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The Happiness Equation: 4 Ways to Boost Staff Morale for Better Quality of Care

Every January, millions of people start feeling what is known as “post-holiday blues” – a period of lethargy or even depression once the December festivities are over, and there is only a long, dull winter ahead.

January 2021 may be particularly difficult for frontline workers amid the second, much harsher wave of COVID-19. These heroes continue to risk their lives through the holidays and beyond, to ensure that continuing care residents remain healthy and safe this winter. It is up to administrators and managers to ensure that staff are able to maintain their mental health, beat the post-holiday blues, and ultimately provide consistent quality of care.

Dr. Christine Korol, Vancouver Anxiety Centre, shared some useful insights on boosting staff morale in a webinar for the Canadian College of Health Leaders. The key takeaway from Dr. Korol’s presentation was that management should actively work toward maintaining job satisfaction among staff, which will lead to improved performance in the long term. This can be achieved through the following 4 steps:

Communications Plan
  1. Try to be in person
    • Staff need to know that you have their back and are doing everything you can to help.
    • Talk face-to-face with staff. Be a general who goes down to the troops – when they see you in the trenches, it builds trust.
  2. Surveys & suggestions
    • Give staff the opportunity to voice concerns. This ensures they feel heard and the process is not “top-down.”
  3. Tell the truth
  4. Take responsibility
    • Understand that nothing is perfect and improvements are needed.
    • Work together with staff to create solutions for problems that arise.
    • Do not shift blame – when you hold yourself accountable, team members will see you as more trustworthy. Own it, then fix it.
  5. Respect
    • Do not talk down to staff, as that will lose their trust immediately.


Meet Basic Needs
  1. Keep their families safe
    • Find a place for staff to sleep if they cannot go home.
    • Assist with child care if no other option is available.
  2. Rest
    • Let staff nap and rest.
  3. Groceries
    • Some facilities have basic groceries available on-site for staff to pick up.
  4. Parking
  5. Increase massage & physiotherapy benefits
    • Increase benefits or contract someone to provide massage on-site.
  6. Increase psychotherapy benefits
  7. Spiritual care


Eliminate Non-Medical Workload
  1. Psychological needs of residents’ families
    • Provide counselling to staff as well as residents’ families to help them cope with loss.
    • Staff will feel better if they know that families are being supported.
  2. Security
    • Residents and families can be agitated due to isolation and COVID-19 testing wait times.
    • Increased security may be needed to help staff.
  3. Admin support
    • Reduce the amount of administrative work required by staff.
    • Extra administrative work almost always results in reduced job satisfaction and resident care.
  4. IT support
    • Some staff may be using telehealth systems for the first time. As a result, they will likely experience technical issues.
  5. Stay in scope
    • Keep staff in their key job duties; stress and burnout increases when staff are placed into a role they are unfamiliar with.


Reduce Moral Distress
  1. Protocols
    • Have protocols in place so that tough decisions (e.g., ventilator distribution) are determined by the system, not the staff member.
    • Tough decisions by staff in resident care can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  2. Address resource challenges as much as possible
    • Knowing the staff cannot treat a resident due to a lack of resources is very challenging; let them know you are working on obtaining the proper equipment.
    • Keep an open communication channel for creative, collaborative solutions.
  3. Consultation with ethicists and risk management
  4. Peer/mentor consultation
    • Consider shared resources and message boards with physicians and frontline workers.
    • This allows staff to provide support for each other and understand they are not alone.
  5. Mindfulness and acceptance training
  6. Seek expert guidance in your own decision-making that impacts frontline staff

Last but not least, Dr. Korol reminds everyone to not forget themselves: “Give yourself the space to process your feelings so that you can feel strong while you are at work.”

For more information on increasing staff morale after the holidays (or any time), read the following article that looks at leadership in the military and how it can be used as a guide for healthcare facilities – “Ten Tips for a Crisis: Lessons from a Soldier.”

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