Sodexo Engage reveals the ways employers in the healthcare sector can make staff feel appreciated after a year like no other

This week marks World Wellbeing Week, an opportunity to raise awareness of the broad-spectrum of wellbeing, including mental, physical, social, financial and digital. For the UK’s business leaders, this is a time to ensure initiatives are in place to nurture all elements of employee wellbeing in the workplace. But who’s looking after healthcare workers?

Healthcare workers have seen wellbeing take a particular knock over the last 18 months. Many essential workers haven’t experienced the increased flexibility of working from home that other workers have and given the increased pressure on the sector, the workload for many has been unyielding and traumatic. In fact, recent data reveals 50% of staff reported a decline in their mental health during the height of the pandemic.

For managers in healthcare sectors, it’s vital to remember that carers need care too. Managers should implement strategies to engage with the workforce and understand what might make work more rewarding and help prevent burn-out as we continue to navigate our way through the pandemic. With this in mind, employee benefits provider, Sodexo Engage, has put together some tips for making healthcare workers feel cared for:

  1. Talk it out

It’s been reported that 80% of UK adults feel awkward about discussing mental health with their employer. Of course, having these personal conversations should be up to the discretion of the employee, but creating an atmosphere that encourages openness and destigmatises mental health will be a sure-fire way to ensure employees aren’t keeping schtum about struggling.

For healthcare workers in particular, this year and a half has been unusually challenging. Many workers will be suffering from the after-effects of witnessing very ill patients or battling extreme exhaustion with nearly half thinking of quitting.  These employees will need to know they can have conversations about what they’re experiencing with more senior staff. There are also various benefits that can promote mental wellbeing, including having an Employee Assistance Programme, that offers employees access to free counselling and other forms of support.

  1. Flexibility is the future of work

One of the points raised in a recent study of deskless workers, which encompasses all those working in jobs that can’t be remote including healthcare, was a desire for more flexibility. With healthcare workers totting up the hours and spending time away from family and friends, seeing office-based peers work from home and spend quality time with loved ones has been hard. If managers can allow for more flexible working, it could benefit everyone involved. Of course, working remotely won’t be a possibility for many healthcare professionals, but being able to work hours more attuned to individual lifestyle needs will be appreciated by many. It’s also critical employees get time out and free time to pursue hobbies and socialise.

  1. Pep your team with perks

Benefits alone will not make a team effective, but by treating employees and offering little pick-me-ups, it’s bound to ease some of the pressures of working life. Peer-to-peer recognition, where  employees are encouraged to publicly recognise their colleagues accomplishments, is a great way to motivate team members.

Employees can be rewarded with cash prizes, eVouchers, gift cards or discounts. For healthcare workers, who have seen the volume of their work increase and working protocol transform, any positive incentives will go a long way to making working life easier.

  1. Strong leadership

Leaders may seem rock solid, but they also need to look after their own wellbeing during this challenging time. They will, after all, be setting an example. However, it’s not always easy to know when you’re not alright. Leaders can upskill so they recognise the signs of poor wellbeing in staff and themselves. For example, programmes like Mental Health First Aid can help managers and team members identify the signs of mental health problems, such as withdrawal or snappiness, and take action.

Managers can also encourage peer-support programmes, so employees know they’re not alone when experiencing natural and human reactions to challenges at work. Healthcare workers are in a unique position in that witnessing traumatic scenes can become normalised and labelled ‘part of the job’. The reality is that dealing with extreme emotional pressure day in, day out, will take its toll. Leaders must communicate with employees, listen to them and get their thoughts on what support they need.

Jamie Mackenzie, Director at Sodexo Engage, comments:

“The last year has been particularly challenging for healthcare workers who have been at the frontline during the pandemic treating sick patients, whilst battling isolation and time away from family. We’ve all recognised how important our essential workers have been throughout and continue to be and their hard work should be rewarded accordingly. Work on the frontline has been extremely stressful and many workers in this sector are feeling the impact on their general wellbeing.

“Managers in healthcare can take action. It’ll always be a demanding sector to work in, but there are ways to offer support. Strong management, communication and of course the nice perks along the way as an added flourish, will all be positive steps.”


By Lisa Baker, Senior Editor

Senior Editor Lisa Baker is the owner of Need to See it Publishing Group, providing contract news for business and news sites across the UK. Lisa is an experienced HR writer and commentator, editing HR publications for more than 5 years.