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MENTAL HEALTH Care for Your Care Workers


Andrea Stoddart, HR Manager at Exemplar Health Care, explains why supporting colleague mental health requires a holistic approach.


During the recent health pandemic, social care providers have continued to deliver high-quality care for residents and provide a safe working environment for colleagues. While working in care is extremely rewarding, in these difficult times key workers have faced additional challenges which have undoubtedly placed a strain on their mental health.


Supporting colleague mental health is important as this can reduce sickness absence, improve continuity of care for residents, and improve quality of care as colleagues become more motivated and engaged.


Exemplar Health Care has shown great resilience throughout these challenging times and has found that taking a holistic approach towards supporting colleague mental health and wellbeing is key.


Working in social care can be highly fulfilling, but it can also be stressful. This is why Exemplar Health Care is committed to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of our colleagues.


One of the ways in which we support colleagues is by creating a culture of health and wellbeing. We have introduced policies that help all colleagues to adopt this approach through their day-to-day work. This includes having an open-door policy, encouraging two-way communication, providing regular feedback opportunities, and introducing an employee engagement programme.


Another way that we create a positive culture across our 32 homes, is through the My Exemplar app. The app shares real- time updates, as well as hosting our policies, training videos, information about learning and development opportunities and links to useful documents and guides.


During the pandemic, we’ve used the app to communicate important information, and have created new sections with guidance about testing and updates for managers, which we update daily. The app also hosts a ‘Share your story’ section where colleagues can upload photos and news from our homes, which has played a vital role in sharing best practice and boosting morale over the past few months.


We offer regular mental health awareness training to all colleagues, so that they can recognise the signs of mental illness and how to offer support to each other. We also provide access to an Employee Assistance Programme, where colleagues can access trained counsellors and advisors 24/7.


At Exemplar Health Care, our health and wellbeing strategy includes a range of initiatives to support colleague mental health and wellbeing at work, including our 33-strong team of Mental Health First Aiders.


All of our homes and central offices have access to a Mental Health First Aider who is trained to offer mental health advice and support, which includes being there to listen and signposting to appropriate help.


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Over the past year, our Mental Health First Aiders have supported over 250 colleagues through their role, as well as providing informal advice to many more in their workplace - and they’ve made a massive difference to many of our colleagues’ lives.


One Mental Health First Aider shared: “We give time to people so they can talk and let things out. We don't try to fix things – most of the time, just listening, guiding and being there with someone is helpful in itself. I'm here to talk when a staff member needs someone to listen - this opens the door without pressuring someone to share on the spot.”


Another colleague told us about the impact that their support has had: “The staff I have supported have thanked me for the advice and the signposting to additional support. One staff member said they would not have known who to speak to in the past regarding their situation. They stated that the support offered and received from the Mental Health First Aider had stopped them from leaving the company as they realised how supportive Exemplar Health Care is.”


An important part of supporting colleague’s mental health and wellbeing is to ensure that they feel appreciated. As a thank you to the continued support our colleagues provide to our residents, we offer several rewards packages and initiatives.


My FIRST Rewards is an online rewards and benefits platform that we offer to all colleagues. The platform has an online ‘Wellbeing Centre’, which gives them access to articles, advice and videos around several themes, including; Move (fitness and exercise, including daily workout videos), Munch (diet and nutrition, including access to hundreds of recipes with Hello Fresh), Money (finances, including an online budget planner) and Mind (mental wellbeing, including morning mindfulness and meditation videos).


A colleague recently shared feedback on the app, which said: “During the Coronavirus pandemic, I’ve found it quite difficult to adjust to the changes of everyday life, including working from home. The free training on mindfulness was really useful at the start to help me to relax and separate work from home life, and the exercise videos on My FIRST Rewards have helped me to stay active – I do them at 17.30 every night to help me to ‘switch off’ from work. The company also introduced a ban on Zoom calls between 12.30 and 1.30 to prevent Zoom fatigue and ensure that we can all take a proper lunch.”


Other rewards and benefits we offer through this platform include; discounts at supermarkets and high street shops, a weekly ‘Above and Beyond Award’ for staff recognition, and annual ‘Values Awards’ to recognise colleagues who live by our values.


https://exemplarhc.com www.tomorrowscare.co.uk


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