I have been writing about the impact of our Lakeside staff to our students and to all those we have been training this past year. The impact of our staff has been impressive. Yet the toll taken on them has been stressful. The same mental health issues that our students are experiencing are part of the everyday routine of our staff. They too are experiencing some of the struggles that are part of our students’ experience. This leaves them in a position of responsibility as they assist our students with the entire span of their issues, from student to student.
As non-profit leaders we witness the stress that our staff undergoes in dealing with trauma-impacted individuals. We sense the pressure and feel the weight of what they experience and quite honestly cannot change some of the situations our students face each day. We can only provide them with a safe environment and support them in every way possible while they are in our care.
That is why it is so important to build in moments of respite, process and affirmation. Even with that, we barely scratch the surface as to what obstacles they face. However, we can acknowledge that they have endured to the end and we can celebrate that with special events. I’m sure each organization has different regimens and structures for how and when that can happen. However, it is very important that we give our staff that kind of outlet.
For Lakeside we hold a Staff Appreciation Day. We bring in a variety of food trucks (including desserts), provide background music, lots of fun drinks and allow staff to simply have a few hours of relational time. It is heart-warming to hear the chatter of the whole organization coming together and enjoying each other. Many of them have not seen each other since the beginning of the year since they are in different programs and different campuses. They get to share their experiences, updates on their families and personal lives and whatever other life downloads they wish to share.
We also take time to acknowledge staff tenures with gift catalogs for each 5 years of service. It is a time of appreciation for staff who have persevered and been faithful to our mission and to those we serve. They can share the moment and cheer each other on with applause and even a few standing ovations for long tenured or retiring staff. It is absolutely inspiring to hear staff support each other as we provide this affirmation.
All in all, there is a huge statement made by our leadership in this type of celebration. Rather than letting the year slip by with an escape, this is a chance to verbally thank them, affirm them, nurture them and practically serve them as they have served our clients so well. We are very proud of our staff and they need to hear that validation from their leadership. It does not alleviate the stress they have been through, but it does end the year with support and encouragement which does help their transition from the past year and gives them a good sense of what they have achieved. It is truly a joy and privilege to share and acknowledge their wonderful impact in the midst of the many tough situations they face each day.