Following interviews with staff across all levels, leading Scottish care group Renaissance Care, which employs 1,200 people across the country, has reviewed its culture, working practice, and its health and wellbeing offering across the board, as it responds to rising resignations of care staff across the industry on the back of the pandemic.

In response to feedback around long shifts within the care sector, which have historically been 12 hour shifts as industry standard, the care home operator will now offer staff a flexible approach to their working week. The move means that those who want to adapt shifts around childcare commitments, or want to cut down on long shift times can request to do so, while certain roles will have the option to support to a four-day working week.

Home manager at Renaissance Care’s Glencairn Care Home in Edinburgh, Jozi Stables, has seen a great uptake of flexible hours. Jozi explained that the move has meant something different for each person, including herself who has used it to spend more time with family and take up further study.

Jozi said: “You read about it, but I don’t think unless you work in care it is easy to understand how much the pandemic changed everything.

“It made us so much more reactive than we ever were before because we had to work within major constraints and time pressures. Situations changed so quickly and we would react to the changing needs on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. Of course, this is something we do every day within our role, however, the additional pressures of the pandemic meant this need became even greater.

“Now we’ve had a while to process everything and take a step back, I take great pride in what the care sector has achieved and continues to deliver. We endured long hours, incredible risks and fear which were unrivalled in any other sector, and we did this without question, and with the safety and care of our residents and colleagues as our main priority. However, the emotional stresses were evident as fatigue took its toll and it’s not surprising that so many people left the sector.

“All of this amounts to a clear reason some would want to look elsewhere for a new career where modern ways of working, and the silver-linings from the pandemic such as working from home, could be implemented. For me and my colleagues though, care is a passion, so leaving the sector for such reasons wasn’t really an option, so Renaissance Care bringing in these updated benefits has meant we’re able to regain some of that balance while remaining steadfast in our roles for those we care for.

“Renaissance Care has always been a fair employer and, because of that, we have incredible staff. The move to implement a cultural review as guided by its employees underlines the company’s determination to support its people whilst being mindful of their needs, and by listening and adapting where possible to create the work life balance we all deserve.

“To this point, the review included staff focus groups as a core component to the situational analysis undertaken. The survey has led to many different benefits for staff to help address the stresses and concerns which have been raised within the industry as a whole, and directly to the businesses senior leaders during the process.

“Amongst pay increases, health and wellbeing programmes, and increased training opportunities, the flexible approach to the working week has been the benefit which staff have embraced the most. It, almost immediately, gave people the power to regain some work life balance, and make their schedules work for them rather than the other way about.

“Because of the job we’re in, a four-day week can be difficult to implement, as when we’re needed, we’re needed, and we always prioritise those in our care. However, this more flexible approach means we are able to have conversations with each staff member to try and accommodate shift patterns and working rotas that meet the needs of the workforce as well as the home. As a manager, I want my team to be happy and feel supported - being able to offer this flexibility allows me to achieve this to a greater extent.  

“This flexible approach means something different to everyone; for some it means catching a later and less expensive train, some potentially start and finish earlier so they can pick up wee ones, others can take extended lunch breaks or finish early to get some headspace and down time after a tough day. It’s empowering our staff to make the choices which work best for them and their life but understanding that resident’s needs will always come first; so it is flexible and a bit of give and take from both sides. When our staff are happy and healthy, they are able to provide even better care to our residents.

“I have been using flexible working to visit my family over the weekends – something I have been unable to do properly since the pandemic began, so it means a lot me and them.

“What would previously be a flying visit following a four-hour journey after work, now means I am able to spend quality time with my loved ones which has made me happier and given me more chance to rest and recuperate, allowing me to be the best I can possibly be for those in my care.

“I have also been able to use this time to take up further study – I will be starting an Honours Degree in Healthcare and Health Science this year - something I have always wanted to do, but not been able to find the time in my current schedule without taking leave from work.

“Other team members are also undergoing qualifications and the flexible approach to working hours gives them the option to take some time during quiet parts of the day to catch up on course work, or even start study groups to support each other, which in turn not only improves the level of care we provide, but has sparked an invigorated sense of team spirit.

“Everything we do here as a staff team, and throughout Renaissance Care, is about collaboration and trust, and our new ways of working is an extension of that. We know we can rely on each other to do the job to the best of our ability at every turn, and this will not, and has not changed with the rota adjustments.

“The care industry should be as agile and as forward thinking as any other business. By doing so, modern lifestyles and pressures can be taken into consideration which will result in a happier, more well balanced workforce, who, because they have cared for themselves, are able to share that love and attention in a more meaningful way with our residents.”

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