How Senior Care Facilities Can Boost Staff Morale During the COVID-19 Pandemic

James Balda, President and CEO, Argentum

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the senior care facility industry, and many staff now find themselves in uncharted territory. There’s a lot of fear and stress surrounding COVID-19, and senior care facility staff may experience high levels of fear and stress. This can negatively affect staff morale, contributing to worker burnout and frustration. While facilities should always be aware of staff morale, it’s particularly important to take an active role in monitoring and maintaining morale during this pandemic.

Actively Monitor Staff Morale

James Balda, President and CEO of Argentum, advocates that facilities take an active role in monitoring staff morale. “No matter how busy things are, it’s important to address people’s stress, not ignore it. Supervisors should also feel encouraged to look for solutions with their team members,” states Balda.

Facilities can use a variety of techniques to monitor staff morale. “Many senior living providers survey their staff regularly, and it’s important that continues even during stressful times,” Balda explains. “But gauging engagement goes beyond formal surveys. Some providers have invested in phone apps to encourage communication and proactively address potential issues.

“It’s not all about technology. Our members report the importance of shift meetings even during these trying times—not just to make announcements but to encourage personal sharing. Never underestimate the value of taking the time to listen to our workers as human beings.”

Creating an open dialogue with staff is also helpful. Scheduling regular meetings with supervisors can give staff a chance to express concerns and also highlight what the facility can do to further support them. Even if solutions can’t be immediately implemented, staff can still feel supported in knowing that their concerns are heard.

Take Steps to Address Stress

While stress levels are currently high, facilities need to do what they can to minimize the stress that staff feel. “This is unquestionably a stressful time for everyone,” notes Balda. “It has been heartening to see the heroic response of so many senior living workers who truly are essential employees. Effective communication is key to fostering that kind of morale.”

Argentum focuses on supporting its employees in multiple ways. “Our members make sure to listen to staff, put the safety of employees and residents first, and maintain a dialogue at every level of their organization. That includes explaining not just what are new procedures, but the reasoning behind them,” explains Balda.

A facility’s strategies to boost staff morale will depend on the unique challenges it’s facing. If a facility is short-staffed, hiring temporary help can leave staff feeling better supported and can help to reduce both the workload and the stress that staff is under. Ensuring that adequate PPE and tests are available to staff can also help to reduce some common and major sources of stress. Facilities should also involve staff in creating and modifying policies, particularly when they relate to COVID-19 prevention and staff health and safety.

Recognize Employees’ Efforts

Making an extra effort to say “thank you” to staff for their work can also boost morale. Balda notes that “senior living providers have also taken steps to recognize the extraordinary efforts of employees. As one example, many communities have offered meals for workers and their families, Uber vouchers, “hero pay,” and other supports during this emergency.

“Or, to take another example, we’ve seen “Heroes work here” signs pop up outside many senior living communities, provided by the company or even by family members of residents.”

While a facility may greatly appreciate its staff, Balda states that it’s important to take some action to show that gratitude during this time: “When we back up the sentiment with action, that’s a recipe for success.”

Topics: Administration , Advocacy , Departments , Facility management , Featured Articles , Leadership , Staffing