It’s difficult to overestimate the importance of social care.
You probably already know someone who relies on it. A parent in a care home, or a friend’s child with behavioral challenges. Few sectors impact so many lives on such an enormous scale.
So you also know how crucial staff continuity is. Vulnerable patients need to see the same faces every day. They deserve to build lasting relationships with those who care for them.
That’s why statistics on staff turnover in social care particularly alarming. One recent report found that staff turnover in the adult social care sector was 30.8%, double the UK average of 15%. Another, by the Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee, found half of care workers leave within a year.
And that was before Covid-19 changed everything. An already undervalued, under-resourced sector fell to its knees. As some staff members self-isolated, others had to carry an even heavier burden of care – and risk. One survey predicted 4 in 5 care workers planned to quit as a result.
The crisis brought two facts into stark relief:
1 – society cannot survive without the social care sector.
2 – the social care sector needs more investment to survive.
But in doing so, it also created a window of opportunity. A cause for action, the lessons needed to build a brighter future.
Now’s the time for social care organizations to make long-lasting change. To prepare for a potential second wave. To transform care workers’ quality of life. And ultimately, to ensure better patient outcomes.
How can social care organizations improve the quality of life for their staff?
Some factors are out of their hands… Decades of inadequate funding. Continued real-term decrease in government spending. The impact of austerity. Bureaucratic fragmentation.
Others are more manageable. Nurturing and maintaining staff morale by giving them a voice. Proving they’re valued. But even for the most empathetic care home manager, pushing messages is challenging.
Some foundations for change were already laid pre-Covid. A project at the University of Kent was set up to understand the limitations of staff retention.
A report by Health UK identified the use of technology as a key part of the way forward.
Technology that supports communication in complex working environments already exists. Unfortunately, managers and workers still have to rely on outdated systems:
- Email: Most social care organizations have only one Point of Care email.
- Notice boards: Notice boards rely on carers coming into a physical location. Information can feel random and unstructured. Plus, it goes missing.
- Newsletters: These go out monthly or quarterly. That means staff (if they read the newsletter at all) aren’t kept up-to-date.
- Written documents: Employees already working to their full capacity struggle to absorb these.
- Face-to-face communication: In the context of Covid-19, this is even more problematic.
- Employee intranets: Most intranets are dated. Plus, they’re limited in scope and functionality.
Care workers are part of a tangled system. It includes their colleagues and managers. Patients and their families. Carers. And, more generally, government officials, public health experts, and scientists.
This system is in constant flux. Every shift has immediate, practical repercussions for care home staff. The current climate exacerbates this. Changing routines, gaps in schedules, and unpredictability when colleagues have to self-isolate.
This is where technology can make a difference.
Digital workplaces support essential workers. Keeping up with the revolving door of documentation, policies, updates, and emotions. The value of such systems goes far beyond time saved.
They also help managers and workers absorb, integrate, and disseminate a huge amount of information. Support data control and compliance.
Offer channels for mutual sharing and support. And in doing so, they ease the working lives of some of the unsung heroes of the pandemic.
Until recently, the only means of communication staff had was email, addressed to ‘all’. This meant they had to prioritize patient information. Sacrifice anything intended to engage, celebrate or support staff.
“A poll we conducted found that people felt they had what they needed to do their job – and not much more. They didn’t feel connected to the wider organization, or even in some cases, to their facility.”
The crisis triggered by Covid-19 was a turning point. It led to profound shifts in how Promises communicate and collaborate.
They adopted Blink, an integrated platform developed for frontline workers. To optimize the communication strands that travel through the organization every day. No longer do they wait to share information in one company-wide email. Today, Promises drip-feeds updates as they come out.
Christi calls these “small bites in real-time”.
Promises balances sobering, policy-related news with things staff “want” to see. Birthdays, promotions, social content. This has created a new-found sense of morale, with optimism soaring across the company.
In Christi’s words:
“We can show them that, despite all the uncertainty in the world, Promises is still hiring. Launching new programs, growing and surviving.”
The impact of Covid-19 has been devastating. But there are silver linings.
Frontline workers are no longer invisible. The public now understands that ‘essential’ means, and the sacrifice it involves. Social care providers have (literally) switched on. Adjusting to mobile software and video conferencing during the lockdown.
An antiquated sector has become digitally-aware, agile, responsive. That’s exciting. Equipped, engaged staff stick around. They deliver the level of care all patients deserve. There’s a long road ahead, but we’re on an upward trajectory.
As Christi remarks, “technology never stops moving. Our only choice is to move along with it.”