white female nurse looking sad. She has a blue mask under her chin and is holding a cup of coffee
5 steps to help protect your team’s mental health
by Yelena Sokolsky

Burnout is a complex issue affecting many people in essential and nonessential jobs. A combination of factors causes burnout, a condition that includes emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and feelings of inefficacy.

Two and a half years in, the COVID-19 pandemic is still causing stress for workers, especially homecare employees. Too much stress can lead to burnout. The stress on these essential workers is caused by the constant fear of getting infected themselves, as well as by concern for the people they are caring for. They need to take care of themselves so that they can continue to take care of others.

Workplace wellness programs are essential when it comes to helping these workers deal with the stress they are experiencing. It is important to have a healthy work-life balance so your staff members can continue to do their jobs without getting sick themselves or passing an illness on to their clients. This article shares a few ways to catch burnout early and improve mental health in your organization.

Signs of Burnout

It’s easy to get burnt out from time to time; we’ve all been there. But there are ways to help prevent it from happening and some ways to combat it when it does occur.

Burnout can affect anyone regardless of age, race, gender or profession; it’s not something that anyone should be ashamed of. The symptoms are not limited to feeling tired or exhausted—your staff may also feel frustrated, angry and unfulfilled.

Here are some signs you or someone you work with may be experiencing burnout:

  • The feeling of being drained after daily activities
  • The constant feeling of being in a hurry
  • An inability to concentrate on tasks
  • Difficulty making or enjoying social plans
  • Declining work performance

How to Help

Many factors contribute to health care burnout, but one of the biggest is feeling like clients and managers do not appreciate you. One way to keep your staff happy and productive is by showing them that you care.

The first step is recognizing the signs. For example, caregivers or other workers may experience depression or anxiety about their daily tasks. Homecare aides or home medical equipment representatives may feel underappreciated or as if they are not making a difference in their clients’ lives. This can lead to feelings of hopelessness, making it difficult to continue providing care. Your staff must learn how to take care of themselves and maintain their mental health while caring for others.

Here are some things you can do:

1. Provide adequate breaks.

Create a schedule that allows for adequate breaks during their day as well as time to spend with their family or friends. Encourage them to actually take their breaks throughout the day, even if it’s just for a few minutes at a time. Pausing when dealing with a difficult client can help push a mental reset button on the encounter.

2. Offer paid time off.

The idea of giving staff paid time off is not new. However, the need is more urgent than ever with the increase in burnout and mental health issues among homecare staff. Paid time off for staff can help them maintain their own health, so they are able to provide better care for their clients. Caregivers especially feel like they are constantly on call, which can lead to high levels of stress and anxiety. Taking a break is one thing, but completely disconnecting is another, especially if it adds the stress of missing out on paid days. As for all careers, vacation is an important part of providing a healthy work environment for your employees. It is key to creating a culture that values the care your team provides and recognizes that it is a full-time job.

3. Encourage them to take care of their own health.

Make sure they remember to eat healthy snacks and meals during their breaks to keep them fueled during the day. If you have a break room, consider providing these healthy snacks. Patients need reminders to eat well and exercise—and so do your employees! Also, include a solid health insurance plan, including coverage for mental health needs, in their benefits package so they do not need to fear going into medical debt to care for themselves or their families.

4. Provide opportunities to learn.

Offer education programs and provide your staff the resources that can support them in their daily work. This might include certification courses, articles, videos or online forums to help caregivers connect and share information.

5. Offer workplace wellness options.

Burnout has a mental component. Aside from physically taking care of themselves with the same care that they offer their patients, encourage caregivers to take care of their mental health, too.Workplace wellness programs are becoming increasingly popular because of the rise in cases of workplace burnout among employees from all industries. These programs aim to help employees deal with stress and improve their mental, physical and social health. The benefits of such programs are wide-ranging, impacting everything from productivity to job satisfaction, engagement levels and retention rates.

The Importance of Mental Health

Keeping up with one’s well-being as a homecare worker can be difficult. Providing care or service to an elderly or disabled person who may have multiple chronic conditions is a demanding job that requires long hours. For homecare agency owners and managers, it’s crucial to provide your employees with the support they need to best take care of others. As a homecare professional, taking care of your staff allows for better quality service for your clients.

Yelena Sokolsky is a registered professional nurse entrepreneur and the owner, administrator and director of patient services at Galaxy Home Care, a New York-based homecare agency. Before starting Galaxy Home Care in 2021, Sokolosky served as a director of patient services for a large homecare company. She also has an extensive experience as a VP of operations with major Medicare-certified home health care agencies. She holds a Bachelor of Science in nursing and Bachelor of Arts in psychology.