Stressed workers in the UK took off a combined total of 12.5 million days in 2017, according to research. This was up from 800,000 days in 2016.
Statistics show that 40% of all work-related health issues arise from stress, anxiety or depression; with the main culprits identified as workload, lack of managerial support, and bullying. The staff shortage crisis is also increasing stress levels amongst employees, as they take on the burden of additional work.
Employees in the care sector face pressures every day, due to the physical and mental demands of work; and while patient health is a primary concern, we don’t always treat employee health with the same priority. It’s time we changed that.
You can’t really start making changes to your staff wellbeing initiatives and policies without getting honest feedback from staff. The difficulty lies in ensuring feedback you receive is indeed, honest.
One way to do this is by sending out a survey to all staff email addresses. Highlight that all results will be anonymous, to encourage people to open up.
Ask open-ended questions to try and gain as much information as possible, while focusing on these three broad topics:
Do your staff feel their mental wellbeing is currently being supported by you?
Do your staff feel their work is positively or negatively influencing their mental health?
What steps do your staff believe you can take to improve their mental wellbeing?
Once you’ve received the feedback, see if there are any underlying staff wellbeing themes that can be grouped together. You can then identify which points are quick wins, and which points will need to be actioned over a longer duration of time. From that, you can put together a priority list, which you can communicate back to your employees.
An anonymous survey is a great way to initially gauge thoughts, but you can’t rely on it alone. If you want staff to openly discuss their mental wellbeing, then you need to make it clear there is a safe space where they can do so.
From monthly group sessions to regular one-to-ones, start opening up communication channels where employees feel safe to speak about their mental health, and support others who open up.
Being approachable and showing that you genuinely care about others is key to getting employees to trust you. You need to offer your time and show that you are genuinely interested in them as a person, and not just as an employee.
If someone does need to take time off for their wellbeing, whether it’s work-related, family-related or something else, then you’ll need to have a clear plan in place upon their return. To make the return as stress-free as possible, the transition should be smooth, so they can easily settle back into work-life without feeling completely overwhelmed.
Providing a safe space for people to raise any concerns about their mental health is a great way to start; but it’s even better if you can train your staff so they can uncover potential issues before they become full-blown, and effectively support colleagues who may be going through tough times.
Mental health training courses are regularly run throughout the country, such as mental health charity Mind’s sessions. From general mental awareness, to supporting someone, or managing your own mental health at work; there are several courses out there that could be really useful for both you and your employees.
By sending your staff on training courses, they can identify when they need to open up to someone, and better act as a support network to each other.
Another thing to consider as part of your staff wellbeing initiatives is whether you have an equality and diversity policy in place. If you don’t, then you should sort one out ASAP, and carry out a training session for all employees.
Do your staff take their allocated breaks? Do they tend to work their usual hours, or do they often do overtime?
While it’s accepted that at certain points in our lives we’ll be expected to put in some overtime; it shouldn’t turn into an everyday occurrence.
On average, UK workers put in 10.1 hours of overtime every single week, equating to 469 hours over the year; but 59% of people aren’t paid for these hours.
61% of workers don’t think they have a good work/life balance, and the fact is that too many hours will lead to a burnout, through unnecessary stress.
Encourage employees to achieve a work/life balance without working ridiculously long hours - especially if they’re not being paid for it.
You can encourage staff to take some time off by organising events outside of work. From weekly lunches to monthly nights out, make sure staff have something to look forward to together as a team. Not only can it help to bring them together, social events can also help them start enjoying work more.
But that’s not the only thing you can do to encourage better staff wellbeing. Exercise can help to ease stress, reduce anger and frustration, improve sleep levels, and give you a natural energy boost; so why not encourage employees to participate in some physical activity? You could set up a running club for staff, or offer discounted gym memberships as part of your benefits.
The most important thing you can offer at your care home is a culture of support. You can do this by educating employees on how they can spot potential worrying signals, and highlight your own willingness to help.
The other thing you need to ensure, is that your leadership structure is solid, and your teams are supported.
You should also continually monitor levels of absenteeism. If you see particularly high levels from one of your employees, then don’t automatically blame them. Instead, speak to them to see if there are any underlying issues, as you may be able to help.
You also need to determine your stance on routine doctor and dentist appointments. Whilst legally, you don’t need to give employees time off for this, for morale and wellbeing, you may want to include adequate time off in contracts; otherwise, employees may avoid making doctor appointments when they need them, which could lead to longer term health issues.
Three in ten care home staff quit their jobs every single year. The vacancy rate for the sector is 6.6%, which is much higher than the national average of 2.5%.
If you’re finding motivation and wellbeing levels are down at your care home, then first identify if there are any recent shifts that could be the cause of this. For example, have employees been working longer hours? Or perhaps a process or system was changed, but it was communicated poorly to employees?