Lessons from the QOF System: How Small Businesses Can Reduce Staff Burnout

Lessons from the QOF System: How Small Businesses Can Reduce Staff Burnout


James Rowland

Commercial Director James leads Account Management, Sales and Marketing at Neathouse Partners.


26 June 2023


16 July 2024
4 min read

Small businesses in the UK can glean valuable insights from the healthcare sector, particularly in terms of managing staff well-being and preventing burnout.

Recent initiatives by the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) illustrate practical steps to enhance workplace resilience and reduce employee burnout, which can be replicated across various industries, including small enterprises.

Understanding Staff Burnout

Staff burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged or repeated stress, often associated with increased workload, minimal control over job situations, and a lack of social support.

It can lead to reduced productivity, decreased morale, higher absenteeism, and even increased turnover—costly consequences for any organisation, but particularly devastating for small businesses.

The Role of the Work Environment

The QOF system emphasises the importance of a compassionate and inclusive work environment.

It encourages organisations to review all work-related factors affecting well-being, including workload, flexible working opportunities, reasons for absence, and the quality of support provided to different staff members and new hires.

For small businesses, this translates to regularly evaluating the factors affecting your team's well-being.

Consideration should be given to the workload and the systems in place to manage it, and businesses should be open to the idea of flexible working conditions. Such flexibility might include remote working, flexible hours, or job-sharing opportunities.

Things you can do as an employer to reduce burnout 

  • Understand and recognise signs of staff burnout.
  • Create a supportive, inclusive work environment.
  • Implement flexible working conditions where possible.
  • Draw up a well-being action plan for improving staff mental health.
  • Invest in regular training and development reviews.
  • Ensure fair remuneration for all staff.
  • Train leaders in compassionate leadership and burnout prevention.
  • Implement a 'buddy' system for new employees.
  • Prevent discrimination to foster an inclusive culture.
  • Encourage regular peer review meetings for continuous improvement.
  • Promote time and space for staff reflection.
  • Address potential workforce gaps to prevent overburdening of staff.

Read on for more information on the simple steps you can take to improve workplace well-being and take positive strides in reducing employee burnout. 

Developing a Wellbeing Action Plan

After conducting the review, the QOF system recommends drawing up an action plan to improve outcomes.

Small businesses should also take a similar approach.

This could involve initiatives like regular team-building activities, providing access to well-being resources, or the introduction of 'wellbeing champions' within the team who can promote positive mental health and provide support for colleagues.

Investing in Training and Development

Another core aspect of the QOF guidance is to ensure that all team members have access to regular training and development reviews.

This not only contributes to an inclusive culture but also aids in the early identification of any potential issues.

For small businesses, this could mean implementing a system of regular appraisals or feedback sessions, which can help identify any team members who may be struggling and then provide them with appropriate support.

Addressing the Issue of Remuneration

One of the criticisms levelled at the QOF guidelines by healthcare leaders is the need for a discussion around appropriate remuneration for staff.

Small businesses should heed this critique to, as while a positive work environment and support for mental well-being are crucial, it's also essential to ensure that employees feel valued and fairly compensated for their work.

The Importance of Leadership in Preventing Burnout

Leadership plays a vital role in preventing staff burnout.

The QOF guidance emphasises that leaders should receive training on compassionate leadership and team management.

In a small business setting, leaders often have a close relationship with their teams, placing them in an ideal position to recognise early signs of burnout and take preventive action.

Training for leaders can focus on fostering a supportive work environment, learning to recognise early signs of stress or burnout, and developing strategies to address these issues promptly.

Implementing a 'Buddy' System for New Hires

Implementing a 'Buddy' System for New Hires

Another notable suggestion in the QOF guidelines is the implementation of a 'buddy' system for new employees.

This system pairs a new employee with a more experienced staff member, who can guide them through the initial stages of their role. For small businesses, this approach can provide a supportive environment for new hires, helping to alleviate initial job stress and reducing the risk of early burnout.

Further reading: Mental Health In The Workplace 

Preventing Discrimination in the Workplace

An inclusive culture is one that actively works to prevent discrimination.

A business that fosters a sense of belonging for all employees helps reduce stress and anxiety, both contributing factors to burnout.

Training and open dialogue about diversity and inclusion can help ensure that all employees feel seen, valued, and supported, leading to a more cohesive team and a healthier work environment.

Participating in Peer Review Meetings

The QOF guidelines also suggest regular participation in peer review meetings, which provide an opportunity to discuss and learn from quality improvement activities focused on workforce and wellbeing.

Small businesses can benefit from similar practices, such as regular team meetings to discuss workflow, challenges, and solutions.

This fosters a culture of continuous improvement and collective problem-solving, helping to reduce stress and prevent burnout.

The Power of Reflection

Reflecting on the QOF model's critique, providing space and time for reflection is a crucial element in preventing burnout.

Reflection allows employees to process their experiences, learn from them, and develop coping strategies for future challenges.

For small businesses, this could involve creating opportunities for team members to share experiences, or even implementing mindfulness practices within the workplace.

Filling Workforce Gaps

Another point of contention raised in the healthcare context is the issue of workforce gaps, which can significantly contribute to burnout due to increased workloads for remaining staff.

While small businesses often operate with smaller teams, it's important to ensure that staffing levels are sufficient to manage workloads without overburdening employees.


Preventing staff burnout is a multifaceted challenge requiring attention to the work environment, leadership, supportive systems for new hires, an inclusive culture, regular team reviews, reflective practices, and appropriate staffing levels.

While the QOF model offers a valuable framework, it's important for each small business to adapt these strategies to their unique context and needs.

For more advice on creating a supportive work environment and preventing staff burnout, or for any other employment law, health & safety, or HR concerns, contact Neathouse Partners.

Our experts are ready to help small businesses thrive, regardless of your challenges. Call us on 01244 893776 for personalised guidance.

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