The 6 Key Steps to Combating Distress and Improving Well-Being


Implementing wellness programs at an organization is not an easy task. Determining where to start, how to get the necessary support, and what tactics need to be put in place can quickly become overwhelming. That's why we've created this 6-step guide to help you champion well-being and combat distress at your institution. Follow these key steps and you'll be on your way to developing measurable improvements in well-being.

1. Understand the Dimensions of Distress & Well-Being

The first step to combating distress is to understand it. There's much more to distress than people usually think. Burnout is currently a hot topic and the subject of much research and conversation, but burnout is only one dimension of distress. In fact, there are many dimensions of distress and well-being that need to be considered in order to gain a holistic understanding of wellness. The Well-Being Index measures six dimensions of distress and well-being, with those six dimensions varying depending on the job role of the participant taking the assessment. The WBI tool determines an individual's likelihood of burnout, but also measures dimensions such as severe fatigue, work-life integration, suicidal ideation, risk of medical error, and more. 

[RELATED: The 6 Dimensions of Distress and Well-Being]

2. Perform a Baseline Measurement

Performing a baseline measurement before any changes are made is important for a number of reasons. In order to accurately evaluate the effectiveness of any initiatives or organizational changes, it's necessary to have a measurement to compare to. An institution dedicated to improving well-being and reducing destress needs to know where it currently falls. This baseline measurement is also vital in determining where support is needed. By administering a validated assessment, administrators can identify the areas which need the most help. Develop the most efficient uses of resources to maximize the impact of your efforts. Let people know there's no judgement, just a number to work from.

It's important to consider all dimensions of distress and well-being when picking the right measurement tool. There are many surveys that focus only on one dimension, such as burnout or fulfillment, and include dozens of questions, but only the Well-Being Index accurately measures six dimensions of distress and well-being in just nine questions. In order to get a reliable measurement, it's necessary to use a clinically-validated tool. The WBI was invented by Mayo Clinic specifically for organizations to measure distress and well-being.

[RELATED: 8 Unique Benefits of the Well-Being Index]

3. Develop Initiatives

Base your wellness initiatives on data, not guesses. After completing your baseline measurement, use the data and insights to recognize pain points and create effective strategies to systematically reduce distress. With advanced reports provided by the Well-Being Index, administrators can identify the groups and areas within the organization that need the most support. The information gathered by the baseline measurement can help leadership realize that well-being needs to be prioritized on an organizational rather than individual level. Rather than focusing on resiliency, the organization can enact change to the culture, policy, and environment to make conditions better for all involved.

When developing well-being initiatives, a successful strategy is to look to research and what tactics other similar institutions have done to combat distress. Many institutions have utilized the WBI in their research efforts to determine appropriate wellness interventions and tactics. The National Academy of Medicine suggests that healthcare organizations consider a work system redesign as part of their well-being system to enhance clinicians' meaning in work and provide adequate resources and environments, including updated policies in regards to scheduling, staffing, workload, job control, usable technologies, and more, all to better support clinicians and deliver value to patients.

4. Perform a Post-Initiative Measurement

Once organizational initiatives have been developed and tactics have been put in place for the desired amount of time, the next step is to perform a post-measurement. Sending out the same assessment to gain internal comparative data is integral step in evaluating the impact of the initiatives. Institutions that use the Well-Being Index can also receive participant feedback via process improvement questions that can be added to the end of the assessment, providing indispensable data that allows for even deeper analysis of wellness efforts. 

5. Analyze the Results

The data collected by the post-initiative measurement will tell the story and help you determine whether your initiatives were successful or not. The Well-Being Index equips organizations with the data and reporting tools needed to clearly assess the effectiveness of wellness programming and make real change, all while maintaining participant anonymity. Advanced reports within the WBI tool provides specialty and departmental segmenting, national and internal benchmarking, resource access reporting, and participant feedback. The intuitive functionalities of the WBI allow administrators to compile custom reports, configure dashboards, and export data in a variety of formats for further analysis outside of the tool.

6. Tweak and Repeat

Similar to the process of developing the initial interventions, this step requires a hard look at the current culture, policies, processes, and environment that led to the results seen in the previous measurement. Organizations should make strategic changes to these internal factors based on the assessment results and feedback, and implement new initiatives. Once these updated initiatives are deployed, go through the same process of measuring and analyzing to determine the impact and continue to improve well-being each time. Happy clinicians lead to happy patients and a more successful health system all around. 

Need Help?

Do you need help enacting wellness programming like this at your organization? The Well-Being Index has compiled a variety of materials and tools that can assist you in figuring out your next step and getting the buy-in needed at your organization. Visit our Info Kit page to get downloadable versions our executive leadership summary, overview booklet, and contact information. We also have in-depth testimonials and interviews from other champions of wellness discussing the challenges they faced and the solutions they found in the Well-Being Index, as well as a Pitch Kit presentation already put together to help you pitch the tool to committees and leadership such as legal, financial, and IT teams. Contact a Well-Being Index expert if you'd like these materials!

Thank you for continuing the fight against distress. Passionate and committed leaders are necessary to move the needle on well-being. With the right tools, plan, and support, every organization can go beyond burnout.


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