Creating happier care workers

Nowadays a home care manager’s most important role is to facilitate the work of their employees so that they can do their job as good as possible. When care workers can concentrate on their main tasks and not worry about unnecessary things, the quality of the service will improve remarkably.

Who’s better to suggest changes than carers themselves? Employees want to be heard. We’ve listened to care workers on social media and gathered comments on what they expect from their managers, and most of all, how managers can facilitate their work.

Here are some ways you can meet employees’ expectations.

1. Ensure proper induction and training

When a new home care manager asked for tips on being a good manager, several care workers wished for proper induction and mandatory training. As one carer said, carers want “opportunities to better one-selves”.

Think about it. Home care clients trust their well-being to the hands of a care worker – a total stranger (at least in the beginning). Trusting that stranger’s training and experience is a huge pressure for new carers. The situation can be stressful for the care workers whether they are new in home care and/or have a new client.

When care workers are introduced properly to their calls and know they have sufficient training they will be more confident that they are able to do their best for the clients. After all, one of the biggest motivators for carers is the work itself and the feeling of accomplishment you get from it.

2. Reduce cognitive load

When care workers are bombarded with information from all sides, it can be impossible to stay on top of schedules and duties.

The old-fashioned way of solving this problem is to have documents printed before each visit or worse to have a folder at the customer’s home. The latter can be a problem thanks to GDPR.

A Case Officer in the Information Commissioner’s Office told us: “Under the General Data Protection Regulations, data controllers are required to take steps to protect personal data. The GDPR doesn’t say that records can’t be left in client’s homes, but if they are then they should be kept physically secure – steps should be taken to protect them from inappropriate disclosure, loss or damage.” 

Client folders include medical and personal information which need to be protected. How can you ensure that an old-fashioned client folder won’t get inappropriate disclosure, loss or damage in the client’s home? 

Care workers need the right information at the right time and place. First time visits especially require information beforehand. Luckily technology has made it possible to have all the information safely nearby whenever you need it. Providing carers the information they need creates a sense of confidence.

3. Improve information flow 

Care workers come and go, and clients can have several different carers taking care of them. A sudden sick or maternity leave can turn rota plans made just a moment ago upside down, and councils change their regulations.

Managers and care workers need to be flexible, and that requires good information flow. It’s easier to jump into another person’s call if you know some of the history of a customer beforehand and it’s easier to adjust to organisational changes when you know what’s going on in the company.

Good communication flow within and between teams and departments can be accomplished through systematic processes. Have plenty of care worker meetings. Face-to-face communication is important especially when a company is facing big changes as carers need a chance to give feedback. Many of the carers have knowledge important for the job, but as changes may occur some of the important information can be lost. Ensure that tacit information is also written down.

4. Enable better time management 

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. 

Predictability is also needed. Carers want to know beforehand when they have visits. Automated scheduling tools can help to organise work schedules and improve predictability.

5. Travel time, breaks and days off 

Things like driving and parking take time and need 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.

Some carers say they don’t have enough time in a day to go to the 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 from 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.

Time management means that work related matters should be dealt within working hours and not while carers are having their days off.

6. Re-organise if needed 

What if lengthening work days would actually decrease the stress of care workers and increase job satisfaction? Sounds impossible, doesn’t it? A real shocker, but it is true!

There was an interesting experiment done in Finland where workdays were made longer and it successfully increased care worker job satisfaction and recovery. The key was that the whole working week was organised differently. Rotations were built so that carers worked for 4 days and then had at least 2 days off. This helped employees recover in their free time and they ended up having more energy for work.

With longer work days care workers get more time with the customers and more time for breaks and travelling. Carers might be able to take their customers for example to hairdressers, outdoors or shopping, making customers happier and the work more satisfying.

You’re thinking about the costs aren’t you?

In the beginning employment costs will increase. However, eventually they 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. You can also consider if some tasks could be made remotely, or if adopting a more empowering working model (for example the Buurtzorg model) could improve your setup.

Tips for home care managers:

  1. Give care workers proper introductions about their clients.
  2. Keep track of training to ensure everyone has the right and updated know-how. Compliance reports are useful for this.
  3. Ensure your care workers have an easy and secure tool to access all the client information they need, whenever they need it.
  4. Organise weekly/monthly care worker meetings to ensure good information flow.
  5. Collect diary notes digitally to see the progress and to ensure tacit knowledge won’t be lost.
  6. Avoid scheduling 15 minutes visits and instead a minimum of 30-60 minutes is preferable.
  7. Increase reliability in rotas by using automated scheduling.
  8. Listen to your staff when making rotas.
  9. Look at the staff rota and ensure they have sufficient travel times.
  10. Track distance and travel time to know how much time to reserve between each visit.
  11. Ensure that carers will have enough time for lunch and at least one 15 minute break per day. Respect days off.
  12. Re-organise work to manage time better. Discuss it with your employees, and don’t be afraid to shake the home care sector by being the front runner.

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