Care work is extremely demanding at times and can leave employees feeling overwhelmed, physically exhausted and mentally drained.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, struggling is defined as being unsuccessful but trying hard to succeed.
This can lead to mistakes and a drop in productivity, which could be a matter of life and death in this industry.
Can you really afford to take this risk?
Furthermore, this could also lead to the employee feeling stressed, depressed and anxious.
In fact, in 2016/17, all three of these accounted for 40% of all work-related ill-health cases.
To put this into context, this equates to around 12.5 million sick days, leaving your patients unattended and understaffed – which can lead to similar cases occurring on a more frequent basis.
As a manager, if you want to carry on getting the best out of your staff and stop them from experiencing burnout, it’s vital that you recognise the early indications.
Do any of these following signs look familiar?
Is your employee showing signs of irritability?
If they’re becoming more argumentative with a patient or member of staff, this could be a major indicator that they’re finding things tough.
Stubborn patients and being asked to take on extra work are usually two key triggers to irritable behaviour.
To help reduce this problem, you should either let them work with another patient or reduce their workload to allow them to keep on top of their work.
One of the easier signs of struggling to spot is to take a look at a care worker’s physical appearance.
For instance, if they have tired eyes, are forgetting to shave or not making an effort with their hair, this might mean that they’re either struggling to motivate themselves to go to work, or they just don’t have the time to look after themselves.
Poor hygiene like bad smells is another clear sign as well.
Disorganised and excessive tardiness
Being disorganised either means that a professional is lazy (which isn’t a good quality for a care worker) or hasn’t had a chance to get things together as they’re being overworked.
For the former, you may need to consider whether this worker is right for your organisation.
Whereas for the latter, you should provide them with more time to organise themselves by allocating an hour of their day – if required.
A lack of organisation often results in lateness too.
A care worker who isn’t on time to see a patient is a liability and you need to rectify this quickly.
Try talking to them and giving them an opportunity to explain why this keeps happening.
The global managing director of Havas Media Group, Paul Frampton, says:
“When dealing with a performance issue, emotional intelligence is a key attribute in seeking to understand why the member of staff is struggling.”
“Reserve judgment until you’ve listened to their answers.
There is a need for leaders to be humble and authentic while having tough conversations.
I’m a big believer in balance – ‘tough empathy’ is possible – listen and appreciate problems, but ensure that tough messages that need to be delivered are sent.”
Negative tones, moaning or procrastinating
In the care industry, a lot of workers are asked to perform a huge array of jobs.
As a result, they’re stretched and don’t always feel comfortable completing them.
This can leave some staff feeling out of their depth, forcing them to act in one of three ways:
- Talking in a negative tone and having poor body language while working.
- Moaning to co-workers about managers, patients or other workers.
- Procrastinating and avoiding doing the tasks they hate.
Senior lecturer at Nottingham Business School, Suzanne Ross, says:
“staff may start to isolate themselves as their confidence in their contribution decreases.”
“More extrovert personalities may become more vocal about their overall dissatisfaction.”
Naturally, these signs are very toxic and can cause you real managerial headaches.
The best way to tackle this issue is to ask staff on a regular basis whether they’re happy completing certain jobs.
However, don’t just take them off the less glamorous tasks, as this could show weakness and result in an employee taking advantage of your goodwill.
The reality is, care work isn’t easy.
So only make drastic changes if you believe it is absolutely necessary.
Check in on a regular basis
While this might not be a sign per se, it’s an effective way of getting to the bottom of any problems immediately.
By simply opening up the channel of communication, you’ll enable your employees to feel comfortable enough to come to you and share any concerns they may have.
The head of talent at M&C Saatchi, Claire Croft says:
“We all play the ‘everything’s fine, thanks’ game”.
“Working long hours is the norm and the pressures affect us all at some point. Many people are still fearful of flagging that they’re flagging,”
Therefore, it’s important to take the time to talk to each care worker on an individual basis to give them the opportunity to give some much-needed feedback.
Showing them a high level of support like this will tell them that you have their back through thick and thin.
If you don’t have time to do weekly meetings or it isn’t applicable in your organisation (i.e. your employees work at patients’ houses), you should at least provide your contact details for them to call on whenever they see fit.
Whatever you do, just remember to show your staff that you care and are willing to reward them for their hard work.
Remind every new starter that struggling both emotionally and physically isn’t a sign of weakness, it often means that they are working too hard.
By looking out for the early signs and letting everyone know that you’re there to help, you can help them.
Whether this is achieved by giving them a bit of time off, adjusting their rotas, giving them extra support with a patient or just lending an ear, all of these can make a real difference.
However, don’t be afraid to show some tough love to those who are struggling and not willing to try on behalf of your organisation.
Enjoyed reading this? Then you might find some value in our previous blog: ‘How to Handle a Temp Worker Who Isn’t Pulling Their Weight’.