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Viewing entries tagged with 'employee burnout'

Staff Longevity: Working as a Team to Help Prevent Burnout

Posted by Ariel Ford, Assistant Field Director at Entrada on June 07, 2017 | 0 comment(s)

ArielBurnout! For employees, this is a hot topic in the Wilderness Therapy Industry. Although it is ever prevalent, it is often not given the attention it deserves. I was given the opportunity to address this topic head on at the 2017 OBH Regional Wilderness Symposium, in Asheville, NC, in April. This gathering allows an array of clinicians and other professionals to come together to share research, insights, and explore ideas for improvements industry wide.

The intention for the presentation was to provide an inclusive definition of burnout from both the field staff and management perspective, discuss signs and symptoms, as well as address tangible and intangible methods of employee support leading to staff longevity.

As former field instructors, it was important to myself and my co-presenters to address longevity, due to its prevalence, and the taboo that accompanies discussing the struggles that come with this line of work. So, out of support for our wilderness community, rose the topic of Burnout.

This topic hit close to home, as it was something I personally struggled with toward the end of my time as a field instructor, and more importantly, I struggled to understand the underlying causes. This added to my excitement for the opportunity to present, with my colleagues Mike and Katelyn, qualitative research on the topic gathered from current staff and exit interviews.

We opened with short filmed interview sessions of current field instructors that were asked to elaborate on their experiences in the industry and pinpoint the contributing factors to their feeling recharged or drained from time in the field. The definition of burnout; exhaustion of physical or emotional strength, or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress of frustration, aligned closely with the responses from the field staff.

Themes that came from the interviews included, community and support, self-care, boundaries, feedback, and transparency. These themes were placed into two categories, Signs and Symptoms, and Hazards. The themes were re-framed as signs and symptoms to aid the prevention of burnout. Hazards, to identify the importance in being proactive with prevention.

Signs and Symptoms

If field staff are feeling “stuck”, "burnout”, or a lack of motivation to meet work related goals, and those feelings (and emotions) go unaddressed, it is likely that the feedback provided on performance evaluations will reflect this in the field.

Boundaries. Given the nature of the investment it takes to work in the therapeutic industry it is important for field staff to be able to work through their own struggles separately from work, as well as be able to hold firm boundaries with participants in the program. Fluctuation in an instructor’s ability to perform this task can be a sign of burnout. This can be measured through recorded feedback on evaluations and conversations with instructors regarding their practices in the field. How much vacation are staff taking? This may look different for each instructor, and a deficiency in personal time or excess in vacation requests can be a sign that an employee may have feelings of burnout. When employees are feeling burned out, who are they talking to? As part of feeling supported, field staff mentioned that being able to talk to their supervisors openly and honestly about their feelings of exhaustion, is helpful to their rejuvenation.

Community was mentioned in multiple interview responses. With the amount of time that field staff spend working together, it is almost inevitable that they form a close-knit community and use that as a resource for support. Each individual experience with the community will be different, and what has shown to be helpful in identifying a person’s struggle is a significant change in their interaction with their community, a change in their baseline.

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