Working in social care is a hugely rewarding career, but it can also be challenging – never more so than this past year. It’s vital that workers look after their mental wellbeing, and managers have a responsibility to support their team’s mental wellbeing.
To support teams Skills for Care offers a range of wellbeing resources from a variety of our trusted partners for people working in adult social care, which can be found using the online ‘Workforce wellbeing resource finder’.
We also spoke to social care managers across different settings to find out first-hand their tips for looking after their own mental wellbeing, and that of their teams.
Mindfulness is the practice of being aware and alert to the current moment and responding in an intentional manner.
Mindfulness techniques can be taught and learned through training courses, and the state of mindfulness can be supported through meditation.
Mark Anslow, Service Manager for Children’s Services at Bradford City Council, is a big believer in the benefits of mindfulness, and has introduced this strategy among his team:
“Mindfulness can help people feel calmer and better able to deal with stress and difficult situations and feelings, like worry or anger. Feedback from staff has been very positive.”
During the Covid pandemic digital connections have become increasingly important.
Lisa Cowley, CEO of Beacon Vision, explains how creating a digital community was important for looking after her team’s mental wellbeing during the pandemic:
“We were conscious that those natural opportunities for social chat and support in the workplace had changed to working in isolation or delivering care in a busy and pressured environment.
“One idea was to set up a staff Facebook group as an opportunity to share both the supportive and silly to keep each other going.”
Anushka Karmali, Development Officer at 360 Degrees Healthcare also stressed the value of digital connections saying:
“Without us having the face-to-face support that we’re used to Zoom is helping staff to feel more part of a team. We’ve seen that team structures have become stronger, and it’s been good for team building and friendships.”
Whether online or offline, the key to supporting positive mental wellbeing is open and honest communication. It’s important that staff have a safe space to talk about their feelings and any challenges. This can be facilitated through supportive and effective supervision, peer-to-peer support or regular check-ins by managers and supervisors.
At 360 Degrees Healthcare the introduction of peer support bubbles has had a positive impact. Anushka says:
“Encouraging peer-to-peer connections and conversations builds better relationships and stronger teams.”
At Beacon Vision support services for staff is also important and the organisation provides an employee assistance programme as well as a 24/7 on-call manager to provide support to staff. Lisa highlights the importance of communication saying:
“There’s no one size fits all approach to wellbeing and everyone’s circumstances are different. However, the essential element is communication. Person centred and considered regular communication with a recognition of what each person is going through has increased trust and confidence.”
The managers we spoke to also discussed the importance of leadership teams being empathic and leading by example including clear communication across their organisations.
Anushka says: “We spoke openly and honestly with staff about how they were feeling and shared our own fears and anxieties with them. It’s important to me not to be hierarchical and to be human and provide that one-to-one support.”
While Lisa explains: “Our Trustee Board is very supportive and visible. They connect with staff by getting to know them on a personal level, and staff know that they can contact them if needed.
“At every level from trustees to grassroots staff, we’ve been clear that it’s acceptable and beneficial to show emotion and not always put on a brave face. We’ve had some really difficult and heart-wrenching situations and by showing our natural human emotions, this enables others to have permission to share how they’re feeling too.”
Time to yourself
When looking after our mental health it’s crucial to take time for ourselves. Social care managers can help by encouraging staff to take time to themselves by introducing policies such as that piloted by Beacon Vision during lockdown – they offered staff 30 minutes to do whatever they want, from walking the dog to taking a bath.
Sally Percival, who employs personal assistants to support her family members and is Chair of TLAP National Co-production Advisory Group recommends five key steps for taking time to care for yourself:
- Lower your shoulders.
- Get outside.
- Get creative.
- Listen to uplifting music.
- Do something you really enjoy.
For more information on wellbeing for social care staff Skills for Care provides a range of resources on the wellbeing section of their website.