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Supporting Those Who Care: How to Prevent Stress and Burnout in Social Care
Blog //15-05-2024

Supporting Those Who Care: How to Prevent Stress and Burnout in Social Care

by Health and Care, OneAdvanced Public Sector

47% of CEOs who took part in our Care Trends Report 2024 say they feel stressed and unable to cope all or some of the time. Additionally, a massive 78% of social care workers are reported to having stress levels higher than before the pandemic, according to a Unison survey.

Those who work in social care tirelessly champion the well-being of their clients, and at times this can mean putting the needs of others ahead of their own. And as we have highlighted from our report, although fulfilling, the demanding nature of social care can lead many people working in the sector feeling stressed and burnt out.

Perhaps by understanding the complexities of stress and burnout, care providers can continue to work towards building a strong workforce.

Let’s dive into some insights and practical strategies to hopefully help you tackle stress and burnout within your organisation.

What are some of the signs of stress and burnout?

We may have all experienced a level of stress and burnout during our working lives. But social care workers can have a heightened risk of burnout due to the demanding and emotionally charged nature of the job, manifesting into physical, mental and emotional symptoms such as:

  • Loss of patience and focus
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Feelings of self-doubt
  • Easily distracted and cancelling personal appointments
  • Irritability and increased negativity
  • Fatigued and drained
  • Falling ill or not fully recovering from illness
  • Anxiety and depression

What can cause stress and burnout for social care staff?

Large workloads

In the same Unison survey that we mentioned earlier, 74% of care workers agreed or strongly agreed that they often felt their workload was excessive at the start of 2022.

And when growing demand is coupled with recruitment and retention struggles, your care workers may find themselves juggling these large and often complex workloads. More service users / residents equal more work, and more work can lead to more burnt out staff; particularly so when the care being delivered is highly manual and perhaps evoking a level of emotional intensity, all of which comes with additional administrative and organisational processes.

Limited resource

A significant barrier faced in social care today is demand vs supply. One well-known factor that immediately comes to mind is the lack of funding and the subsequent competitive pay for care workers. But resource struggles don’t end there. Perhaps you’re not able to recruit enough staff in time to provide the level of care you need to, instead having to rely on expensive agencies. Or maybe complex funding requirements and invoice processes mean you are consistently waiting for the money you needed last month. These complications only amplify the stress felt in an already bustling and overstretched service.

Organisational stressors

Time pressures, tight deadlines, complex payroll and regulation compliance are just some of the organisational stressors that many social care providers experience on a day to day basis. And not just that but manual processes, ineffective communication, lack of autonomy or even unclear job expectations add pressure to teams, likely accentuating the levels of stress and exhaustion so prevalent throughout the sector.

What effect can stress and burnout have in social care?

Retention struggles

As we have already mentioned, social care continues to struggle with high turnover rates. The physical and mental strain often experienced working in social care can result in staff absences and, ultimately, turnover.

And according to the Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) State of Care Report 2022/23, ‘Many adult social care services described through their provider information return difficulties attracting new staff to roles to fill vacancies. They cited low pay, high pressure, and staff burnout as key causes of the many care workers who are leaving the sector for better paid jobs in less pressurised environments.’

Performance decline

When we are feeling stressed and burnt out at work, it’s fair to say we may struggle to be the best versions of ourselves. Feeling overwhelmed can make us anxious about what tomorrow holds, making it difficult to get a good night's sleep. And let's face it, when we're tired, we're more prone to making mistakes or losing focus.

And not only are some of your employees taking time off work because of their stress, those who remain may be struggling to keep up with all the vital requirements each service user / resident needs, leading to mistakes being made. And in worse case scenarios, these errors may impact the quality of care being provided.

Financial impact

All these struggles ultimately end up costing your business. Stressed and burnt out staff may go off sick or leave the sector altogether, leaving you to either recruit new employees or (and often more likely) fall onto agencies to plug those gaps that you just cannot fill quick enough.

Impact to the care being delivered or the management of the organisation may even lead to fines. Data silos or missed referrals slow down your efficiency, so you’re stuck playing catch up rather than preparing and growing your organisation for future need.

How can social care providers help prevent stress and burnout?

81% of CEOs surveyed as part of our Care Trends Report 2024 plan to get more support to help them manage the levels of stress and inability to cope within their organisation. And after researching the challenges around this important topic, we have come up with some strategies that can hopefully help.

1. Offer resources and support

Only 19% of social care workers had seen support from their employer or senior staff, according to the same Unison survey we have mentioned. Make sure you are continuing to encourage your teams to utilise any and all resources you have available. You also want to be able to create an environment that fosters openness and respect, where every single employee feels comfortable and confident supporting one another during those stressful times.

You may be in a position to offer some more flexibility for your staff, so they can work around personal commitments and appointments they may have. And don't forget about the importance of breaks. They're not just for resting; they're a chance for your staff to recharge, catch up, and share their best practices. It's these small moments that help build a strong sense of teamwork.

2. Set realistic goals

We understand that you are under a lot of pressure to meet all your service needs, and your employees probably understand that too. Yet there is only so much you can effectively achieve with the resources you have.

You may, therefore, want to set realistic goals for your teams, to break down some of those potentially overwhelming tasks that may be causing some anxiety. Taking small steps, rather than always aiming for perfection, can make a big difference when supporting your employee’s wellbeing.

3. Recognise achievements

Try and set some time aside to acknowledge the incredible value each of your employees bring to your organisation and their service users. And it doesn’t just have to come from your management teams.

You may want to remind your staff that they can give each other a quick ‘thank you’ when someone has done something particularly recognisable. Lifting each other up and reminding one another of all the amazing things they're doing and accomplishing can work wonders in boosting morale and relieving some of that burnout they might be experiencing.

4. Understand your teams

One way you can learn and understand what you can do to help your care staff is to take a closer look at their day to day. You may want to observe and personally ask them about the aspects of their job that are causing stress and burnout. You'll probably notice some recurring issues, but it's important to gather a variety of perspectives since each person brings a fresh outlook on their role.

And even if you’re not on-site to do this, you can still track trends remotely using cloud-based software and business intelligence. This way, you can track turnover rates, attendance and absences, giving you valuable insights into your team's performance. It's all about understanding and supporting them in the best way possible.

Care Cloud, our cloud-based care business management software, gives you vital tools that can help you support your teams throughout their career, giving them more autonomy and control over their working lives.

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Health and Care

Health and Care

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OneAdvanced Public Sector

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