Hardee Help Center: Dealing with Burnout
Guest Blogger: Amy Harper | Hardee Help Center
The staff at the Hardee Help Center (HHC), located in Wauchula, Florida, have a huge heart to help people. Staff members are dedicated, hardworking and very caring when it comes to the clients that visit their center. “We realize we are working with people in the middle of crisis situations and that takes a lot of patience and compassion,” said Stephanie Leakey, Case Manager. Sometimes however, working with people in crisis can be very draining mentally and emotionally on staff members.
Sometimes the person on the other side of the desk is someone dealing with mental health issues and may not be at their best. Staff members have been yelled at, cussed out, hung up on, and called every name in the book. It is not easy in these situations to be pleasant and patient. These types of interactions take their toll on staff members and it is easy to suffer burnout.
Just recently, Hardee Help Center staff learned that the person in their success story, published by the United Way of Central Florida last year, suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. This person’s death hits hard on staff members. Staff members work hard to build relationships with clients and grieve when clients pass away. When one of their homeless clients passed away during Hurricane Ian, and three more died in the weeks following the storm, staff members didn’t have the time to grieve as they were busy with disaster relief efforts. “We realized we needed time and space to grieve the loss of our homeless friends so we decided to plan a memorial service. At first, we thought about a private service for the staff, but realized that we were not the only ones who needed to express our grief. We opened up the memorial service and invited the community to come and share in a candlelight vigil that was held on December 21st,” said Lori Friers, Outreach Coordinator. December 21st is the National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day and is recognized annually on the longest winter night of the year. The service was successful and plans are underway to hold the event again this year.
Employee burnout is all too common in the nonprofit sector. According to a survey conducted by Opportunity Knocks, “30% of nonprofit employees are burnt out, and 20% are in danger of burning out. Burnout is defined by donorbox.org, as “an emotional, physical, as well as a mental state following a prolonged period of excessive stress. Most times, it is related to job life and can happen when employees are swamped continually for a long time. Employees tend to feel overwhelmed and lose enthusiasm at work and in life. This could very well be one of the reasons why 45% of nonprofit employees are planning to leave their organizations in the next 2 years.”
“As a nonprofit agency seeing these risks, we searched for helpful information to help our employees. Hardee Help Center has a great staff that work together as a team. We try to always lift each other up and encourage each other,” said Jill Vaillancourt, Executive Director. One of the staff members recently found a great article, 9 Practical Tips to Prevent Mental Health Burnout in the Workplace, from mindfulhealthsolutions.com, and the tips were shared with other staff members in a recent staff meeting.
Hardee Help Center would like to share these tips with partner agencies through the shared connection with United Way of Central Florida. There may be other staffers from partner agencies that might enjoy reading these helpful tips.
According to the March 3, 2023 article, indicators of burnout can include the following symptoms: “feeling overwhelmed, unmotivated, disconnected and feeling like your work is never done.” The feeling that work is never done may be commonplace In busy workplaces, especially those with staff shortages.
The article also addresses the effects of employee burnout in the workplace, “Preventing employee burnout is essential to maintain a productive and supportive workplace. Some risks of not addressing burnout may include: increased absenteeism, employee turnover, low job satisfaction, decreased productivity, and potential legal issues.” Some of these tips are the common sense type, but this is a good reminder for all employees to practice good self-care.
Here are the nine tips to prevent mental health burnout at work from Mindful Health Solutions:
- Prioritize rest and self care.
- Take breaks throughout the day.
- Use vacation time.
- Set boundaries and stick to them.
- Have a hobby.
- Eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly.
- Combat negative thinking.
- Break large tasks into smaller steps.
- Ask for help.
HHC staff would like to add to tip #7, “Combat negative thinking,” with the idea of practicing thankfulness. Amy Harper, Administrative Assistant, uses this tip on a daily basis. “I like to take a few minutes each day to think about things that I am grateful for in my life. This ‘thinking time’ allows me to reset into a positive mindset, even in the midst of stressful situations.”
Speaking of thankfulness, HHC is very thankful to be a partner agency with the United Way of Central Florida. Not only does UWCF partner with the center to provide services to residents experiencing hardship situations, but UWCF also provides resources for people to practice Tip #9 and ask for help. With 2-1-1, people have access to resources to help prevent mental health burnout. At the UWCF website, help is available for people to find counseling services, crisis hotlines, mental health care services, substance use treatment sources and support groups (https://uwcf.org/find-help/).
In addition to sharing the mental health resources available through 2-1-1 with staff members, Executive Director, Jill Vaillancourt, reached out to a local pastor to come and provide spiritual counsel to employees. Hardee Help Center is the dba of the Hardee County Ministerial Association and a Christian organization, so spiritual health is considered as well. “It was so helpful for all of us to take a break from work and have a time to talk with someone we all trust,” said Jill, “it was the spiritual and mental health break that we all needed.” In addition, staff members have picked “prayer buddies” to pray for and send positive messages to during the work week.
Hardee Help Center employees wish to encourage all the employees at their partner agencies and the United Way of Central Florida, to take a few minutes daily for a mental health break and explore the positive tips and practices shared in this blog.
Hardee Help Center currently receives funding from United Way of Central Florida under our basic needs initiative. Their program provides wrap-around services to residents in a short-term crisis to have access to food and safe housing while regaining financial stability.
Thank you Hardee Help Center for being an incredible partner in our community!