• Article
  • September 4, 2020

Expanding Hospital Employee Well-Being Through the Pandemic

As health care workers carry the weight of the pandemic, their well-being is more important than ever.

With compounded anxiety and stress levels higher than normal, Lauren Chestnut, the well-being and work life balance manager at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), set out to incorporate self-care into the workplace culture. In a recent CHA webinar, Chestnut shared how the hospital has prioritized the physical and mental health of employees throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the height of the pandemic, CHOP started a daily briefing call to update staff on the status of COVID-19 cases in their community. The tips ranged from how to cope with negative feelings, to a reminder to reach out to support systems as individuals quarantined at home. Chestnut also felt it was important to highlight what employees can and cannot control during the crisis. The team at CHOP found that starting meetings with a reminder of what employees can and cannot control helped the general attitude and progress of that meeting.

The changes didn’t just come in meetings or calls. The CHOP well-being team also provided wellness activities internally, such as printable handouts with a variety of breathing exercises to provide employees a break to relax and meditate during the workday.

“A lot of our employees are working from home and don’t necessarily have time to just breathe,” says Chestnut. “We make sure our employees have fun little activities that they can do throughout their day.”

Positive feedback from employees

Employees were responsive and encouraged by the materials, so CHOP pressed on with efforts to manage anxiety and stress. It became about long-term, substantial changes beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two methods for conversation and wellness, the Wellness Community Calls and Wellness Happier Hours have garnered strong participation, even several months into the pandemic, with roughly 750 and 420 participants, respectively.

The community calls provide an opportunity for open discussion, support and presentations to share tips and challenges. While the happy hour calls are there to connect employees for a social hour and conversation on happiness, with calls Friday at 4 p.m. and Saturday at 2 a.m. for the night shift employees.

“When the pandemic hit, you no longer could connect with anybody,” says Chestnut. “We wanted to change the mindset that even when you’re physically distant you can still connect socially.  

The goal is a workplace culture that emphasizes employee well-being far beyond the pandemic.

Collaboration across the organization

These changes were only made possible by participation across the organization. Cancelling programs that previously took place in person would have been the easy route. Instead, virtual “adult recess” allows employees to just play for a few minutes during a meeting, or tips for virtual chair yoga provide physical activity during the workday. Departments adopted these new routines and programs that valued physical and mental health, making a conscious effort to prioritize the well-being of each team member at the height of the pandemic.

For additional well-being programs, including in-person processes for managing employee’s trauma, managed by CHOP, watch the recording.