Whilst the pandemic has been challenging for us all, there’s no doubt that it’s pushed the limits of the health and social care industry. Across the country, workers have responded with utmost dedication and gone above and beyond to deliver outstanding levels of care to service users around the clock. 

We surveyed 1218 health and social care workers to gain an understanding of how the last 12 months have affected their health and wellbeing and what more employers can do to support them during this continued period of uncertainty, and beyond. 

Increased pressure and higher demands.

It comes as no surprise that 44% of workers said that Covid has had a negative impact on their mental health, with 30% rating their stress levels at work as very high or high. The increased pressure and higher demands have inevitably taken a toll on many and these conditions are likely to remain for several months to come. These pressures coupled with the lack of social interaction and recreation outside of work has meant that workers haven’t had many outlets for stress relief at the end of their working day either. Interestingly, 34% of females were experiencing higher stress levels compared with 24% of males.

19% have also revealed that they took time off work due to unmanageable stress or a mental health condition, with 34% of this group not revealing the reason to their employer. 27% of workers are planning on leaving the health or social care profession in the next 12 months for the same reasons which is something that employers should be paying very close attention to and take action to decrease this figure.

There’s no doubt that personal concerns around Covid have also added to the stress that workers are facing. The top 3 concerns they had were:

  • Catching Covid at work - 49%
  • Family health - 42%
  • Finances - 31%

A decline in work-life balance.

Health and social care workers have been stretched thin, working longer hours and more shifts day and night to provide continuous care. 56% said they have worked overtime, with just under a third of workers doing more than 5 hours of overtime every week. This has led to a decline in work-life balance. Before the pandemic, 24% described their work life balance as very poor or poor which has now increased by 9% to 33%. Of those who said their work-life balance is very poor or poor, the 18-25 age group accounted for the largest proportion. However, regardless of age, working long hours is physically and mentally taxing and with less time to sleep and recharge, fatigue increases and so does the risk of physical health problems and mental health illnesses.

Shared support between colleagues.

56% of workers said that their relationships with work colleagues have not changed much over the last 12 months, in fact, 25% have enjoyed improved relationships. 33% of this figure put this down to frequent check-ins and some of the responses we saw included:

  • “Staff have pulled together and there’s more empathy between us”
  • “Shared trauma” 
  • “Having the same stress and supporting each other more during the pandemic”

We can all agree that support from colleagues can make a world’s difference in the day-to-day battles of our work and personal lives.

The call for more mental health resources.

Whilst the majority of workers felt that their employer was helping them manage their stress levels, 27% have battled through stress without sufficient employer support. Furthermore, 58% felt that there are not enough support structures offered by their employer to help them with positive health and wellbeing, which leads us on to the type of resources that workers are looking for at work:

  • Stress reduction workshops - 43%
  • Mindfulness classes - 39%
  • A wellbeing champion - 38%
  • Training about mental health, resilience and stress management  - 36%
  • Meditation sessions - 32% 

There is potential for employers to offer a real mixed bag of resources and we’ve explained the benefits of each one of these in this article.

Employers still have a lot of work to do when it comes to their workers. Workers with better health and wellbeing are in a stronger position to deliver higher standards of care which is something that can’t be compromised. It’s important that workers look out for themselves and each other but after the turbulent year we’ve all had, the expectation from employers to look out for their workers has significantly increased. Workers must feel comfortable enough at work to speak up without the worry of reprisal or stigma (currently 42% don’t feel like they’re able to do this).

Employers need to be having those open conversations, checking-in, offering resources, and encouraging workers to take annual leave to avoid burnout. Health and social care workers are a necessity in our ecosystem and employers would do well to take on board this research and suggestions to retain valued workers and build and maintain a happier, healthier workforce to benefit the service users of tomorrow.