14 May Reducing Stress in Home Health Agency Staff
The nature of home healthcare work has always presented challenges to agency caregivers and administrators, even before the pandemic disrupted the landscape. Stress at work can lead to lower productivity, reduced job satisfaction, and an overall decrease in employee happiness. Even more critical are stress’s long-term and short-term health effects on workers. How should agencies deal with the challenge of managing both individual and collective situations among staff in an era where the drive to reduce caregiver turnover is at the top of every agency owner’s list? Additionally, what can be done to provide resources to staff and prevent workplace stress from impacting an agency’s ability to operate efficiently?
What are the best practices for reducing workplace stress in home health agency staff?
The operation of a Home healthcare agency is more complex than it has ever been. Homecare agency workers are experiencing increased stress due to a little bit of everything; from infectious diseases and decreased resources, regulatory changes and mandates, to a myriad of unpredictable circumstances. Stressed workers are more likely to quit abruptly, neglect patients, slide into depression, contemplate serious mental issues such as suicide, become addicted to narcotics, and perform poorly at work (Munn, 2021). At a national level, healthcare workers are leaving the field in unprecedented numbers, and most agencies have as a top agenda item the need to improve caregiver retention (Chen, 2021).
Successful Home health agency leaders have to have a solid plan that prioritizes addressing workplace stress to ensure a healthy, dependable workforce capable of delivering top-quality care to home health clients. Out-of-the-box thinking and innovation are essential to staying ahead of negative outcomes that can have a ripple effect throughout the agency.
Have a plan to reduce stress in the workplace
Reducing workplace stress is about more than just posting information on employee assistance programs. Forward-thinking home health agency leaders work with their employees to identify the best wellness programs, while simultaneously implementing a comprehensive plan to reduce workplace stress that is easily accessible to all. Steps in this process could include:
- Explore stress management options.
- Become informed about local resources, and help workers access those services if needed.
- Be ready to assist workers who are experiencing burnout with actionable intervention. Maintaining the dignity of employees who are having difficulty coping is crucial.
- If you don’t already have them, consider adding mental health days to your benefits package.
From day one: Addressing workplace stress begins before the hiring process
People who are resilient and dependable are the best candidates for hire in almost any industry, especially in home health care. Resilient people have a higher probability of remaining loyal to your organization for many decades, and they will strengthen teams while establishing strong company culture. Recognizing and rewarding staff who can cope with difficult times is essential to agency staff morale. Striking a balance between leaning on versus exploiting these employees, especially as they may become more stressed and prone to burnout, will increase the chances of keeping that strong culture and attracting more of them. Look for key indicators during the hiring process of how potential employees handle stress, leadership, adversity, and expectations.
Offer Comprehensive Health and Wellness Programs
Ask home health staff what programs they think would be most beneficial to keep them satisfied. A staff that feels like a part of your ownership team will be a much more loyal staff.
- Encourage the use of internal and external Employee Assistance Programs, particularly providing well-rounded stress management programs
- Inform staff about the dangers associated with depression, anxiety, and substance abuse
- Promote a culture that values nurturing, not judgment. It is vital that all employees feel included, understood, and supported by the organization’s culture
- Communicate regularly with staff about their needs and challenges
- Promote a strong work/life balance for homecare clinicians, finding creative ways to meet worker, organizational, and community needs while maintaining a solid and resilient office atmosphere.
- Adopt a broad view of what stress prevention and reduction entails, and communicate that clearly agency-wide
Healthy time management reduces stress
Employees feel less stressed and under pressure when they have excellent time management skills. Educating staff about time management is part of an effective stress reduction program. Leaders must look at the entire organization’s use of time. Are worker’s concerns being heard and addressed? Is there a way to increase communication efficiency? Are internal policies and procedures in need of creation or change? Could any scheduling changes prove to be helpful? These are questions that senior management should be reviewing and considering action upon regularly.
Ask employees to identify areas that they find inefficient. Listening to and having management make changes because of employee input is much more effective than management-originated strategies. Employees feel more invested when they are involved in decision-making.
