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German Hospital Hires ‘Employee Happiness Manager’

Training sessions, corporate travel passes, and health workshops are already offered to employees by many hospitals. But Braunschweig Municipal Hospital in Germany has been taking another approach. Since November, an “employee happiness manager” has been supporting everyone employed at the hospital, including doctors, nurses, and administrative personnel. She is there to ensure the company’s happiness. Her name is Constanze Jäger.

Her job is to take the weight off the employees’ shoulders at the 1500-bed facility in South Lower Saxony. The service is not in the workplace, but in employees’ private lives. “I handle things that our employees otherwise find difficult or even impossible to deal with at home because of the hospital’s shift patterns,” Jäger told Medscape Medical News.

For example, Jäger has already arranged midwives for expectant mothers. Because of the lack of places at the hospital’s own daycare facility, she has organized daycare spots at the neighboring institution that were especially reserved for employees. She takes care of organizing children’s birthday parties and helps with apartment hunting. Need a birthday present for your mother-in-law? Who’s doing the catering for your colleague’s farewell party? Who’s organizing the intensive care ward’s summer party? Who does the groceries for the stressed-out, single-parent trainee?

“I get an average of three to five calls a day,” said Jäger. “We normally communicate briefly over the phone or by email, and then I get cracking.” It’s the doctors who come from abroad who benefit the most from the nanny for every occasion. Jäger helps them with language courses or bureaucratic processes. “We make sure that everyone here feels good,” she said.

“War for Talent”

The lively 32-year-old has found her dream career with this “happy-go-lucky job,” as she put it. The mother of three was already working at the hospital as a teacher. “I’m familiar, therefore, with the balancing act,” she said. Professionally, she brings her additional training on mediation and supervision, and knowledge of nonviolent communication. “And above all, I’m a philanthropist. That certainly helps!”

The idea of a happiness manager came from the head of the hospital’s public relations department, Thu Trang Tran. “We’re all competing in the war for talent,” she told Medscape. “And we also know that many hospitals have started advertising as family friendly workplaces or are offering extensive advanced training opportunities.

“Therefore, at Braunschweig Hospital, we wanted to focus on where our employees really get stressed out: that is, in the organization of their everyday lives. It can be quite a pinch for some people if the washing machine breaks, their kid starts whining, and then they have to go start their shift.”

Tran copied the idea from the many startups that have installed a “happiness management department” and from hotel concierges who look after their guests. “We have mixed both together and developed our idea as the result,” said Tran.

Naturally, hospital management had to be convinced to spend the money on the employee happiness manager and not on additional nurses, for example. Even staff members were a little skeptical at first, said Jäger.

Initial Skepticism

Chief physicians are now pleased that they don’t have to reduce the working hours of young colleagues, thanks to the support of the happiness manager. “Through word of mouth, the offering will hopefully begin to appeal to those who are still hesitant,” said Tran.

The physicians’ association, the Marburger Bund of Lower Saxony, is sympathetic to the project. “However, many hospitals are lagging way behind on such initiatives,” said Andreas Hammerschmidt, the association’s second chairperson. Other sectors are much further ahead. “However, a project such as at Braunschweig Hospital can only ever be an add-on,” he added. “In the end, it is always about whether doctors and nurses are being paid enough.”

The Braunschweig project is a pilot, initially spanning 2 years. “It is being evaluated,” said Tran. Time will therefore tell whether an employee happiness manager will be enough to entice the skilled personnel who are urgently needed to join the facility.

This article was translated from the Medscape German edition.

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