Daycare provider burnout was a common industry-wide problem long before 2020 and the arrival of COVID-19. Add pandemic-related challenges to the mix, including daycare facility shutdowns, loss of revenue, Paycheck Protection Program paperwork, and strict government health and safety regulations, and childcare business owners and their teams are feeling completely overwhelmed. Many daycare providers have gone into “survival-mode” and are facing the serious consequences of burnout. The following guide offers practical suggestions for taking a proactive approach to avoiding provider burnout.
Burnout: An Industry Problem Worsened by COVID-19
The demands of working in the childcare industry, including high stress, low pay, and current pandemic challenges, make “burnout” a ubiquitous buzzword in the world of daycare management. Most people understand the signs and symptoms of burnout, but it’s worth noting them here. According to the Mayo Clinic, burnout manifests in the following ways:
- A cynical view of your job and a tendency to be critical of yourself and your team members
- A sense of dread over the impending work day or work week
- A lack of energy to be consistently productive
- Inability to concentrate
- A lack of satisfaction from your professional achievements
- A change in sleep patterns, like having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Stress headaches, fatigue, stomach problems, and other physical ailments
Experts say burnout is a “type of work-related stress—a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity” (Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/burnout/art-20046642)
Let’s look at three ways you can proactively reduce COVID-related overwhelm and general childcare business stress to minimize the effects of burnout.
Take Time for Yourself
“I can’t take time for myself! The kids need me. The parents need me. My staff needs me.” These thoughts are very common among daycare providers who feel like taking time to focus on themselves will detract from their childcare business. The truth is, doing so is your number one tool for eliminating burnout.
For your own mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing, you need to invest in taking care of yourself. You and your entire daycare business will be all the better for it. If you are spending weekdays running your childcare facility and weekends doing administrative paperwork, researching marketing strategies, or updating your website and social media pages, chances are you will feel like you can’t escape from your business. COVID-19 has made operating a small business a huge challenge for millions of Americans like you. But don’t compound the problem by refusing to take breaks and step back from your business.
Spend time with family, friends, and loved ones. Exercise. Do something you enjoy. Listen to music. Go to the spa. Take a day trip. Taking care of yourself doesn’t have to involve expensive or extravagant plans (if you don’t want it to), but it has to be intentional and happen regularly.
Reducing your stress will improve your outlook on life and business, help you regain your creativity and strategic thinking, and help you make better decisions for your childcare business. Your staff, the children, and their parents will notice the difference. And you will too.
Take Advantage of Technology…and Experts
Filing paperwork, communicating with parents, and keeping track of your finances takes a lot of time. Cut down on the time and energy you invest in the administrative side of your childcare business by using software programs or apps that make business administration tasks easier, including payroll, budgeting, sending out parent newsletters, storing compliance paperwork, and more.
If you feel like you are in over your head with different aspects of your daycare business, give yourself peace of mind by hiring the right help. A clunky and ineffective website may benefit from an overhaul by a local web designer. A local university’s early childhood education program may have the ideal candidates to fill some of your part-time teaching positions. And an accounting firm like Honest Buck Accounting can alleviate so much stress over the financial side of your business when you outsource business accounting tasks, like tax filings, compliance, and payroll processing.
You may be reluctant to spend money on assistance for things you’ve been managing yourself, but you may have to ask yourself whether you can afford to pay the consequences of burnout if you continue to do it all. As the saying goes, “You can’t do it all and do it all well.” Recruit the help you need.
Check in with Your Staff and Take Care of Them Too
Chances are, if you are feeling the overwhelm and stress of burnout, your employees are feeling it too. Be intentional about checking in with your team members, both individually and as a group. Encourage them to give their honest feedback about how they feel things are going on the job. Initiate an open door policy—your employees need to feel like they can approach you any time they need to discuss things about the job that contribute to their own sense of burnout.
You may be hesitant to “carry the burden” of your staff members’ problems in addition to your own stress but learning about problems while you can still address them is far better than ignoring them until your employees are stressed enough to quit. The overwhelm only gets worse at that point.
Instead, focus on little ways you can lighten the load for yourself and your team. Be generous with praise. Show appreciation. Laugh a lot. Plan team lunches. Celebrate birthdays, work anniversaries, or other milestones. Small, intentional actions go a long way to alleviate the stress of your employees, and the best part is that you will help yourself feel more optimistic and less stressed when you do so.
Although the overwhelm of burnout tends to build over weeks and months of prolonged stress, especially during the challenges of a pandemic, the good news is you can be proactive and take steps to get back your passion for the business and focus on rising above the challenges.
The Honest Buck Accounting team is passionate about helping small business owners get the financial side of their business on track so they can achieve their business goals. Find out how we can help you manage your company finances and alleviate a ton of stress. Schedule a discovery call with us.