Advocate for your home health staff
Leaders need to address any problems that may arise from regulations they are not responsible for. For example, there may be a need to contact medical or regulatory bodies and communicate the unintended challenges some policies might have caused for both caregivers and patients. Employees appreciate being heard and appreciated. Leaders must listen to their employees and take the necessary steps to address burdensome regulatory concerns that need to be considered by those operating outside of the day-to-day of agency management. Be sure to inform employees about the progress made and any actions taken.
Encourage employees to take advantage of stress-relieving technologies
From home health software to improved and abundant mobile devices, to telehealth tools, technology is an agency’s friend. For stress management, resources such as virtual counseling can be effective and are readily available in many cases. There are even apps that workers can use to relieve stress. Educate your workers about these resources. Many of the apps are free or inexpensive with free trials readily available. Your agency may want to explore ways to ensure access to virtual counseling and apps. Apps offer many benefits including:
- They are portable and immediately accessible
- Some apps offer multiple strategies and resources that can help reduce anxiety
- Workers feel less isolated
- They help workers prepare for stressful situations
- Provide immediate assistance if panic attacks occur
- Easy to use
Common Apps include:
- “iBreathe” is an excellent option for beginners. It is free and teaches breathing techniques.
- “Insight Timer” focuses on meditation and present-moment awareness.
- “Happy” is a science-based game and activity that promotes healthy coping, stress relief, and well-being.
- “Calm” is a meditation, focus, and sleep management program.
Teach your staff stress prevention strategies
Stress prevention strategies are varied and individualized. Increase your staff’s knowledge about proven methods to decrease stress. Encourage healthy living, such as healthy eating, obtaining adequate rest, and assertiveness. Consider offering agency-wide challenges, such as drinking plenty of water each day for a week or practicing deep breathing exercises each day. Teach your staff about proven stress reduction activities.
Have a health fair, which will be good publicity for your agency. Invite wellness practitioners. Offer chair massage, relaxing teas, meditation sessions, and more to staff and the community.
Here are two proven stress-relieving techniques and activities you can share with staff.
Spend time in nature
Studies have shown that nature offers the following benefits:
- Improved performance of tasks that requires accuracy and concentration
- Better memory
- Less stress and depression
- Increased relaxation, calmness, and peace
- More compassion
- Vitality and energy increases
- Optimistic outlook on life
Journaling allows the writer to reflect on their thoughts and set goals and can be a great way to express deep emotions safely. Writers notice patterns in their feelings and how they impact their actions. Once they identify the patterns, they can take positive steps to manage stress. Benefits include:
- A better mood
- Slower changes due to age
- Reduced irritability
- Increased concentration and information-processing abilities
- Better problem-solving skills
- Reduced anxiety
- Increased creativity
- Easier to quit harmful behavior
Stress prevention and reduction are vital for home health agencies. Leaders must have a comprehensive plan for reducing stress. Effective stress management includes careful selection of prospective workers, a nurturing environment, and attention to agency-wide and individual ways to relieve and prevent stress. The rewards of investing in a comprehensive stress reduction and management program far outweigh the time and costs invested. Reduced stress results in higher worker satisfaction, inevitably leading to improved client care.
More helpful blogs for home health care agencies
Learn more about optimizing your agency’s growth, operational efficiency, and other topics pertinent to home health care by exploring our additional blogs:
- What is keeping my agency from growing?
- The key metrics your agency must watch
- The seven steps to starting a successful home health agency (whitepaper)
- Top tools and tips to help your home health agency grow
- The value of an EMR in home health
Author’s Note: Views, information, and guidance in this resource are intended for information only. We are not rendering legal, financial, accounting, medical, or other professional advice. Alora disclaims any liability to any third party and cannot make any guarantee related to the content.
Alora’s home health software solution is ideal for agencies operating in both skilled and non-skilled care. For more than 16 years Alora has simplified workflow for countless agencies, helping them serve nearly 850,000 patients, while expanding their agency’s services and offerings. Whether your agency is strictly skilled home health care, or offers multiple business lines including hospice care, pediatrics and more, Alora makes everything easier so agencies can thrive.