Opinion Wellbeing workforce

Nurturing your workforce

Karolina Gerlich, CEO, The Care Workers Charity

Karolina Gerlich, Chief Executive at The Care Workers’ Charity discusses why engaging in discussions about the wellbeing of care workers should be a priority.

As Chief Executive of the Care Worker’s Charity, an organisation dedicated to supporting and advocating for care workers across the UK, and with 12 years of personal experience as a care worker, I am acutely aware of the importance of prioritising and discussing care worker wellbeing. The social care sector has encountered substantial challenges during and after the COVID-19 pandemic and it’s essential to address mental health openly and encourage individuals to speak up when they are struggling. As somebody who has had different mental health struggles over the years, with depression and anxiety, I think sharing your experiences and accepting mental health issues without judgement is incredibly important. Social care leaders have a responsibility to be open-minded and compassionate when it comes to the wellbeing of their colleagues. Mental health should be central in the workplace, including training and awareness and making wellbeing a regular discussion topic.

In our discussion with care workers, they have spoken about the significance of having a good relationship with their manager and the impact of this on their overall wellbeing at work. Management styles should be empathetic and understanding, with leaders actively listening and engaging with their teams to understand what is happening in their lives outside of work. Supervision and group supervision are valuable tools for addressing mental health concerns and sharing best practices within the field. These forums provide care workers with a space to reflect on their experiences and receive support. Additionally, having a designated mental health first aid person can create a vital support system for care worker teams.

To create a thriving work environment, listening to staff is essential. Wellbeing initiatives will look different to different individuals and teams but could include improving staff rooms, providing wellbeing grants, and asking returning mothers (or others who have taken time out) about their needs. Addressing care worker wellbeing also encompasses promoting financial stability, advocating to decision makers for competitive pay rates to enhance overall quality of life. Additionally, prioritising working conditions, including adequate training, advanced rotas, promoting breaks and holiday time, job security, and a supportive learning culture, significantly contributes to a higher level of overall wellbeing. This fosters a happier and more effective workforce.

It’s important to embed recognition into daily practice in care settings, to express gratitude to care workers and to celebrate their achievements. Long Service Awards and Awards for Outstanding Work can serve as a source of recognition, honoring exceptional contributions that go above and beyond. Finding ways to share success stories, whether via monthly newsletters or in team meetings, can create positivity by highlighting the transformative impact of care workers’ efforts.

Apart from formal awards and acknowledgements, it is equally vital to acknowledge people’s work on a day-to-day basis. A simple thank you or a “well done” email can be an important token of appreciation, fortifying the sense of camaraderie and belonging within the workplace. It also includes providing opportunities for development which fosters long-term careers and personal growth, as employees identify areas for development and access training opportunities.

Alongside acknowledging achievements, the other thing that is needed is to provide support when things go wrong. Care workers, like everyone else, can make mistakes. When errors occur, it’s essential to adopt a supportive approach. Care workers should be able to seek support when they need to and have the information and trust to utilize the resources and support your organisation offers. Encouraging care workers to seek assistance, fostering transparency in addressing mistakes, and investing in comprehensive training and prevention mechanisms are instrumental in mitigating difficulties and supporting the wellbeing of care workers when faced with challenges.

In essence, cultivating wellbeing in care necessitates a multifaceted approach. Most importantly, leaders need to apply person-centered care principles to team members, fostering an atmosphere of trust, flexibility, and inclusivity, which makes care workers more comfortable. Ultimately empowering them to provide better care and leading to their own enhanced satisfaction and fulfillment.

@KGerlich777 @CareWorkersFund



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