Caregiving is an incredibly rewarding career and those who work in the care sector can always look back at the end of a day and be proud that they’ve made a genuine difference to the lives of vulnerable people.
But at times, it’s a challenging role that can be a rollercoaster of emotions and unforeseen circumstances that has the potential to get on top of carers. To avoid this situation, care companies have a duty to their team members, patients and themselves to put support structures in place to help staff cope in times of stress.
The effect of stress on performance
We all experience stressful moments and emotional sides in our working lives. But in certain professions, like caring, the likelihood of facing challenging situations on a daily basis is raised due to the nature of the job. One of the joys of caring is the diversity of people you get to meet. Naturally, carers form a bond with many of their patients and can find it tough when they become ill or pass away.
Caring is also a time-pressured role that requires team members to complete a set amount of tasks in a day. Sometimes, though, unexpected situations arise which slow carers down and add extra pressure to their day. Workload is one of the biggest challenges for many carers and must be managed to help them perform to optimum levels.
A survey in 2022 showed almost 34% of the UK workforce say their performance at work is affected by their stress levels. This impacts concentration, decision making and motivation. In turn, these often result in mistakes or indecision that take even more time out of the working day.
Stress can also lead to other physical and mental issues that require time off work. In an already challenging work environment, this is something care companies can ill-afford.
The benefits of supporting staff to cope with stress at work
The first and most obvious benefit of helping staff cope with stress is that it reduces sickness levels. This means you have the maximum number of resources available to spread the workload evenly. This then becomes a cyclical benefit. A full complement of staff prevents any individual from having to take on an excessive workload, which helps prevent stress impacting on the team.
Staff who feel supported and able to cope with stressful and emotional situations remain motivated. They feel valued and are more likely to seek out the support available when required. When staff feel they can’t raise issues around stress or workload for fear of being ignored, laughed at or reprimanded, they’re likely to harbour those feelings and allow them to fester.
Ensuring your carers are respected and valued will not only keep them motivated, it will also increase the chances of them staying with the company. Caring is a sector that has had its fair share of bad press in terms of stress levels over the years, being known as a company that bucks that trend will only increase the chances of attracting and keeping top talent.
Organisations that offer help with coping strategies also promote a culture of support. Listening to and understanding one another becomes part of the daily routine of the company. Individuals who receive support come to fully understand its value and become equipped to offer similar help to others in need.
Coping strategies for carers
There are several ways for care companies to offer support to their team members:
- Listen: Simply displaying empathy and giving someone time to explain how they feel can often be enough. There are times when people just need to get something off their chest. Alternatively, there may be a simple solution to an issue that’s eating someone up. By allowing them to open up without prejudice, you may find that solution.
- Breaks: Time away is crucial for destressing. Whether it’s making sure staff have a healthy work-life balance in terms of time off or simply ensuring they take breaks throughout the working day, this is a simple but effective strategy managers must employ. Time out for a cup of tea or a few deep breaths should be factored into workloads to prevent burnout.
- Prioritisation: Some days, you simply can’t get everything done. Helping staff understand how to prioritise their workload empowers them and shows you understand the realities of their working day as well as helping control stress levels.
- Training to cope with emotional pressure: Caring is a profession that naturally includes a lot of on-the-job training. Often, this is the best way to learn practical skills. But when it comes to managing stress, it’s best to take staff away from the workplace. While there are benefits to observing how colleagues cope with challenging circumstances, a large part of coping with stress is to understand the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’. Resilience coaching away from the pressures of the daily grind enables learners to fully grasp why different coping techniques work and gain maximum benefit when they put those strategies to work.
- Regular contact: One way to make staff feel valued is to check in with them regularly. Managers who take an interest in their team and ask how individuals are doing will pick up on issues before they start to manifest themselves in underperformance. Appraisals and performance reviews are a good opportunity to praise staff and provide positive feedback that keeps them feeling good about themselves.
Richmond offers bespoke training for care providers tailored to the needs of the organisation. Our skills coaches will help carers learn about how to cope with the pressure of a sometimes challenging working environment so they stay motivated and continue to deliver a high level of service to those in their care.