Supporting wellbeing for the social care workforce

Rachel McArdle, people and development partner at Skills for Care

Rachel has 20 years' experience in human resources across different sectors. She is passionate about cultural transformation and achieving inclusive workplaces where people can thrive. Rachel has been involved in Skills for Care's people strategy and leading on the organisation's health and wellbeing programme.

Thinking flexibly

We all know that flexibility is something which most workers are looking for nowadays. However, if flexibility isn't possible in terms of hours or work location, think about whether there are other ways in which flexibility can be offered, and ways that staff can be part of decision making.

Looking at how this relates to the Acas framework for positive mental health, I'd make the following recommendations for employers, managers and individuals.

Employers

I'd recommend developing an organisational health and wellbeing strategy that clearly outlines the priorities the organisation is committed to and what success will look like. 

At Skills for Care, our wellbeing strategy is informed by an organisational wide staff survey as well as best practice. We offer an annual internal Skills for Care health and wellbeing programme which includes events to support colleagues to improve their health and wellbeing.

Managers

People managers' roles in managing health and wellbeing are also really important. At Skills for Care, we developed a 'managing health and wellbeing' toolkit for people managers. This aims to assist managers to proactively manage health and wellbeing in the workplace. It includes:

  • what we mean by health and wellbeing
  • managers' responsibilities
  • proactive management
  • ongoing support
  • reasonable adjustments
  • action planning
  • situation analysis

People managers are asked to encourage their team members to get involved in our annual health and wellbeing programme.

Individuals

We share monthly all-staff communications, encouraging colleagues to take their health and wellbeing seriously and signposting to relevant resources.

Leading by example

It's important that managers model good behaviour in looking after their own wellbeing, through simple steps such as taking a lunch break and knowing when it's time to switch off, as well as sharing their own pursuits and inspiration for wellbeing.

Burnout is a concern right now, and prevention is better than cure.

Always encourage colleagues to take their annual leave where possible and in quieter times, so they're refreshed and ready when work is particularly busy. Offering opportunities to talk and offload is helpful, as is encouraging healthy boundary setting.

Mental health first aiders can be a helpful source of support when colleagues are struggling, if this is something your organisation has the budget to provide.

There are also free resources for all, such as the Samaritans, which organisations can signpost to. Also consider providing tailored toolkits aimed at colleagues who may have specific wellbeing needs, for example those who may have experienced discrimination. Acas also provides health and wellbeing support to organisations, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

At Skills for Care, we have a 'Belonging Strategy' which focuses on inclusion and diversity across all equality characteristics.

Staying social

At Skills for Care, almost 50% of our workforce were already working at home pre-pandemic and supporting homeworkers' wellbeing has been a key part of our strategy.

To support remote staff, we offer access to wellbeing initiatives outside of their working life and encourage healthy pursuits in employees' downtime. For example running, team competitions or offering a discount with a local gym. 

We have offered a health and wellbeing incentive previously. Around 50% chose to spend this on gym membership and sports equipment and said that this was really helpful for them to increase their activity outside of work and reduce the impact of stress.

Staying connected is important too. Be creative in developing opportunities for colleagues to network using virtual channels.

Sector support

The majority of organisations in the social care sector are SMEs.

We know that stress and burnout are tangible issues for the sector and can result in mental and physical exhaustion. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted on an already strained workforce and the health and wellbeing of the social care workforce has never been so important.

Organisations have told us about their wellbeing initiatives, including creating safe spaces, small acts of kindness and leading with compassion. Our registered manager networks are a valued source of peer support and have been operating virtually through the pandemic for managers to find and share support, advice, and guidance with each other.

Find out more about how Skills for Care are supporting the social care sector