Labor shortages are hitting just about every industry, and the healthcare field is no exception. One recent study[1] found that 85% of hospitals, doctors' offices, and other healthcare facilities are facing staffing shortages. Another study[2] found that a quarter of U.S. doctors and nurses were considering a new career, primarily due to burnout.

But by making a few strategic investments, healthcare companies can improve the health and well-being of their staff—and attract and retain the best employees going forward. Such initiatives are also good for an organization's bottom line. A study of VA medical centers[3] found that more engaged employees correlated to increased patient satisfaction with the medical center, their primary care physician, and their specialty care provider.

Expand the definition of wellness

Traditionally, wellness has focused on healthcare, but companies are increasingly recognizing the importance of taking a holistic strategy that recognizes other facets of employee well-being, including emotional and financial health as well. Expanding wellness programs to encompass other areas of employee wellness—and integrating them with existing benefits—can increase employee engagement.

Encourage healthy decisions

Perks such as subsidized gym memberships, free nutrition classes, onsite health assessments or vaccination clinics, can jumpstart employees on the path to fitness and health. In addition to offering such perks, employers should put in place a dedicated communication strategy aimed at letting employees know about them—and encouraging their use.

A Kaiser Family Foundation study[4] of workplace benefits found that 55% of large firms provide workers with the opportunity to take a health risk assessment, and half of those use incentives or penalties to spur employees to make use of them. Such assessments may provide insights into the type of health incentives that could move the needle the most at a given employer.

Prioritize mental healthcare

Health insurance plans must cover mental healthcare, but it’s also an element that employers can talk about at work, destigmatizing workers who want or need help. More than three-quarters of American workers reported at least one symptom of a mental health condition in the past year, according to one study[5]

The numbers may be even higher for healthcare workers, many of whom experienced firsthand the trauma of working through the height of the pandemic. In addition to covering therapy, support for mental health might include programming aimed at mindfulness or stress management.

Take a hard look at DEI

Employees cannot experience well-being at work if they’re not able to bring their “whole self” to the workplace. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programming is important, but employees also want and need to see tangible results, such as an increase in an organization’s diversity levels—including in leadership positions. Building a culture of psychological safety at work can not only reduce turnover but also create more dedicated, loyal workers.

Encourage boundaries

The healthcare industry has never been known for providing a great work-life balance, but several years of hybrid work have even further blurred the line between the workplace and the home leading to high levels of pandemic-related burnout. Making sure that employees unplug in their downtime can improve their engagement when they are working.

In a tight labor market, it's even more important for healthcare employers to prioritize the all aspects of employee wellness. By taking a holistic view of employee wellness and encouraging self care among workers who spend their time caring for others, is the first step towards building a stronger and more resilient workforce.