Building a culture of wellbeing in care

November 9, 2021

After the height of the pandemic, many care staff will be feeling tired, burnt out and could even be struggling with mental health issues. Providers may be turning their attention to their employees and how they can offer support to help them cope, build resilience and thrive.

Wellbeing should not be a one-off initiative to coincide with a mental health awareness day. Providers should look at how they can consistently support the wellbeing of staff by building a culture of wellbeing throughout their organisation. As well as building positive employee morale, this can also help to improve recruitment and retention rates.

Employee wellbeing

Eden Care at Home is a home care provider in Gerrards Cross. Head of HR Priya Rasanayagam wanted to turn her attention to employee wellbeing, knowing that 2020 had been a difficult year for the staff.

The first step was to send out an anonymous survey to all employees, asking questions around whether they felt supported by the company during the pandemic, extending to general wellbeing questions to gauge how people were feeling on a Likert scale.

They included areas such as:

  • My employer has always ensured that I have adequate PPE and protection during this pandemic.
  • I have experienced feelings of isolation and boredom during this coronavirus pandemic.
  • I am able to speak openly with my manager about how I feel right now and how I have handled my work and home life since the start of this pandemic.
  • I am aware of the support available to me through my manager/HR/external counselling services if I need these.

The responses helped Eden Care to understand that its employees were generally positive about the way they’d been supported during the pandemic, but Priya was conscious that people hadn’t been able to socialise or have interaction with each other in the same way as they had before, so wanted to address that as part of a wellbeing plan moving forward.

Understanding wellbeing needs

To take things further and get a clear idea of where the staff might be struggling, Priya also looked at the Judgement Index results of the employees.

Eden Care uses the Judgement Index as part of its recruitment and appraisal process, but the assessment also highlights wellbeing in individuals, including how they are coping with stress.

As the Eden Care employees take the assessment on an annual basis, it meant they could look at the results from during the pandemic and get a clear picture of how they might support employees.

The results showed:

  • 41% of employees had a below average score for self-esteem.
  • 29% of employees had a below average score for self-regard.
  • 26% of employees had a below average score for self-criticism.

Surprisingly, there were not significant changes in work stress or energy levels, suggesting that staff were coping well with the pressures of the pandemic in a work capacity.

However, the results highlighted above were all slightly weaker than the care sector industry average, so it presented an opportunity to Eden Care to look at these as collective development areas for the team.

Communicating the findings with staff

Eden Care arranged to send an internal newsletter out to staff highlighting the results and key findings from the survey and Judgement Index, with suggested ideas and next steps.

All of this was part of the wider wellbeing plan – to be transparent and open to ideas.

Following a positive response to the newsletter, Priya began to create a wellbeing policy and plan to build wellbeing into the culture of the company.

The ideas here could be adopted by any care organisation as part of a wellbeing strategy:

  • A regular internal newsletter with a ‘getting to know’ section highlighting a member of staff. This will encourage people to build relationships and learn more about their colleagues.
  • Socially distanced coffee mornings for Macmillan to encourage social interaction and combat loneliness.
  • Moving WhatsApp conversations to a dedicated ‘work chat’ tool to prevent work from encroaching into people’s personal lives.
  • Providing a counselling service to employees and ensuring that open communication to managers is encouraged to support mental health and wellbeing.
  • Identifying key awareness days and planning initiatives around them, such as World Mental Health Day on 10th October and World Kindness Day on 13th November.
  • Building a library of wellbeing resources, such as books on self-esteem and confidence that are free for staff to borrow.
  • Recruiting a number of Wellbeing Champions in the organisation to promote wellbeing, drive new initiatives and be a point of contact for staff who are looking for support.

As a busy head of recruitment and HR, Priya knew she couldn’t drive the initiative alone, so the introduction of Wellbeing Champions would allow others to take on the responsibility and also bring something new to their current job role. Wanting to make the Champion role a valued one, Priya created a job description for it and agreed to pay the Champions for an hour a week to work on wellbeing initiatives for the company.

One of the new Wellbeing Champions, Mirela Niculae, said this:

‘I am empowered by Eden Care’s wellbeing programme introduced this year. My role involves close interactions with care staff. They have confided in me about their wellbeing, often relating to their mental health. I can’t wait to be a wellbeing champion for Eden Care so that I can support my colleagues more, in the best way possible.’

Why you should build a culture of wellbeing in your organisation

The success in Eden’s plan for wellbeing is that it engages with the employees and has been built around their needs and opinions. There is nothing overly costly in the plan and, by bringing in Wellbeing Champions to lead the initiative, it means that it is being driven through the company by the employees, rather than being driven by management.

With the employees actively involved and engaged, this will promote a culture of wellbeing throughout the company and will have a ripple effect through recruitment and retention of staff. Most importantly, the team will feel that their efforts throughout the pandemic have been recognised and they will feel valued by Eden Care at Home.

Where to start

If you’d like to launch a wellbeing initiative, here are some useful resources:

About Priya Rasanayagam

Priya Rasanayagam is the Head of HR at Eden Care at Home Limited. Priya worked in the NHS and then in Social Care. She has a Degree in Biochemistry and a Level 5 Diploma in Health and Social Care. She is qualified yoga teacher who understands the importance of health and wellbeing for social care staff. She believes in regular exercise, a well balance diet and relaxation; qualities endorsed and encouraged by Eden Care.

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