More than 93% of carers would be more likely to leave a job that did not support their wellbeing, according to recent research from Connect2Care. And with staff recruitment and retention in the care sector becoming ever harder, fostering a supportive workplace is crucial.
Here, health and social care consultant Neel Radia explains how taking a top-down approach and training managers in supporting staff is vital for nurturing the wellbeing of your workforce.
There are many rewards to a career in care – but also many challenges, especially since the pandemic. “There is a lot of feeling of being undervalued,” says Neel. “Working long hours, not having enough respite time to recuperate, which is then causing stress, which is taking people out of the workplace.”
And he is adamant that it’s up to leaders to change this. “When it comes to wellbeing and positive workplaces, it’s always about starting at the top and taking that culture down,” says Neel. “You need to start with the leaders who are managing the team at the bottom because that’s where a lot of the burnouts happen.”
Neel says that leaders should begin with clear communication. “It’s about keeping the line of communication open to understand where your staff’s challenges are. You need to see it from the eyes of the person doing the job day to day.”
Managers, for example, often feel they are on call 24/7, negatively affecting their work-life balance. “From a leadership point of view, it’s really important to have a communication plan in place, so if a manager is on their day off, everyone knows who to contact instead.
“Then you know that if you are off, you are off. That’s your time to get your mind and body and soul back into place, then come back to work fresh. And I think that’s something we should all respect more.”
Training and development
So, it’s essential to build an open, supportive culture. Neel says: “An employee should be able to have an open one-to-one discussion with their supervisor if they are feeling overburdened.”
And just as junior members of staff need training in skills such as catering, supervisors require training “to have empathy and have those conversations without judging”.
“There needs to be sufficient training for the middle manager side and the team leaders because they’re representing the company, they’re representing the care organisation, and they’re representing your values as a business as well,” says Neel.
In Connect2Care’s research, 61.7% of respondents believed that staff should be given training in achieving a positive work-life balance. Neel agrees. “From a supervisor’s point of view, it’s about giving them the opportunity to understand actually what is a priority and what isn’t a priority in the day-to-day running from a care aspect.”
Another focus is diversity and inclusion, with ongoing training vital to ensure that everyone is supported, regardless of factors such as ethnic background, neurodiversity or disability. “Unless you’ve got the tools and training, and it’s something embedded within your culture and in your organisation’s genes and in your values, then how do you get past it?”
The perks of the job
With the key planks of open communication and training in place, employers can “look outside the box” for other ways to foster workplace wellbeing. Some care homes offer staff discounted gym membership, while others have lunchtime walking groups.
“If you put benefits and perks in place to help your staff’s wellbeing, that will reduce absenteeism and people going off due to mental health and stress-related illnesses,” says Neel. “It will help you retain your team.”
Connect2Care is the UK’s leading training and apprenticeship provider for the adult and early years care sector. Find out how our training courses could boost workplace wellbeing at your company, and help you recruit and retain staff. Get in touch with our team today.