David Kelly, General Manager, EMEA Deputy
Social care is caught in a vicious circle. Hit hard by the double whammy of Brexit and the pandemic, the sector has over 100,000 vacancies in the UK. And when care providers are struggling to recruit, it puts existing staff under even more pressure. This can lead to burnout and cause people not only to leave their jobs, but to quit the industry for good.
Too much pressure
The recent State of Shift Work report, which surveyed 1,009 shift workers in the UK, reveals the scale of this problem. With 60% of employees reporting that their company had found it hard to hire people in the past 12 months, it confirms the pressure that care workers are under. Nearly half of them have had to work more shifts as a result and found it harder to take time off.
Not surprisingly, this has disrupted work/life balance, for over one-third of employees. Also not surprisingly, it’s making a significant percentage of care employees consider their position. When asked about their plans, 18% said they wanted to leave for another company and 14% wanted to leave the industry altogether. A further 4% wanted to quit, with a view to retiring or going back to education.
And alongside the desire for change is a sense of insecurity among employees, 66% of whom are concerned about job security.
What care workers want
As well as revealing the impact of the workforce crisis on employees, the State of Shift Work also shone a light on the likes and dislikes of care workers in relation to their jobs. Everyone who responded said that a positive working environment was important, with over 60% affirming it was a “very important” consideration.
What makes a “positive environment?” Respondents painted a clear and valuable picture. Over half said it depended on workplaces being focused on employee wellbeing, while 47% looked for a culture of trust, openness, and compassion. Diversity, equity and inclusion, and opportunities for development and growth both ranked third, cited by 36% of employees.
And communication makes a huge difference to how care workers perform and feel about their jobs, with 84% agreeing that they would “be a better employee if the organisation communicated and told me more about what was going on.”
And what they don’t want
The top three dislikes revealed in the survey were negative health impacts, a lack of control over shifts, and unpredictable schedules. Many shift workers in the care sector feel they have a lack of control over shifts, with 32% finding this frustrating. Nearly half say that a lack of control is affecting their health and their sleep, and one-third found that unpredictable schedules were making it difficult for them to make plans in their lives.
However – the State of Shift Work also has some good news. Despite all their concerns, employees like what they do. Nearly all (97%) said they love, enjoy or are content with their jobs.
Ascot Care Homes manager David Tanner points to the direction the industry should take to help alleviate its staffing crisis:
“You need to remove any impediment to their happiness. Little things can make the difference between a member of staff staying with you or leaving. If you can focus on those small things, it’s more likely they’ll stay.”
What care providers can do
The State of Shift Work findings suggest six steps care providers can take to improve staff morale and retention:
1. Ensure equality and fairness in development opportunities and schedules
2. Check in regularly on staff sentiment and wellbeing
3. Communicate, communicate, communicate
4. Think creatively about flexible working
5. Give as much notice of schedules as possible
6. Use apps to make life easy, so staff can focus on what they really love doing: caring
For more ideas and insights into the motivations, likes and dislikes of shift workers, check out the State of Shift Work Report .