 70-80% turnover. Let’s take a breath.  We need this time to breathe and reflect.  Let’s not ask our employees for more.  Let’s stop and see what our remaining 30% need to stay, what they need to recharge, and how we can ensure a mentally and physically well work force.

We cannot ask our current staff for more. They are still giving 100%, but their 100% may be down to 20% of what they gave when they were fresh and vibrant and not fatigued and burnt out.

Let’s ask them what they want.  Ask all of your staff.  Don’t just hear what they have to say, listen.  When I hear, “Please give me 4 days to see patients.  I’ll give up my breaks and lunch.  However, on the 5th day, let me have an admin day with no patients to catch up.  If I work from home, I can do laundry at the same time or run an errand I was unable to do the other 4 days because I worked through lunch and breaks.  If I finish late at night, it won’t matter as long as I complete my work.”  Are we will to willing to make those accommodations?

Let’s look further into the request, offering to give up lunch and breaks.  Perhaps we can start there, but remember each worker is entitled to breaks.  Are you in the practice of hosting working lunches?  If so, make sure they are scheduled adequately in advance.  Remember, this is oftentimes the only time workers can run quick errands and handle personal business during the workday.  Do you provide lunch when you make these requests of staff?  A $5-$8 box lunch from the grocery store is wonderful.  Staff are giving up personal time for these meetings.

Can we hire a paraprofessional workforce to take some of the burdens off of our licensed professionals?

Hire a runner!  Yes, a runner for the office.  Someone who orders and coordinates lunches and adds special touches to events and meetings.  Someone to make copies, assist with greeting and patients who need extra care.  Let our professional workforce focus on the work they signed on to do.

Caregivers at work are often caregivers at home…. Ask them what they need.  You might be surprised at the one small thing you can provide that helps your workforce tremendously.

Who is working overtime?  Why? What can we do to help with reports, other administrative needs, staff shortages, etc.?

Review Job Descriptions.  Who is doing more than what their position requires? Are we asking staff what they need? Are we offering staff wellness within our facility: a workout room, book reading/quiet room, Yoga Tuesdays after work, or a gift wrap station for birthdays and holidays?

Here are a few other considerations: Zumba, garden center, arts and crafts, knitting, crochet sewing, painting, scrapbooking, cooking for the week classes/vouchers.

How are we promoting the team?  Do we offer from time to time: clothing, t shirts, polos, smocks, swag?

Do we take a full breath and enjoy a day off for a staff retreat to recharge?  How do we reward?  What goodies and incentives do you offer to let staff feel appreciated?

Help staff avoid burnout by hiring paraprofessionals into the workplace.  Give back to our employees instead of asking for yet another thing.  Let’s rethink and reshape our way of doing business.  Not only will our staff appreciate it and hopefully stay with us longer, but our clients will benefit from this recharged and invigorated workforce.