The adage, 20% of the people are often the people doing 80% of the work, only partially applies to parish staff. These dedicated men and women are the segment of the 20% willingly offering beyond 100% of themselves! And, it goes without saying, the last few years have only taken everything to a whole new level. You’ve probably noticed signs of stress and fatigue as your staff continues to navigate ever-evolving information and protocols, all while maintaining their regular tasks and responsibilities. While there is no doubt their dedication to their roles comes from a deep love of the faith and the people they serve, they still need to be cared for and supported.
Here are a few ideas to help safeguard your staff from burnout:
Brainstorm with your staff fun activities that require no (or minimal) planning, come with no (or low) cost, can include everyone, are easy to implement, and will, most importantly, lift everyone’s spirits! Need some ideas? Take a page from the Catholic schools’ ever-popular theme days, which can be removed or hidden, should you have an unexpected meeting, such as crazy hat day or mix match sock day. Place the ideas in a jar, and once a month (or week), pick one out.
Simple gestures of gratitude go a long way — whether a verbal acclamation, a token of appreciation such as a small gift, a card, or a hand-written note. As a Catholic organization, you have the unique opportunity to bless your staff, literally; if you are a priest, take a moment to offer a blessing over your team at the beginning of each workweek or invite your pastor to offer a workplace blessing.
As a token of appreciation, consider periodically surprising each staff member with a special sacramental, a Mass for their intention, or a promise of prayer. While these tangible gifts of thanks may be spread throughout the year, we should offer words of affirmation, gratitude, and encouragement far more frequently. Never assume your staff knows how much you appreciate their hard work; it is always better to over-communicate, especially when it comes to kudos and kindness.
Jesus, early in his public ministry, demonstrates the importance of taking time, regardless of how busy we are, to recharge and remain focused on the mission through prayer. “And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed.” (Mark 1:35) St. Francis de Sales once said, “Every one of us needs half an hour of prayer a day, except when we are busy — then we need an hour.”
Creating opportunities for prayer, especially during exceptionally hectic seasons of parish work, not only demonstrates the parish practices what it preaches but provides time for the staff to reenergize. Consider establishing a monthly (or weekly) Adoration holy hour, staff-only Mass, or group recitation of the Rosary for parish and staff’s intentions.
Even when surrounded by people, we can feel isolated, which can drain the enthusiasm and motivation from anyone. After two years of many staff working remotely or staggering times in the office, finding ways to bring people together has become vital. Consider arranging to share a meal at the parish or a local restaurant with your team. Doing weekly check-ins, in person or via video chat, is essential, especially for the staff continuing to work from home. Gatherings do not need to be lengthy, a few minutes to catch up on where everyone is at is hugely beneficial. These check-ins can also be preventive measures against any issues escalating and further attributing to work-place depletion.
Facilitate Staff Self-Care
Workplace stress affects us mentally, spiritually, as well as taking a toll on our bodies. A great antidote to this is including physical activity throughout our day. Try to encourage movement throughout the day, maybe institute a friendly step-count challenge, or, if possible, organize a weekly staff stroll, preferably outside.
In addition, assure everyone takes their allotted time off, especially those members of your team required to be on-site for weekend activities. Implement a “no call on days off” policy, either calling into the office or someone at work calling the off-duty staff for non-emergency situations. God instituted a day of rest for our good, so whether you can take it on Sunday, or your role requires you to move it to Monday, foster this good habit which, along with the many other ideas shared here, will help you support your staff to ward off burnout.