What’s the “secret sauce” for business success? World-renowned entrepreneur Richard Branson has a simple recipe: “Take care of your employees, and they will take care of your business.” Simply put, focusing on staff wellness can have an array of benefits for your business.
When employees believe their employees care about their health and well-being, they are:
Providing staff with better care and support is a rewarding resolution for 2020. The case is compelling (see box). For senior living providers in particular, ensuring the health of staff – in body, mind, and spirit – is critical, as healthy, happy staff are the key to delivering high-quality care and ensuring resident satisfaction.
Keeping staff healthy, however, is a tall task. Frontline health care workers can suffer not only from physical fatigue but also from “emotional labor” – the pressure to manage any negative feelings so they can maintain positive interactions with residents. This expectation often takes its toll, leading to staff “burning out” or leaving their jobs altogether.
Realizing the Need
To demonstrate care and improve employee health, progressive senior living providers are launching employee wellness programs. Currently, 54 percent of senior living communities offer this type of program – and the trend is growing. Nearly nine out of 10 executives believe these strategies are essential to expanding their business and plan to increase their investment in the years to come.
Reasons cited by providers who do not have a workplace wellness program are budget constraints and a lack of time and staff to develop and manage the program. To keep costs down and bridge the staffing gap, many employers are seeking outside partners. For example, Lifetime Wellness, a leading provider of wellness programs for senior living communities, offers a Caregiver Wellness Toolkit as an easy-to-implement starting point for creating a wellness initiative.
“The toolkit is a low-cost, ready-to-purchase program,” says Stephen Chee, Director of Workplace Wellness at Lifetime Wellness. “It includes a variety of materials: wellness education, tips, videos and challenges to support your staff.”
The company also provides onsite support for staff, including Caregiver Wellness workshops, wellness quarterly challenges, and full wellness department outsourcing.
Revealing Health Status
Although senior care workers are in the business of health, their own health is often compromised. A leading survey of senior living providers reveals that obesity is the most prevalent risk factor, followed by high blood pressure, tobacco use, and diabetes.
Many company wellness programs are focused on providing education in managing and preventing these chronic diseases. The Lifetime Wellness program, for example, offers health and nutrition coaching, along with onsite health screening – blood tests and a body composition assessment that can detect health problems before symptoms appear. Staff receive screening results on the spot, along with coaching, follow-up steps, and physician referrals, if needed.
“Caregiver employees are easily stressed, and stress has a host of consequences for health,” Chee says. “A primary goal of our program is to help employees reduce stress and maintain their emotional health, professionally and personally. We teach techniques to manage depression, combat “compassion fatigue,” and strengthen day-to-day coping skills.”
Physical stress is another trigger of employee burnout. Caregiver Wellness certified trainers engage staff in a variety of stress-reducing fitness activities, such as yoga and Tai Chi, while certified massage therapists provide quick relief from muscle tension.
“When caregiver employees have the tools they need to follow best health practices, employers reap the benefits, from higher productivity to lower health care costs,” Chee says. “Through the industry’s next decade, we expect to see a surge in workplace wellness programs – enabling staff to take better care of themselves so they can take better care of their residents.”