Forward Carers CIC is a not-for-profit social enterprise on a mission to create Carer Friendly Communities and Workplaces that improve the wellbeing of unpaid Carers.
Today (15 May 2023) is the start of Mental Health Awareness Week. At Forward Carers, we are invested in staff wellbeing all year round and wanted to share the ways we support our staff, many of whom have experience of caring for someone who due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction cannot cope without their support.
Research shows that 75% of unpaid Carers worry about being about to continue to juggle work and care going forward (i).
We believe a happy, healthy workforce is a productive and effective one, and over the past two years, we’ve been on a journey to prove this so we can help other organisations to do the same.
In 2021, we introduced some new policies suggested by staff to improve their wellbeing, and since then, we have launched other initiatives to support our employees.
Here are ten ways we have taken steps to improve the wellbeing of our staff
1. Introduced a Carers Policy
2. Introduced a Menopause Policy
3. Introduced a Wellbeing Strategy with access to two staff members trained as Mental Health First Aiders
4. Embraced hybrid and flexible working
5. Introduced an Employee Assistance Programme
6. Gifted staff two days’ volunteering leave
7. Invited staff to take an hour-long Wellbeing work-out each week to do something that supports their physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual wellbeing
8. Developed our 121 form to allow employees and line managers to discuss physical and mental wellbeing each month.
9. Promote Carer friendly recruitment policies and included a question in our 121 form around caring responsibilities or if those tasks have changed at all.
10. Started a six-month, four-day-week pilot
Our Wellbeing Strategy recognises the high incidence of mental health issues amongst UK workers and that for some staff, work can cause or exacerbate mental ill health. We also recognise that employees from diverse groups may be more likely to experience mental health issues, less likely to seek help and feel more stigmatised (ii). Struggles with mental health can mean that alcohol is sometimes used as a crutch to cope which could lead to dependency.
In March 2023, confident our wellbeing approach was working for staff, our business and our beneficiaries, unpaid Carers, we commenced a six-month, four-day-week pilot where full-time staff work 80% of hours in exchange for 100% of salary and maintaining 100% of outcomes. We have partnered with the 4 Day Week Global Pilot to learn from best practice and ensure that reduced hours do not lead to increased stress or anxiety. Our aim is to maintain or improve our business priority outcomes while improving staff wellbeing, which is monitored weekly through a short anonymous staff survey. We are currently in Week 10 of the pilot and results are very positive on all fronts.
This year’s Mental Health Awareness theme is anxiety. The Mental Health Foundation recommends getting out in nature, getting active and connecting with others as three ways to reduce anxiety. Last week, as part of our wellbeing programme and to take part in the UK-wide Big Help Out event, we held a team volunteering day at Thrive Birmingham, a fantastic charity supporting people with defined needs through social and therapeutic horticulture, to reduce social isolation and improve mental health.
Our volunteering day saw the team don safety boots and gardening gloves to tackle a wide range of tasks designed to improve access for Thrive’s beneficiaries, from seeding and weeding to painting and DIY. It was a fantastic day, the smiles in the photo say it all.
An evaluation of the day showed staff experienced a wide range of benefits including:
- Improved physical (62%) and mental (87.5%) wellbeing
- Feeling more connected to the team (87.5%)
- And more connected to the local community (75%).
Staff feedback stated:
“It was just wonderful, I really can’t tell you how beneficial getting out of the office, being together as a team and cheering each other on has been! Just amazing.”
Simon Fenton, CEO Forward Carers, said:
“We know that unpaid Carers in work are more likely to worry about not having the time to prioritise their physical and mental health, compared to Carers who are not working. We have staff who juggle work and caring, so we know first-hand the challenges this brings and the strain that this responsibility can have on a person’s mental health. By making simple changes in the workplace, we have retained knowledgeable and dedicated employees without incurring recruitment and training costs.
Supporting staff to look after their health and wellbeing is not only the right thing to do, it has real business benefits too, from reducing sick days to improving retention and recruitment and helping us exceed our targets. The evidence shows happy, healthy staff are productive and deliver great service to our beneficiaries.“
If you’d like to find out how we can support you to develop inclusive Carer Friendly Workplaces for staff balancing work and care, get in touch at email@example.com or visit our page on workplace training.