22nd August 2016

Stress at Work – Reasonable Measures and Big Dividends

I wrote an article a week or so back about the importance of induction and preparatory training (the Welsh Social Care Induction Framework or SCIF) in equipping support workers for their role. SCIF training will help support-staff feel competent, confident and motivated. Collectively these attributes (competence, confidence and motivation) contribute to good morale and morale is a key ingredient to a happy and motivated workforce. This led me to think about staff well-being more generally. In particular I found myself focussing upon that curse of modern living 'stress'.

Well-being at Work

A recent study from the Centre for Research on Children and Families (as reported in Community Care Daily http://www.communitycare.co.uk/ accessed on 15th August, 2016) identified stress management strategies for local authority staff involved in social care. It prompted me to identify some needs of staff in frontline residential care or community settings and consider how employers can respond to this need. Employers have a responsibility under section 2 of The Health and Safety at Work Act, 1974 to ensure the safety and well-being of their staff. This includes ensuring that stress levels are reasonable and managed.

Reasonable Measures

Ensuring that staff have the training they need in order to perform their roles to a high standard is a great place to start. It is important to look for quality indicators from training providers rather than just lowest cost. Trainers with a good knowledge of the sector are likely to deliver better training but may not be the cheapest.

Look at your induction programme, does it reflect the current reality of the job and role? Although it needs to achieve a balance between orienting the individual to their role and fitting in well with organisational processes and structures, it MUST give the worker a realistic understanding of their role. Sometimes the obvious needs stating. For example, I read a newspaper article recently which ran the story of a care worker who had signed up with a care agency expecting shifts in a care home setting, only to find (on arriving) that her first assignment was as a lone-worker at night in a hostel for offenders. An assignment she felt ill-equipped to handle.

Ensure that supervision is in place both in respect of daily management arrangements, but also professional practice and development more widely. Individual supervision provides a learning forum for the worker but also enriches the organisation in allowing it to be responsive to workers. Good supervision will help workers feel supported and valued.

Organisational Culture

Try to create a culture in which a work-life balance is valued as this will ultimately benefit both worker and the workplace. This can involve:

  • Identifying what causes stress in the workplace
  • Encouraging staff to Identify what their stressors are and develop relevant personal coping strategies
  • Establish systems to monitor stress in the workplace involving managers and staff representatives
  • Ensure effective links with HR colleagues in order to join up initiatives within the organisation and best support staff

Stress is an elusive and ever present risk in the work-place but reasonable measures can pay big dividends. I will be writing more on work-based responses to stress in forthcoming articles.

 

*All information is correct at the time of publishing

Nic Bowler

Welsh Care and Social Services Inspectorate Specialist

Dr Nicholas Bowler is a researcher and consultant to government-level [Welsh Government Review of Secure Services, 2009] – specialising in QA/compliance focused projects. He has interests in clinically relevant training, service development and research. He enjoys working with clients to support them in identifying problems and initiating projects to improve practice.

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