I woke up stressed, fuelled myself with caffeine and drove to work. The first visit starts good. The caffeine starts to kick in when I’m helping my client out of his bed and shower him. However, today is not a good day for him and clothing is challenging. Finally we are ready and I can prepare his breakfast, give his medicine and leave for the next visit, already behind my schedule. Driving like a maniac to get to the next visit on time, the next and so on. I’m tired at the end of my shift. Didn’t really have a proper lunch or breaks and still need to fill some paperwork. Feeling bad because I don’t think I had enough time for the clients.
Does this sound familiar?
One of the biggest challenges in the hectic home care sector is time management. Each care worker underpins the same problem they have too many clients and not enough time. Domiciliary care is not just the visits but also paperwork, care planning and transportation between visits, all of which take time and need to be taken into account when planning rotas. Although all can be scheduled perfectly, there can be ad hoc tasks that require extra time, unfortunately the problem is that it is not possible to add hours to the day.
Having too little time with customers can cause carers feel pressured, increasing stress and tiredness. More time with clients means better customer service, sense of success, less stress and in turn less sick leaves.
Time management is the second theme of a series of blog posts about carers expectations for their managers. The tips we are providing in the end of this blog are gathered from carers and a business case in Finland.
Time, predictability and prioritisation
Caring takes time. Carers are proud of their own work especially when they know they’ve been able to do their very best. A sense of urgency can be easily seen as bad customer care. One care worker stated that 30-60 minutes is the minimum per visit.
Predictability is also needed. Carers want to know well beforehand when they have visits and they ask for consistency and communication. Automated scheduling tool can help to organise work schedules and increase predictability. Here are just a few comments from carers to a new manager:
- “Predictability when organising rotas.”
- “Set regular consistent hours.”
- “A rota in advance that didn’t change last minute all the time.”
- “Ask before giving extra calls carer might have plans.”
- “Listen to your staff if they say their run is unrealistic don’t just brush it under the carpet.”
TIP1: Avoid scheduling 15 minutes visits and instead a minimum of 30-60 minutes is preferable.
TIP2: Increase reliability in rotas by using automated scheduling.
TIP3: Listen to your staff when making rotas.
Travel time, breaks and days off
“Look at the staff rota and ensure they have sufficient travel times. I was constantly double booked for calls and given no travel time, which impacted on client care.” A caregiver
Driving and parking takes time and needs to be taken into account when planning rotas. As one of the carers mentioned tickets are expensive to run, so it would be less stressful for carers and less expensive for the home care company to remember to reserve enough time.
The easiest way to learn how much time should be reserved for travelling is to track distance and travel time between each visit automatically. When all is automated it doesn’t require any extra effort from you. Instead the existing data supports your decisions.
Also some carers say they don’t have enough time in a day to go to bathroom or eat lunch. Caring requires carers to be intensively present with the clients and it takes a lot of energy. By the evening carers can be exhausted of running from place to place without a proper break. A 15 minute rest between customer visits in the evening can restore a carer’s energy levels and enable the rest of the day’s visits to be as energetic as the first ones of the day.
Finally, time management means that work related matters should be dealt within working hours and not while carers are having their days off. No matter how small the matter is, it brings work related issues to one’s mind, while day off are meant to be time to rest from work and therefore the day off should be respected.
TIP4: Track distance and travel time to know how much time to reserve between each visit.
TIP5: Ensure that carers will have enough time for lunch and at least one 15 minute break per day.
TIP6: Respect days off and deal
Ways to re-organise work
What about if lengthening work days would actually lessen carer stress and increase job satisfaction? Sounds impossible, doesn’t it? A real shocker, but it is true!
There is a successful experimentation in Finland where workdays have been made longer and it has increased carers job satisfaction and recovery. The key is that the whole working week has been organised differently. Rotations are built so that carers work for 4 days and then they have always at least 2 days off. This helps employees to properly recover in their free time and they will have more energy for work.
Longer days are useful to get more time with the customers and more time for necessary breaks and travelling. By this model carers have been able to take their customers for example to hairdressers, outdoors or shopping. This has made customers happier and also the work more satisfying for the carers.
You are thinking about the costs aren’t you?
In the beginning the costs of employment will increase. However, eventually the costs will decrease. Helsinki City homecare in Finland has saved more money as the new model reduced the amount of sick leaves which can be expensive for an employer.
This is not the only way to re-organise work. Perhaps some of the tasks could be made remotely or carers could be empowered more like in the Buurtzorg -model.
TIP7: Think how to re-organise work to manage time better. Discuss it with your employees, and be brave to shake the home care sector by being the front runner.
There are many ways to manage time better and therefore increase the job satisfaction and well-being of carers and customers. Here are our tips:
- TIP1: Avoid scheduling 15 minutes visits and instead a minimum of 30-60 minutes is preferable.
- TIP2: Increase reliability in rotas by using automated scheduling.
- TIP3: Listen to your staff when making rotas.
- TIP4: Track distance and travel time to know how much to reserve time between each visit.
- TIP5: Ensure that carers will have enough time for a lunch and at least one 15 minutes break per day.
- TIP6: Respect days off.
- TIP7: Think how to re-organise work to manage time better. Discuss it with your employees, and be brave to shake the home care sector by being the front runner.
Read our previous blog post here: What carers expect from their managers (part 1): Training and information flow