The cost of burnout

Are you suffering from burnout? How can pharmacy owners and managers reduce workplace burnout, improve retention and help their staff thrive?

Burnout is a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.

It is characterised by feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job and reduced professional efficacy.

Recent findings reveal that workers who describe themselves as mentally distant or disengaged – a key indicator of burnout – had 37% more absenteeism, 49% more workplace accidents, and 60% more issues with accuracy and defects.

Businesses need emotionally intelligent leaders who know how to respond to a situation in a way that facilitates positive behaviours, says Access EAP, a provider of Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) in Australia.

“Emotions and vulnerability are part of who we are and that doesn’t just go away when we enter the workplace,” explains Marcela Slepica, Clinical Director, Access EAP.

It is risky for an organisation to ignore the feelings of their team and could lead to staff loss, she says.

It’s estimated that to replace a full-time employee, it costs a business around six to nine months of that person’s salary, recruitment and training costs.

For someone who is earning $50,000, it could cost $25,000-$37,500 to replace them.

Access EAP highlights that leaders set the tone for organisational culture, and they can they can implement proactive resilience initiatives that aid wellbeing and engagement.

“Leaders need to lead by example,” says Ms Slepica.

“Role modelling is important, as employees will typically mirror the behavioural standards which are set by their leaders.”

Pharmacists’ Support Service executive officer Kay Dunkley agrees.

“To be able to provide leadership within a pharmacy workplace, pharmacists who are managers or owners must also look after themselves and set an example with self-care,” she says.

“Some practical examples of self-care in the pharmacy workplace includes taking rest breaks during the working day, eating healthy foods and drinking lots of water and avoiding long hours of work.”

Adequate leisure time, rest and sleep are essential to function well at work, Ms Dunkley adds.

“For pharmacists and pharmacy staff tiredness will cause loss of concentration and an increased risk of missing a medication issue or making a mistake when dispensing or providing information and advice,” she says.

Pharmacy owners and workplace managers at all levels can reduce stress for the staff they supervise by addressing some key areas, says Ms Dunkley.

These include:

  • Role: Does everyone understand their role and feel valued for their input?
  • Demands: Does each person have an acceptable workload, good work patterns and a functional work environment? Are they able to cope with the demands placed on them?
  • Control: How much say does a person have in the way they do their work? While many aspects of pharmacy work must be completed to a certain standard, it may be possible to vary the way a task is approached. Modify procedures if someone suggests a more efficient way. Encourage input and ideas from staff.
  • Support: Encouragement and support from senior staff is all important – remember to say well done and recognise effort as well as outcomes.
  • Resources: Does everyone have the resources they need to do their work? These resources may be materials, skills, knowledge and personnel. Adequate staff levels to meet demand are essential.
  • Relationships: Promote a positive work environment to avoid conflict, be fair and avoid any perception of favouritism. Build up a sense of teamwork with everyone helping and supporting each other, especially at times of peak demand. Deal with unacceptable behaviour promptly especially any bullying, sniping, gossip or other unpleasant behaviour which impacts on others.
  • Change: Organisational change must be well-managed with consultation and clear communication. Frequent staff turnover is unsettling for everyone and is a sign that all is not well in the workplace, addressing this is essential.
  • Communication: Open and respectful communication is essential in all workplaces and especially in pharmacy where teamwork is expected. Ensure that the workplace provides psychological safety to anyone wanting to raise an issue or concern, never put someone down for raising an issue and addresses their concerns respectfully.

“All staff have a responsibility to reduce workplace stress both through self-management and managing the way we interact with and impact on others,” says Ms Dunkley.

“Well-managed workplaces are pro-active about working through issues as they arise and are prepared to resolve or minimise the impact these issues have on staff and health consumers.”

The publication, “Managing Stress in Pharmacy – creating healthier working environment in pharmacy by managing workplace stress”, has some valuable tips and practical advice for Australian pharmacists and pharmacy support staff.

The PSS website also has some other useful resources about building resilience to manage stress, healthy lifestyle tips, bullying and what to do after a hold-up or trauma.

If feeling distressed you can talk it over by calling the Pharmacists’ Support Service (PSS) on 1300244910. The call will be confidential and you can remain anonymous. The volunteers who take calls are all pharmacists or retired pharmacists who have undertaken training to provide support over the phone.

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