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A striking idea: Treat staff as well as you treat consumers

September 17, 2010
by Lindsay Barba
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Did you know that there’s a simple (and cheap) way to improve staff morale at your facility? It's true—even in these tough economic times—and I’ve seen it firsthand at the new Saint Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C.

Last week, while in town for the National Conference on Addiction Disorders, I toured the facility, which is adjacent to the historic site where Saint Elizabeths used to be. There was a lot to take in at the facility, which balances modern design and amenities with the facility’s rich history, but one thing unexpectedly stood out to me the most: The design and layout of their administrative offices.

On the second floor of the two-story psychiatric hospital, the space had floor-to-ceiling windows that caught the sunlight at any time of day. And as we know from evidence-based design, there are both physical and mental health benefits of so much direct access to nature and natural light.

But what struck me wasn’t the glare from the sun. Rather, it was the fact that Saint Elizabeths had decided to situate its middle-level staffers and their cubicles along the windows, instead of giving its upper-level staff that prime real estate, as most organizations do.

While the bookkeepers, QA specialists, and benefits administrators, for example, had the pleasure of working in the presence of nature, its CFO, CIO, and all the other “C” levelers lined the walls—but in glass-fronted offices, so that they could enjoy the views, too, from afar. In the next office space—another sea of cubicles—there were fewer windows, so Saint Elizabeths installed sky lights in order to provide the same effect.

This spoke to me of Saint Elizabeths regard for its employees. They wanted to make sure that their employees, like the consumers they serve, were happy, comfortable, and as close to the outside world as they could be.

To find out more about how Saint Elizabeths planned its facility to ensure a comforting, stress-relieving environment for all its occupants, stay tuned to our Web site for our September issue. If your organization has any unique or cost-effective ways of keeping staff morale high, let us know in the comments below.

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Taking care of your staff includes providing high quality, individualized supervision. Studies have demonstrated the importance supervision plays in staff retention and bottom line performance.

Lindsay Barba

www.behavioral.net

Lindsay Barba was associate editor of Behavioral Healthcare from 2009 to 2010.