What burned out workers really want from employers

As healthcare worker burnout is on the rise and job satisfaction falls at twice the rate of other sectors, it’s clear healthcare employers may be underestimating the level of support needed across the industry.

Make no mistake: Although life may be returning to normal for some, healthcare workers are still struggling on the frontlines of what feels like a never-ending pandemic – and they’re tired and burned out. So tired and burned out, in fact, that many have considered leaving their jobs. According to MetLife’s annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study 2022, job satisfaction in healthcare has fallen at twice the rate of other sectors, with 45% of healthcare workers considering quitting in the past year alone.

And with healthcare employees 30% more likely to have experienced burnout over the last 12 months, it’s clear that healthcare employers may be underestimating the breadth of support needed for these individuals during what continues to be a stressful and uncertain time. Particularly as new COVID-19 variants arise, healthcare workers are only going to continue putting their lives (and their livelihoods) on the line in order to ensure the safety of their patients and the larger community.

Therefore, as the industry faces a growing labor shortage, thinking of solutions that can help thwart this growing burnout epidemic and prioritize healthcare workers’ holistic wellbeing has never been more critical. Here are three insights that can help arm healthcare employers with the tools to support their employees both now and in the future.

Don’t overlook mental and financial health offerings

Today, healthcare remains the most “stressed-out” sector of the workforce, with four in 10 healthcare workers (42%) reporting feeling stressed. It’s a fact no doubt exacerbated by the realities of the pandemic, with healthcare employees’ mental health hovering 10% lower than it was before the spread of COVID-19.

With increased workloads and difficulty managing work-life balance contributing to poor mental health, it’s important that employers consider leveraging the right mix of wellness offerings, like employee assistance programs (EAPs) and more flexible working hours, that can reduce stress and promote overall wellbeing. And with 30% of healthcare workers stating their poor mental health is a result of financial stress, integrating financial wellness benefits – like flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and student debt assistance, or tools that help them manage their finances, like UpwiseTM – can pay dividends in supporting them as they navigate increasingly difficult and demanding work.

Flexible workplace cultures promote overall wellness

Overwhelmingly, data today shows that flexible workplace cultures lead to holistically healthier employees. In fact, nearly half (49%) of healthcare workers who say their employers offer enough flexibility to manage their work-life balance also say their mental health has improved in the past 12 months. What’s more, among healthcare workers who have stayed in their job, a staggering 52% attributed this to “flexibility in their working schedule.”

In analyzing these statistics, it’s clear that healthcare employers would be wise to consider adding more flexible benefits, such as expanded paid time off (PTO) and where possible, remote work options, into their existing offerings. The past two years have shown us that flexibility and productivity don’t have to be mutually exclusive. On the contrary, by prioritizing flexibility and allowing employees to take the time needed to rest and recharge, employers can promote overall wellness and prevent burnout in the process.

Supportive managers are key

Across industries, supportive managers can be incredibly useful resources for employees – not only for professional growth, but also for emotional support. This is especially true in healthcare. In fact, healthcare employees who have a supportive manager are more than three times as likely to feel holistically healthy as those who don’t. Additionally, of respondents who intended to stay with their organization for at least 12 months, 83% stated that their manager has a high level of empathy. What this tells us is that when faced with prolonged and often uncertain working conditions, having a supportive manager can make all the difference.

Granted, as with many work environments, having a supportive manager can often be easier said than done. Accordingly, implementing new management programs – including top-down leadership training and organization-wide appreciation efforts – can be incredibly effective in helping staff feel heard and valued. By building a management infrastructure atop a foundation of empathy and compassion, employers can not only help their employees today, but they can also ensure they’re prepared for whatever lies around the corner tomorrow.

Final thoughts

Over the past two years, healthcare employees have fought diligently on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ve acted selflessly for the benefit of society and are now depending on us to return the favor. Thankfully, by following the steps outlined above, healthcare employers can quickly implement a number of impactful initiatives purposed to attend to their employees at this critical time. Equipped with newfound workplace flexibility, wellness offerings and supportive management structures, healthcare employees can continue saving lives with the knowledge that they’re being supported every step of the way.

Missy Plohr-Memming is senior vice president of MetLife’s Group Benefits National Accounts Sales organization, which provides employee benefits solutions to U.S. based employers with 5,000 or more employees. In this role, Plohr-Memming oversees sales strategy and key growth initiatives to drive top-and bottom-line financial results and is responsible for the development of global strategies and sales of expatriate and multinational solutions to U.S.-based businesses for all Group Benefits sales teams.