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Preventing Burnout: What can agencies do? (PART 3)
photo | Julien Harneis
by
Dr. Laurie Pearlman
on
August 28, 2013
| Resilience | Stress & Burnout |

Humanitarian organizations strive to improve the lives of their beneficiaries by providing first-rate services. An important goal that promotes this mission is to reduce staff burnout.  In our last blog post, we focused on what individuals can do to prevent burnout. This post focuses on what agencies can do.

A major objective in reducing burnout is to create an organizational culture that recognizes the risks of humanitarian work as well as its rewards. Agencies can move in this direction by acknowledging that this work is stressful for both workers and their families. Doing so reduces the stigma of burnout, encourages staff to do whatever they can to prevent and address it, and opens the door for agencies to do the same.

Below we offer four agency strategies along with a wide range of possible ideas for ways to implement them. The strategies and many of the tasks are based in contemporary research, some with humanitarian workers. We hope this list will stimulate your thinking to develop your own tasks or to modify or apply these to your work place.

As you read, we invite you to write a comment and make a note of any of these strategies or tasks you would like to learn more about. After receiving your feedback, we will elaborate on those that are most frequently selected.

Strategy I: Adjust agency policies and systems to help prevent burnout

Task A: Put in place and enforce worker- and work-friendly personnel policies (adequate compensation, time off including rest, relaxation, and renewal; professional development activities; a formal system for addressing concerns, conflicts, and complaints; professional development; physical and mental health benefits). Provide these benefits for both national and expat staff.

Task B: Enforce zero tolerance for sexual harassment and bullying in the work place. Click here for more ideas on how to do this

Task C: Provide accurate job descriptions including clearly articulated reporting relationships (who has authority over whom, for what), update regularly (ideally annually) with those who hold the jobs, outline clear paths for advancement within the agency or make it clear that advancement isn’t likely or possible and why.

Task D: Develop and enforce boundaried work expectations , e.g., 40 hour work weeks whenever possible and extra support during times when it is not.

Strategy II: Facilitate interpersonal communication between workers, between staff and managers,  and throughout the agency's hierarchy

Task A: Facilitate bi-directional communication across the hierarchy.

Task B: Give regular and frequent feedback on successes (small and large, individual and agency) as well as shortcomings.

Task C: Include workers in decisions that affect them.

Task D: Provide staff with the big picture about how their jobs fit into the agency’s mission and how that mission fits into the country’s situation, as well as agency progress toward goals.

Continue to PART 2 for more agency strategies!  

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