Resilience and Motivation for a Burned Out Workforce: Operationalizing Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

What a start to 2022! Not even a full week into the new year, we’re reminded of the unprecedented times in which we live. With the most recent COVID-19 surge burnout is expected to continue to increase. Many workers are reporting they feel demotivated to come to work because they’re now doing the jobs of many with no end in sight. While leaders struggle with their own operational and clinical challenges on a daily basis, they have little energy left to be cheerleaders for their teams and struggle on how to keep them coming back to work.

So, how do you motivate a psychosocially and emotionally drained workforce? Leaders can look for answers in motivational psychology. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs describes the basic human needs of health, safety, control, belonging, self worth, and fulfillment, among others. 

Image from: Mcleod, Saul. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. 2007, SimplyPsychology. United Kingdom

The importance placed on different needs and where they fall on an individual’s  hierarchy fluctuates from person to person. However, the core idea that humans have needs that must be met to feel fulfilled and motivated is not a foreign concept. If a child in school is hungry and tired, their physical and emotional state is not conducive to learning. The same can be said for a stressed and exhausted workforce. An individual who is anxious and frustrated by factors at home and work that affect their mental and physical state is unlikely to provide an exceptional experience for their patients, mostly because they don’t have the mental or emotional capacity or time. So what’s the solution?

goShadow data shows that a primary driver and motivator for healthcare staff is their connection with patients. Over 70% of staff responses from a goShadow survey across medical centers worldwide reported that patient satisfaction and knowing that they provided excellent patient care (from the patients’ points of view) were what made them most proud in their roles. The humanistic nature of healthcare is what largely attracts people into this field and is a strength that’s unique to this space. Healthcare workers generally have an inherent need to help people. The solution then is to support staff and create an environment that’s conducive to satisfy that need. 

How do you physically and emotionally support staff and create a culture that reflects that both staff’s and patients’ needs are heard? Luckily, there are easy-to-implement ways to do this. 

Staff already know what their pain points are on a day to day basis at work. Deep diving into processes, communication, and handoffs as well as using qualitative studies such as shadowing, “What matters to you?,” pulse surveys, employee rounding and team building pin points those pain points and how to solve them. These actions seek and use staff and patient engagement to codesign efficient workflows and patient centered processes real time at the point of care. The more meaningfully engaged staff are, the more they’ll feel valued and that they belong. 

Here are some ideas and mantras to consider for staff wellbeing and patient experience at the start of 2022:

  • Give them back control by making them equal stakeholders and decision makers in what they do. 
  • Make sure their physiological needs are being met outside the workplace, so staff can focus on being in the moment with their patients. 
  • Encourage activities that provide emotional support and listening among teams and vertical structures within organizations. Show that staff voices are heard through actions; there is nothing too small.

The most recent Covid surge has stretched staff thin, after what felt like a moment of recovery. Using the methods mentioned above goShadow has been able to reduce burnout by up to 30%, improve staff engagement, motivation and coordination, all of which culminate in ideal outcomes and experience for patients and staff. 

To achieve these same results goShadow offers free data driven toolkits and resources on our website. To dive deeper into customized tools and implementation, send us an email for a jumpstart consultation!   

Source: Mcleod, S. (2020, December 29). Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Retrieved from

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Posted on

January 7, 2022