Preventing Burnout In Your Organization: Practicing Flexibility

This blog is one in a series about burnout and moral injury in behavioral health. This post and those that follow will dig into some practical solutions that you could apply in your organization. The most effective changes in large systems start at the bottom with those who are impacted most. If you are motivated to solve burnout and moral injury in healthcare, keep on reading! Read the original blog here.

Practicing Flexibility: Promote A Work/Life Balance

A silver lining of the pandemic was learning that a lot of work could effectively be completed remotely. In behavioral health, we know that the therapeutic alliance, or the perceived patient-provider relationship, is one of (if not the most) important factors in driving good outcomes.

Given the relational nature of behavioral health, we don’t get to have the most flexible schedules (when compared to industries like tech) and it’s important that we show up consistently for our patients. That doesn’t mean we’re all forced to do office-based shift work. There are ways to increase flexibility, take a look at a few below.
Personal-Professional Development Plans are used at Green Hill and Advaita Integrated Medicine to help supervisors understand each individual’s unique personal and professional goals. Everyone has a unique set of factors that determine their satisfaction at work and home. The better you, as a supervisor, understand your direct reports, the better you can tailor their work environment to reduce burnout.
Working hours can often be flexible. Some people enjoy working in the evenings, while others would prefer to leave the office by 3pm. Not every job is going to be perfect, but if you have someone working for you who wants to pick up their kids from school a few days a week, maybe they can do that and catch up on admin work at home. Clinicians have to be face-to-face with patients sometimes, but maybe you can work some of the other hours into a more flexible schedule that takes into account their personal lives.
Telehealth isn’t a silver bullet for flexibility. I’ll be interested to see research about where telehealth is most and least effective but for many behavioral health providers, some amount of their job can be done via telehealth (sorry, if you’re working in-patient psych, this doesn’t apply to you). Leveraging technology is crucial to increasing access to quality, affordable care, so providers and leaders need to lean in.
Behavioral health is not the most flexible field of work to be in; however, that doesn’t mean leaders and administrators can’t create better environments that work with individuals’ personal obligations. If you have clinicians that feel torn between work and familial obligations, they’re not likely to perform as well. Taking the time to understand your team is crucial, only then can you know what flexibility may be helpful.

In Closing

That concludes our blog series looking at burnout and moral injury in the behavioral health industry, and how to avoid it.

If you want to prevent burnout and moral injury in behavioral health, create a provider-centric culture. Make it easy for clinicians to do the right thing.

If you’ve got a profit-driven culture, if your providers feel torn between serving patients and insurance payors, or you’ve got an overly burdensome EHR, you’re in trouble!

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