On staff care and burnout Interview with Alessandra Pigni, People In Aid, July 2012.
People In Aid (PIA): How can organizations be better organized BEFORE they send people on assignments in terms of securing the ongoing mental health of their people while they are working in the field? i.e. What are the top three of four things they need to do?
Alessandra Pigni (AP): Before deployment organisations can do a few things to secure the ongoing mental health of their people while they are working in the field:
- Provide correct job descriptions and an appropriate briefing.
- Include burnout prevention and resilience training in the pre-departure preparation.
- Match aid workers with independent professionals who offer Skype guidance (coaching and counselling) for staff in the field.
- Ask aid workers what helps them in field situations and have a culturally sensitive and gender sensitive approach to staff care. ‘One size fits all’ does not work.
Let me explain these points in more detail.
It’s not uncommon for people to get to the field unclear about their job, with no briefing and no hand-over. This creates an unnecessary sense of uncertainty that fuels stress and anxiety. The aid worker is puzzled even before reaching the field.
Regarding preparation in the pre-deployment phase, burnout awareness and resilience training can help to make sure that people are familiar with the psychological risks and dangers of mental and emotional exhaustion. Aid workers need to be aware that burnout can be prevented through simple self-care practices. Burnout doesn’t have to come with the job of being an aid worker.
But good mental health in the field cannot be reduced to attending a workshop.