Updated: Dec 13, 2019
By Ashlie Castaldo
During the end of my graduate degree program, I was not only working full time but also raising a newborn baby. To say I was stressed is putting it mildly. Things did not get much easier: not too long afterwards I found myself in the unique role of Assistant Director at Kindercare. I was in charge of hundreds of childrens’ lives, health and safety. No pressure or anything! From working close to 60 hour weeks for months on end covering shifts to managing my own household, I was getting burned out. I could see that even with all of my hard work, my own team was getting increasingly frustrated and at risk for turnover. Something had to change. If as a business we wanted to continue keeping our teachers happy, and in turn, our parents and children, we needed an environmental overhaul.
Then…a light bulb moment!
I had spent time in my graduate studies developing community health plans as part of the sociological and practical element of my mental health studies. I realized that this could be done in my own workplace on a micro scale. So I went to work: setting up a relaxation station for staff complete with nice smelling lotion and decadent chocolate to help give that moment of pause and elevate their mood. Multiple compliments told me this was a rousing success, making the team feel that they were valued, that their hard work was being rewarded and that they were being sympathized with.
My next course of action was to help streamline their work so their stress could be minimized. I provided each room with a Mental Health packet that included concerning signs to be aware of and documentation sheets for students. A huge stressor in the childcare setting is behavioral issues, and this packet would help empower the teachers when interacting with parents and provide more sway with disciplining those behaviors. It was also designed to help educate the staff so that they could resolve conflicts with children easier.
I also introduced topics on stress reduction, relaxation techniques and conflict resolution as well as being supportive of colleagues as part of our required monthly trainings. Our Kindercare site was able to see tangible growth in individual satisfaction and team cohesion which was not being seen at other sites. Stress breeds resentment. Only you can know the needs of your workplace, but a stress reduction plan or program is key for any career focused organization. Many do this via an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) (EAP) or through outsourcing a telecounseling phone line. This allows employees to vent in a safe, objective space.
This may not be responsive or proactive enough of a technique however. Even if stress is reduced, employees may still attach to the memory of being stressed, ergo, they work in a stressful environment. Doing whatever can be done to minimize obstacles or triggers can dramatically affect emotional wellbeing and workflow in a positive way.
So by putting in place new standards and making it clear that voices are valued, it is mentally replacing the “old job” with a new one. It transforms the mental space and as a result the workplace.
Take the time to invest in better courses of action to minimize setting off drama, and when that does not work, respond immediately to fix it. You will be blessed to see how much easier a work shift can be after implementing your plan!