Stress and burnout are not new phenomena in the healthcare industry and consistently contribute to challenges with workforce shortages. The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated pressure on care providers, with physical and mental repercussions causing more to consider making career changes. In recent surveys of healthcare workers, 76% reported experiencing exhaustion and burnout, with 48% of considering retiring, quitting or changing careers altogether. More than ever, healthcare organizations are seeking methods of improving employee retention.
A good place to start with retention is by strengthening employee satisfaction and workplace engagement. Teams with high levels of engagement realize a 41% reduction in absenteeism, 59% less turnover, and 21% greater profitability. Engagement improves care provider satisfaction, which positively correlates to patient satisfaction and adherence to care recommendations, resulting in improved health outcomes.
Improving employee engagement is a long-term investment. Not only are there cost reductions in hiring and training staff, engaged employees help recruit new talent; further strengthening culture and retention.
In addition to operational strategies, the physical environment can contribute immensely to engagement. Focusing on well-being, control and connection during design for any new capital project will help reinforce this value.
Well-being integrates physical, mental and emotional health. Individuals with high levels of well-being show enhanced job satisfaction3, are more productive4, and are less likely to quit their job. Here are a few ways design can specifically support well-being by encouraging holistic wellness and minimizing environmental stressors.
Promote physical health: Elements such as monumental stairs and fitness rooms encourage physical activity throughout the day. Ergonomic sit-to-stand workstations, natural light, and views support employee comfort. High Sound Transmission Class (STC) walls and sound-absorbing materials provide acoustic comfort, while tunable lighting supports a healthy circadian rhythm, particularly during night shifts.
Support mental + emotional health: Given the demanding nature of healthcare roles, it’s important to recognize the need and accommodate space for respite and stress management. Wellness rooms, quiet rooms and private outdoor areas aid in mental well-being. To enhance an employee’s sense of security, utilize glass for shared-office doors, sensor-controlled lighting, and clear visibility to public-access points.
Utilize staff surveys, focus groups, workshops, and mock-ups to facilitate design discussions and gather relevant feedback. As an added benefit, these strategies provide a forum for staff to discuss process improvements that could result in improved efficiencies elsewhere.
Design and operational enhancements can work together to emphasize how much an organization values its employees’ experience, in turn improving employee lifecycle costs. By keeping well-being, control, and connection at the center of design decisions, leaders can continue to establish their healthcare organization as not only the provider, but the workplace of choice.
In all aspects of life, a sense of control plays a crucial role in our overall level of satisfaction. Extending beyond variety, control is about having agency, giving people spaces that equip them to perform their best work and adapt the environment to suit individual preferences.
Design by activity: It’s important to design a spectrum of spaces that accommodate different workstyles, while balancing the amount of collaborative and private workspace. Designating zones for quiet or active collaboration allows staff to control noise levels throughout the day, as well as levels of social interaction, and even room temperature. Include focus rooms and phone booths for heads-down work, dictation, virtual visits and personal calls.
Promote Sense of Influence: Providers gain a sense of influence when they feel they can deliver the quantity and quality of care their patients need4. Optimize providers’ ability to perform at their best by creating adaptable space, such as flexible exam room layouts that support collaborative discussions with patients and family. Consult rooms with lounge furniture encourage further patient engagement, particularly for integrative behavioral health practices. Additionally, adaptable and mobile technology can reinforce a sense of control and increase provider satisfaction.
Authentic and meaningful connection is central to building social vitality and community. Establish connection by instilling a sense of belonging and pride of place.
Inspire interconnection: It’s typical to have an employee breakroom, but consider additional spaces that foster connections among employees. For example, unassigned touchdown workspaces and coffee bars in common areas allow for ad hoc interactions and relationship building while also encouraging knowledge sharing.
Promote connection with the organization: Connecting with an employer’s core values can be key to feeling a sense of meaning in one’s work, which positively correlates to satisfaction and engagement. Incorporating design elements that reflect the organization’s culture supports the desired internal dynamic. Often labeled Environmental Branding, graphic treatments that celebrate the organization’s mission, values, and culture goes a long way in instilling pride of place for employees.
How does this all come together? If you’re involved with a new capital project, consider the following recommendations:
Identify the Why: The kick-off defines a project’s trajectory, so start this meeting by identifying top-level goals for the project and developing a project vision that will guide design decisions and establish benchmarks for success.
Engage employees in the design process: Employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.3 Inviting feedback shows employees that their opinion and experience are valued; it can contribute to change management by communicating intent early and regularly throughout the design process, helping meet expectations and combatting uncertainty. Employees who participate in design develop a sense of ownership and become advocates to other staff, prompting a positive mental transition to the new space long before the physical move.
This article is originally published by Colorado Real Estate Journal in Health Care and Senior Housing Quarterly Issue on page 6.