April is National Stress Awareness Month, which encourages us all to raise our awareness about the causes, impacts, and solutions for the modern-day stress epidemic.
In this article, we focus on stress, mental health, and wellbeing – specifically in the workplace – with the aim of inspiring and empowering home care providers to take action and keep caregiver job stress at bay.
What are the causes of caregiver stress?
Caregiving can be an extremely rewarding vocation, but it does come with more than its fair share of emotional and physical stressors.
Caregivers typically report much higher levels of work-related stress than many other professions, with women being particularly at risk of its harmful effects – including numerous physical and mental health issues.
The main work stressors reported by caregivers include:
- Long work hours – or insufficient hours – with limited schedule flexibility
- Poor communication from leadership, with unclear/changing expectations
- Feeling isolated/disconnected from the team
- Limited control in decision-making processes with a lack of autonomy
- Lack of proper training or resources to do the job expected of them
- Lack of opportunities for career development – feeling stuck
- Disorganized management – with unclear, undefined boundaries
- Poor pay/inadequate benefits, creating financial worries
- Job security concerns
- Discrimination or harassment at work
- Lack of consideration for employees’ health and wellness
- Lack of appreciation and support from office staff and management
Left unaddressed, caregiver stress can take its toll on your employees’ health, relationships, and state of mind and may eventually lead to complete emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion: burnout.
This is why taking care of your caregivers – the essential backbone of your business – and ensuring your home care business supports workplace wellness isn’t a luxury but a necessity.
Symptoms of caregiver stress
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of caregiver stress – and educating your team – is an important first step towards reducing workplace stressors and guaranteeing a better caregiver experience.
One of the challenges home care providers face when identifying stress-related symptoms is that everyone experiences stress in different ways, and it can, therefore, manifest in very different ways.
However, there are some common signs to look out for, including:
- Feeling tired, run-down, lethargic
- New or worsening health problems, including persistent aches and pains, and digestive issues
- Difficulty concentrating, and possibly more accident prone
- Neglecting responsibilities, missing shifts, or frequently turning up late
- Becoming more irritable and short-tempered with colleagues and clients
- Drinking, smoking, and/or eating more
- Neglecting own needs (including hygiene) due to lack of time or lack of care
- Becoming withdrawn from colleagues, friends, and/or family
Signs that reveal a stressed caregiver workforce
Ensuring your caregivers are mentally healthy should be a top priority – not only for the health of your caregivers, but for the health of your business as well.
Unresolved, prolonged stress in the workplace can be detrimental to your home care business. It’s essential to take a broader view of signs within your business that reveal you have a stressed caregiver workforce. You may notice:
- Frequent absenteeism, sick leave, and missed shifts
- Interpersonal relationship issues
- Higher-than-average caregiver turnover rate, resulting in increased recruitment and hiring costs
- Reduced productivity and efficiency, impacting the quality of care being provided
- Lower client/patient satisfaction scores
- Fewer client and caregiver referrals
- Reduced profits
Creating positive change to keep caregiver job stress at bay
The good news is that home care providers can easily take steps to create positive change for their caregivers, reduce workplace stress, and promote caregiver wellbeing – and National Stress Awareness Month is the perfect opportunity to get this ball rolling.
While caregiving will never be entirely stress-free, there are many ways you can help to lighten the load, support a healthy life-work balance, and show your team you genuinely care about them. Here are our top tips to get you started:
1. Identify areas of action needed to create and maintain a healthy workforce
The first step in any wellbeing plan is to identify areas that require attention. Which factors in your workplace contribute the most to caregiver stress levels? Where can you take action to reduce these pressures?
The best place to find this information is by directly asking your caregivers. You can use satisfaction surveys, questionnaires, focus groups, in-app feedback tools, and more. You might find it beneficial to make feedback channels anonymous so your caregivers can respond openly about their pain points without worrying about possible consequences!
2. Introduce practical strategies to reduce workplace stress
Armed with the feedback from Step 1, you can now begin to introduce practical strategies that address the issues raised (in the order of priority) to reduce the impact of stress on your caregiver team.
Here are ten top strategies that smart home care providers are finding the most beneficial in reducing workplace stress and boosting the wellbeing of their caregivers:
- Improve your scheduling to include more flexibility.
- Ensure your client-caregiver matching is on point.
- Upgrade communications to build better team connections and reduce feelings of isolation.
- Make sure your caregivers have the right tools and training for the job you expect them to do, like care coordination tools and time management skills.
- Offer team and individual training with opportunities for career development.
- Introduce a coaching/mentorship program where caregivers can regularly express their feelings and frustrations as well as celebrate their successes.
- Check that you’re offering competitive pay and valuable benefits – including adequate time off and paid time for training.
- Find ways to encourage caregiver self-care practices through workplace initiatives, including exercise, a healthy diet, relaxing spa treatments, meditation or yoga classes, and so on.
- Ensure your caregivers feel appreciated by regularly recognizing and rewarding good performance – boosting engagement and motivation.
- Set up a regular feedback channel so you can continue to monitor what your caregivers need from you to feel less stressed in their daily duties.
3. Improve your office staff’s skills in promoting caregiver wellbeing
For any stress-reduction strategies to be fully effective, it’s vital that your entire team is on board. Regardless of how junior or senior an employee is, everyone can contribute in some way to making your workplace a healthier, happier place where caregivers experience high job satisfaction and want to stay.
You can empower your office staff and managers through basic training on ‘stress in the workplace,’ communication skills, organization, and scheduling – which can all positively impact caregiver wellbeing.
Read our recent blog for some great tips on how you can get your entire home care office staff involved in reducing caregiver stress and increase retention.
4. Reduce the stigma associated with stress and related mental health issues
Unfortunately, the stigma around stress and mental health in the workplace is still an issue for many organizations – and can exist as self-stigma, public stigma, and/or structural stigma. This can often result in discrimination (which may be unconscious), meaning those most in need of help are not able to reach out for – or access – the support and resources they need to restore wellness.
National Stress Awareness Month provides the ideal opportunity for home care providers to take action and implement strategies that shift the dialogue from ‘stigma’ to ‘support’.
Creating an inclusive company culture, promoting health literacy around workplace stress and its effects, and having an open-door policy for caregivers to talk about work-related stress issues with you, colleagues, or a dedicated counselor are all steps in the right direction.
Read our recent blog on how home care providers can promote a culture of care, so you can start taking positive action today.
5. Promote workplace wellbeing every month of the year
Of course, reducing workplace stress and promoting the wellbeing of your caregiver team should not be limited to just one month a year!
National Stress Awareness Month presents a wonderful opportunity for home care providers to assess their current efforts in addressing workplace stress – but for maximum impact, it should be used as a springboard for building a long-term, sustainable culture of care. A culture where the value of caregiver wellbeing is understood, prioritized, and supported – to guarantee the health and dedication of your workforce well into the future.
How can Smartcare Software help?
Smartcare Software is an all-in-one home care platform designed to make your business more organized and efficient, enabling the highest levels of caregiver (and client) engagement – and delivering better outcomes for everyone.
Its intuitive, user-friendly tools cover everything you need to reduce workplace stress and optimize the caregiver experience, from improved scheduling and superior client-caregiver matching to enhanced communication between teams, better care coordination, innovative recognition and reward tools, and much more.
To learn more about how Smartcare Software can support your business efforts in keeping caregiver job stress at bay – and developing workplace wellbeing through award-winning home care tech solutions – please call us today or request a free demo.