There’s no doubt about it: Working with the elderly, people who have disabilities or people who are housebound can be draining in many different ways. After all, it requires workers to see to the comfort, welfare and safety of others — often putting others’ needs above their own to help ensure quality of life.
As employers of home care workers know all too well, however, case managers, DSPs, social workers and other dedicated workers in the field often find themselves burned out because they haven’t taken steps to control stress levels, take good care of their mental and emotional health and preserve a healthy work-life balance. And that unaddressed burnout can afflict workers in a number of ways, including physical health issues, depression, anxiety, insomnia, substance abuse problems or relationship issues.
That can be a tragedy for everyone involved; not only do employers often lose skilled and compassionate workers, but the workers themselves miss out on gratifying long-term careers. After all, in a culture in which many people are focused on accumulating their own wealth and raising their own status, home care workers have the satisfaction of knowing they’re continually helping others.
The savviest employers today are people-focused
So what are some steps home care employers can take to help ward off burnout so they can better retain valuable staff members? Consider the following actions:
- Ask your employees what would improve their work experiences. Research indicates 47% of workers have never heard that query from their employers. You may be surprised at the easy adjustments that could make their lives less stressful.
- Help workers juggle personal time with work time by offering flexible schedules when possible. “Workers value employers who empower them to manage their own time,” notes Grainne Shaughnessy on Sagepeople.com.
- Regularly review employee workloads to determine where reductions or adjustments may be needed.
- Encourage employee vacations by disallowing carried-over vacation time from year to year.
But workers also need to look out for No. 1
Regardless of industry, it’s in any employer’s best interest to talk to their people about how to take care of themselves and control their own on-the-job stress.
“It’s critical for healthcare professionals to pay attention to their emotional lives in order to remain effective and healthy themselves — especially in times of crisis,” notes David P. Fessel in Harvard Business Review. “Greater emotional intelligence creates better results ranging from productivity to job satisfaction.”
In that spirit, here are some self-care principles you might suggest to your workers.
Don’t make your clients’ problems your own
Getting overly emotionally involved with clients and their challenges can be a mistake, especially if you start to internalize those challenges. Aim to make clients’ lives better while you’re at work, then leave their issues at the door once your shift is over. You don’t have to solve everyone’s problems to make a positive difference in the world.
Build self-care activities into each day
Chances are, no one else is going to make sure you schedule “me” time into your day, so you’ll need to do it yourself. Learn what kinds of activities re-charge your batteries and make time for them; suggestions include taking walks; shopping; watching fun videos; power napping; “forest bathing” or communing with nature; meditating; deep breathing; listening to your favorite tunes; enjoying your favorite snack; reading; or talking to a friend. Note that failing to take breaks during your work days could significantly affect your productivity, mental well-being and work performance, according to studies.
Exercise even if you don’t feel like it
We know it’s not always easy to build workout time into your day, but it’s vitally important to your physical and mental health. Thirty minutes of moderate aerobic activity is essential each day, though doctors say 150 minutes per week is the goal to fully promote heart health, fight obesity and reduce stress.
Fuel yourself through your diet
Help your body fight off stress by eating a protein-packed breakfast, eating six small meals throughout your day to boost energy and control blood sugar, and limiting your daily intake of alcohol, sugar, caffeine and junk food.
Regulate your sleep
You may be tempted to cut into your nightly sleep to fit more activity into your life, but getting fewer than seven hours of sleep every 24 hours makes you more inclined toward chronic health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma and depression.
Need more information about avoiding the burnout so prevalent in the home care profession? Talk to the experts at Pinnacle Services for more advice.