UK healthcare workers’ mental health under strain

The impact of coronavirus on jobs is compounding poor mental health among workers in the healthcare and social assistance sector.

This year has certainly been a struggle for many of us, but there is one group of people who have specifically been playing a vital role in the surreal and dramatic situation the world has been facing. Namely, the healthcare workers. These are the unsung heroes spending most of their waking hours to ensure we, as a society, will get through this.

It’s sometimes easy to forget that these superheroes are normal people with wants, needs, and concerns like any of us. Now, we want to shed some light on these heroes. Between February and May 2020, Quinyx conducted a survey of 1,200 deskless workers across the UK to get insights about their work, wellbeing, overall health, wants, and needs, both pre- and during the pandemic. So what did we find?

“My mental health? I’m busy taking care of others”

Healthcare workers’ mental health is under strain. When asked about their mental health, 42% of healthcare workers polled said their job had negatively impacted their mental health within the past 12 months. This didn’t get any better during the crisis when this number rocketed to 54%. We also found that 33% didn’t feel comfortable talking to their employer or manager about how their working conditions impact their physical or mental health. Why is this?

The value of being valued

Prior to the pandemic, 53% of healthcare workers who said that their job negatively impacted their mental health over the last 12 months did so because they felt that they were not appreciated for the work they do. 

Before the pandemic, 32% of the UK healthcare workers didn’t think that their employer valued the work they do. Of these, 51% thought this was because their employer views them as disposable or temporary resources. During the pandemic, this number reached 70%.

Negative work environment

UK healthcare workers also reported a lack of visibility and control over their rosters, financial concerns, and worries over job security as having a negative impact on their mental wellbeing. Before the crisis, 58% of all the healthcare workers polled said that they had considered leaving their job because of a negative work environment.

No rest for the wicked

49% reported that the expectations from their employers or managers are too high and they’re expected to work extremely long hours. Before COVID-19, 66% of UK healthcare workers also said they have been going into work when sick because they couldn’t afford to take time off. During the pandemic, 21% still went to work when sick. 47% of these said that they did so because they needed the money for household expenses. 

When looking closer at the communication between the UK healthcare workers and their employers, we also found that the UK healthcare workers are constantly contacted outside of work. Before the pandemic, more than 91% of healthcare workers were contacted by their employers when they were “off the clock” - more than in any other industry we surveyed. During the crisis, this number bumped up to 93%. 

Flexi-what? 

Flexibility is not a luxury for all, especially not within the healthcare sector. Here are a few of the results showing a great need for more flexibility among healthcare professionals… 

  • Of those polled, 66% told us that they had missed out on social events or holiday celebrations because of inflexible rosters (pre-COVID). 
  • 55% said they were unable to swap shifts with co-workers due to employer or system restrictions. 
  • 56% felt that asking to change a shift for personal reasons would be perceived negatively by their employer. 
  • 31% have left a job because their employer did not provide schedules with enough advance notice (a week or more), making it difficult to balance work and personal life.
  • 36% of the healthcare workers polled said that they would prefer more flexibility over a pay rise (more than in any other industry polled). 

It’s time to look after our healthcare heroes

What do we make of this? There is a problem that needs to be solved urgently. We have healthcare workers that are doing their best to ensure the health of the nation while not enjoying what should be mandatory for all. Namely, a work-life balance. So what can you do? 

There are many ways to increase the happiness of your workforce. Here are some of them.

Engage, listen and hear

We can see that many of the UK healthcare workers don’t feel valued by their employers and also don’t feel comfortable talking to their mangers about their health, compensation, or personal situation.

During times like these, you have the perfect opportunity to engage with them, show them how much you care and give them a chance to talk about their wants and needs. The power to initiate the dialogue, whether it’s via anonymous surveys or face to face conversations, lies solely with you.

Be smart about how you communicate

Don’t just stop at initiating the dialogue. Go further and make sure that  your employees are well informed, kept in the loop, and feel free to speak up easily  whenever they need to. To achieve this, healthcare organisations need the right tools. The importance of being able to quickly relay critical safety information, policy updates, and other vital information with your workforce while gathering their thoughts and feedback instantly cannot be underestimated.

Offer flexibility

One may think that more money is what all employees are asking for, but it is actually not the case. As an employer, you can find solutions to offer your workforce the flexibility they crave. Remember that flexibility can be achieved in various ways. A good starting point is to give your employees more control over their own time and rosters.

Embrace the benefits of technology

To offer the above, you need the right tools, that will allow you to create better integration between your employees’ personal lives and work lives. As doctors and nurses work to save patients, workforce management technology can become the lifeline that helps keep your workforce safe, productive, and happy. The right technology will help you by offering your workforce what they so desperately crave: improved flexibility, communication, engagement, work-life balance, mental and physical wellbeing. 

With the right tech solution, you can offer your workforce more flexibility for their rosters, set up efficient communication channels, and easily engage with them, while limiting the admin time spent on forecasting, rostering, payroll, and more. Efficient management of your healthcare workforce will help reduce stress and pressure on frontline staff.

Whether they are an emergency response centre or a care home service, leading healthcare providers use Quinyx for scheduling, time & attendance management, HR and compliance. Elysium Healthcare, IC24, LIVI, Vocare and Yarrow Housing are just some of the organisations we help. More information on how a workforce management system can benefit your business can be found here.

Conclusion

If there’s one thing that COVID-19 has taught us, it is how quickly we’re able to change things when we need - or want - to. So, taking this time to make changes will do wonders for your workforce and healthcare organisation as a whole. Embrace change, innovation, technology and make sure to leverage on the right tools out there.

 

Access Report

 

*Research conducted by Censuswide in two stages: between 11.03.2020-23.03.2020 with 1,200 deskless workers who work an hourly schedule in the following sectors: retail, hospitality and tourism, shipping/distribution, healthcare and social assistance, transportation and warehousing. Between 22.04.2020-04.05.2020 with 1,205 deskless UK workers in the same sectors. Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.

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