At a challenging time for the health sector, Debra Gers, employment lawyer at Blake Morgan, and Jordan Cummins, health director at the CBI discuss what can be done to improve the wellbeing of staff working in health and social care.
This article was first published in Health Business.
There’s no question that the last few years have led to unprecedented pressure on the health and social care sector, with the COVID-19 pandemic and its residual effects, and now the cost-of-living crisis creating fresh challenges.
One area which has been adversely affected is the physical and mental wellbeing of those working in the NHS and wider health and social care organisations. The backlog of appointments, on-going demand for services, and staff shortages has added extra pressure to an already squeezed workforce, which has had little to no respite following an intense few years.
Many are suffering from unprecedented levels of poor mental health, including stress, anxiety, depression and PTSD, and organisations are experiencing higher volumes of sickness absence. With the cost-of-living crisis deepening, financial concerns are also rising. Improving the wellbeing of those working within the sector has never been more important.
The health and social care sector must put this at the centre of its value proposition and work to improve job design and satisfaction to protect the workforce from ongoing challenges.
How can staff wellbeing be improved in practice?
While a longer-term approach is needed to combat the strain on resources, there are structural changes which can be implemented now to ease pressures on individual staff members. These include creating better shift patterns to give employees greater flexibility, ensuring better training, and putting in place initiatives such as shared workloads to ensure those on the frontline do not feel unnecessary burdens.
Working from home
Where possible, health and social care organisations should also implement home-based and remote working to ensure a better work-life balance, although it must be noted that for some, remote working can have an adverse impact on their mental wellbeing because of increased feelings of loneliness.
Smaller measures should also be put in place to improve the day-to-day lives of employees. Research from the Nuffield Trust has coined this ‘hygiene factors’ and includes ensuring employees have access to amenities such as rest areas and car parking, as well as the correct equipment. These can help to mitigate problems in the short-term, easing overall pressure on the workforce.
It is also important that leaders foster an inclusive, compassionate and cooperate environment which creates a sense of belonging among employees, making them feel valued and giving them a sense they have a stake in their work. This is particularly effective in the health and social care sector, where workers are motivated by a sense of public service.
With the cost-of-living crisis deepening, financial concerns are increasing for much of the workforce, particularly those on lower wages. The sector must consider how it can adapt for this challenging period, and introduce measures which support employees. These could include subsidised meals at work, tax-free vouchers for rising bills, or even loans for public transport.
Read the article in full here.
Future Health Conference
Debra Gers and Jordan Cummins will be discussing the challenge of workplace wellbeing within the health and social care sector as part of the upcoming Future Health Conference which is being run by Blake Morgan between 15-17 November.
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