Over the course of Covid-19, workplaces have had growing challenges with uplifting staff morale and wellbeing. Many of us faced and continue to face issues like displacement, isolation, and financial insecurity just to name a few. Countless companies have looked to switching over and upgrading their Employee Assistance Programs in response, but in the midst of a global pandemic, for an industry like aged care there is a whole lot more reform to be done.
We sat down with Desma-Ann van Rosendal and Sydney Roberts from Rockpool Residential Aged Care to discuss how the industry has worked through rapid changes in response to the pandemic, and what that has meant for their staff.
“Residents are now moving into aged care with higher care needs”, notes Desma, Facility Manager for Rockpool. “Obviously, that impacts staff as well.”
Of course, staff wellbeing in the aged care sector has always been an area of focus. With nearly 30 years of experience working in aged care, Desma reflects on the obvious pattern among carers – they’re often the caregivers in their own family units as well, meaning that on their list of priorities, they tend to put themselves last. “They’re often time-poor and they’re tired,” she notes. The increased stresses across the healthcare industry over the last 18 months have highlighted the need for improved staff wellbeing and the need to support staff to nurture themselves – but what is the most effective way to implement a new program for staff already stretched so thin?
“I’ve had plenty of challenges over the years, in many many nursing homes across Australia – from indigenous homes, to 400 bed homes, to little country 20-bedders, the biggest issue for me is time constraints for staff. That’s what I’ve seen across the years – across every state, really. We need to support our staff to nurture themselves.”
“Our team works hard every day improving the lives of our residents and families. What we’re hoping for is for them to take some time out for themselves and create new habits to enhance their own lives” says Desma.
Convenience and ease of accessibility remains a top priority for both Rockpool and much of the healthcare industry, with traditional programs – like volunteering days, or seminars – seeming to be largely unreliable in an era where snap lockdowns are the norm. “With old school wellbeing programs, you’ve got somebody coming in an hour a month, whereas this is something we can do 2 minutes a day, 5 times a day – it really fits”, says Sydney who heads up Comms and Marketing for Rockpool, discussing their newest partnership with Active & Thriving. “I’m excited for it – with all the changing restrictions we’re trying to navigate with resident’s families, as well as our own families, this is a nice thing to start to do for our own health.”
As an app-based program, Active & Thriving does indeed provide a Covid-proof solution to employee wellbeing; designed to seamlessly integrate into a staff member’s usual work day, info on the app is digestible and wellbeing challenges are non-intrusive, meaning that users can jump onto the app wherever, whenever. “I was looking for something that was innovative, a change-agent that people would easily embrace and would actually have the outcomes we were looking for. It’s in with the times”, says Desma. “Other staff wellbeing programs don’t necessarily teach the staff to practice better habits themselves – and I think in this day and age, when we look at our online learning platforms for our staff, A&T ticks all the boxes that would meet the needs of our staff now. Very different to how staff wellbeing programs have been in the past – which most times are unsuccessful.”
At the end of the day, the importance of staff wellbeing can be attributed to a number of factors, but the baseline belief is that healthier staff make for a healthier workplace. For Sydney and Desma, there’s obvious value in extending the compassionate care Rockpool is known for back to their own employees.
“I think implementing a staff wellbeing program for us is affirming to staff that we actually value what they contribute to the organisation, and we believe that if the staff are healthy and well and thriving, then the care for our residents will be a lot better.”