1. Drake, Kirsten DNP, RN, OCN, NEA-BC

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Q My staff members are so stressed, and I fear that the stress is impacting their morale. How can I help increase staff morale?

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As the pandemic continues, so does the stress we experience-both staff and leaders alike. And you're correct, stress can impact your team's morale. Stress may decrease morale by causing fatigue that lowers productivity, and it can lead to division replacing unity and criticism over caring.1 Disappointment, distraction, and fear are also linked to low morale caused by stress.


As leaders, from organizational leadership to unit nurse managers, we need to explore opportunities to improve morale. Consistent and meaningful communication is one way to do so.1-3 Communication should occur frequently, especially during times of change and higher stress, and focus on what's going on in the organization and at the department level. A key component of communication to boost morale is staff engagement. Remember not to talk at your staff members, but rather ask them how things are going and how you can help make it better. Be ready to hear things you may not be able to do, such as giving everyone a raise or increasing staffing, and be honest in your response. Offer an alternative to address the root of the issue, such as work redesign versus adding more people. Including staff in the options increases alignment and provides a purpose for the work to be done. When the work is complete, timely acknowledgement and recognition is an effective way to continue improving morale.


But what if things don't go as desired? Often, the increased stress from a variation in the plan causes a conflict to arise. In times of high stress, the smallest issues can become a struggle. Pastor Dan Reiland states, "Above all, give generous amounts of grace during these stressful times. That means give the benefit of the doubt, listen before you speak, and remember you are on the same team."1 When things don't go as you expected, evaluate the circumstances and act gracefully with your team.


Lastly, it's important for staff to take a break. The best way to recharge is to get away from the stressor(s). Encourage days off for everyone; however, if days off aren't feasible, find ways to let staff members be away from the environment during their shift. Find a place on your unit or in your facility for staff members to take their 15-minute breaks and lunch breaks. Units at my organization have made small zen rooms so staff can escape for 5 minutes. Staff members have found that just by removing themselves for 5 minutes, they feel refreshed. The same goes for leaders-a break allows you to clear your head so you can be more productive. The next time you're going to eat at your desk, consider taking your lunch break somewhere else instead.




1. Reiland D. 4 principles to boost team morale during stressful times. [Context Link]


2. Bartell & Bartell, Ltd. How morale affects performance-and how stress affects morale.


3. Regan R. 11 ways to boost employee morale in 2021. Connect Team. 2020. [Context Link]