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COVID-19 and employee wellbeing in the care sector

Research by the London School of Economics has revealed that all measures of wellbeing in the UK are at their lowest point since records started in 2011. Many people are on the threshold of psychiatric morbidity. The cost of COVID-19 on mental health and wellbeing is estimated at £2.25 billion per day in the UK alone1.

High death rates sustained during the pandemic demonstrate the stark impact of the virus on care home residents and social care workers2. Many care workers in the UK have made significant personal sacrifices throughout the pandemic. Putting themselves at risk, going months without loved ones to protect them, and working harder due to short staffing.

This dedication can often lead to some of the following factors, which can cause a negative impact on their mental health.

  • Increased stress ‒ High stress levels have been linked with higher rates of accidents at work3.
  • Growing anxiety ‒ Anxiety and depression can have a range of effects on performance; this includes making an increased number of errors and interpreting information as threatening.
  • Lack of sleep and fatigue ‒ Fatigue has a negative effect on visual perception, distractibility, reaction time and concentration. Fatigue can also make decision-making impaired and can make an individual indifferent to their performance.

QBE has issued risk advice with some practical action points to better manage mental health in your care business. Develop your health and safety approach to ensure that it acknowledges work related stress factors. This could include:

  • Developing a supporting culture for reporting mental ill health.
  • Carrying out a stress-at-work risk assessment in relation to staff coming back from lockdown.
  • Considering the impact of organisational changes and job uncertainty.
  • Including state of mind as a consideration in general risk assessments and your COVID-19 risk assessment.
  • Increasing communication on welfare issues, particularly for home workers.
  • Providing a safe space for staff to go to if they need ‘down time’ due to feeling overwhelmed.
  • Introducing a buddy system so an employee can talk freely with a peer about their concerns.

Ensure that managers are aware of the link between mental health on safety so they can:

  • Be aware of mental health when accident investigations are being undertaken.
  • Understand how to act on observed behaviours that could indicate mental ill health.
  • Spot signs of stress, fatigue or drug and alcohol abuse.
  • Brief staff on getting back to work and the potential workload.
  • Ensure that staff are taking regular breaks.
  • Ensure staff adhere to amended working times.
  • Make use of the many support lines and resources available to help employee wellbeing.
  • Stay visible and available for staff to talk to and make relevant reminders to staff that they are there to talk to4.

What can you do to motivate care staff?

Retaining employees is key to reducing your recruitment costs and retaining valuable experience in your business. Good employee benefit options can be crucial for employees when deciding to join your company, as well as whether to leave.

Employee Benefits can include anything from gym memberships, and private medical schemes, to confidential counselling and workplace financial education.

By supporting your employees in achieving a better work-life balance, you will be able to secure a healthier, happier workforce, higher levels of retention and fewer absences.

Here are just a few benefit schemes, which might prove valuable to healthcare employees.

  • Employee Assistance Programmes

Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) offer counselling for your employees if they feel stressed or overwhelmed. Working in healthcare, under high-pressure for long hours and often in stressful or traumatic situations, it’s crucial to maintain good mental wellbeing. By offering EAPs, you will be providing your staff with a support system, so they never feel alone in times of stress.

  • Unpaid leave

Offering additional unpaid leave on top of regular paid holiday hours could help your healthcare employees secure their desired work-life balance.

  • Financial support or education

While unpaid leave may be vital for many healthcare professionals, it may also cause financial difficulties. Financial worries are one of the top causes of stress in the UK, with 77% admitting to feeling stressed about money. This could have a negative impact on the wellbeing of your workforce.

Offering some kind of financial support, or even financial education to help employees manage their finances, could be invaluable to their work-life experiences.

For more information on mental health during the coronavirus outbreak, visit mentalhealth.co.uk.

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