By Bridget Berkland, M.A., NBC-HWC; Kaisa Wieneke, M.P.H; Ronald Menaker, Ed.D., CPA; and Charlotte Brunholzl, M.A., R.T.(R)
Forward-looking organizations recognize it is essential to assess the workplace environment and how it impacts employees’ experiences. Research has been well-documented on how burnout decreases health care employees’ job satisfaction, engagement, well-being and quality of patient care.1 This demonstrates the urgent need to identify innovative approaches to address this issue.
A novel approach is to explore an understudied area in health care, the role of a positive emotion, like joy. Positive psychology research validates positive emotions are vital to cultivate human flourishing and also contributors to subjective well-being. Furthermore, positive emotion at work is associated with higher job performance, organizational citizenship behavior and reduced absenteeism, turnover and burnout.2
The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) published a Framework for Improving Joy in Work. This paper states, "In our work in health care, joy is not just humane; it’s instrumental … The gifts of hope, confidence and safety that health care should offer patients and families can only come from a workforce that feels hopeful, confident, and safe. Joy in work is an essential resource for the enterprise of healing. … It is critical for leaders at all levels to dedicate time, attention, skill development and necessary resources to improving joy in work. The opportunities to learn together and to build cultures that thrive through nurturing joy in daily work are immense. Let us begin and learn together."3
Therefore, this article shares learning strategies to cultivate joy in the workplace that could be beneficial to health care organizations.
Cultivating joy in the workplace — a shared responsibility
Research indicates burnout is impacted by key drivers and contexts, defined as individual, leader, department/division and organization/institution, which create a shared responsibility to address burnout.1 This framework of using key drivers and contexts to understand burnout was applied to identify how to cultivate joy in the workplace within the radiology department at a large health care organization.
The complex radiology department at Mayo Clinic includes 1,200 employees, 200 physicians and physicists, 80 work units and 14 specialty divisions. To understand the diverse perspectives to cultivate joy in the workplace, various employees met to discuss practical interventions that could be deployed to improve employee joy at work. The qualitative feedback was collected using the framework of context and drivers to explore joy at work and summarized below. Table 1 shows the summary of practical interventions by key drivers and contexts.
Workload — The department and organization need to consistently set clear and realistic expectations, making sure staff have appropriate resources for the workload. The leader is responsible for nurturing the work environment. The individual is responsible for questioning leadership, seeking training, and a positive attitude.
Workload Efficiency — At the organization level, implement benchmarking and reduce the administrative burden. The department should execute continuous process improvement, such as integrating lean guiding principles. Leaders play a vital role through understanding the climate of the frontline and finding solutions to improve efficiency. Individuals should continue to evaluate the "why" when considering potential changes for improvement.
Staff Flexibility/Control at Work — The organization should encourage part-time work, provide state-of-the-art technology, promote learning opportunities, and support telework. The department should identify barriers for staff empowerment to facilitate innovation. Leadership should try new, creative scheduling methods to better meet the needs of staff. Individuals should discuss with their peers and supervisors potential beneficial strategies, without negatively impacting organizational effectiveness.
Work-life Integration — The organization can promote vacation by offering more flexible options for professional travel and promote family friendly benefits such as back up daycare. The department can organize social events and model giving back to the community. Leaders can set the example by not sending emails on the weekend or late at night. Individuals, with leadership support, can pursue their passion and connect with others in similar situations.
Meaning in Work — Organizations should engage staff by sharing inspiring stories to reinforce the importance of their position. At the department level, promoting expected behaviors and setting priorities will shape the culture. Leaders should connect with staff at one-on-one meetings, recognize accomplishments, and understand what inspires their team. Each individual should share their passion, connect with colleagues, and communicate what brings them meaning and joy.
Cultivating joy at work is a shared responsibility that can foster individual and organizational flourishing. We hope the practical strategies suggested in this article are helpful to other organizations to cultivate joy in the workplace.
Bridget Berkland, employee well-being advisor and Kaisa Wieneke, employee well-being assistant director, work in the Human Resources Department at Mayo Clinic. Ronald Menaker, administration operations and Charlotte Brunholzl, associate project manager, work in the Radiology Department at Mayo Clinic. As a collaborative effort, they work on initiatives to address employee burnout and promote well-being and joy. Bridget Berkland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published in the Summer 2020 issue of HR Pulse magazine.
1. Shanafelt TD, Noseworthy JH. Executive Leadership and Physician Well-being: Nine Organizational Strategies to Promote Engagement and Reduce Burnout. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2017;92(1):129-146.
2. Lyubomirsky S, King L, Diener E. The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success? Psychological Bulletin. 2005;131(6):803-855.
3. Perlo J, Balik B, Swensen S, Kabcenell A, Landsman J, Feeley D. IHI Framework for Improving Joy in Work. IHI White Paper. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Institute for Healthcare Improvement; 2017.