Recruiting and retaining employees has become increasingly challenging for senior living providers, leading many to rely on agency sources to fill workforce gaps.
Yet some organizations have been able to get at the problem at the ground level and avoid agency use all together.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, to the middle of the pandemic, it wasn’t hard to find managers, but it was hard to find frontline workers, and we’re seeing a shift in now. We are close to being fully staffed again,” says Chad Liptow, Executive Director for Maplecrest Manor, an assisted living facility in Ripon, Wisconsin.
For many of these successful organizations that are close to fully staffed, the difference comes down to building a culture of flexibility.
“I think [our staff scheduling platform] helped build a culture of flexibility,” Liptow says. “So much of it comes down to your staff culture in a building. When there’s a culture of management being appreciative of the work that the caregivers are providing and appreciative of just their time and acknowledging challenges that they’re facing, whether it’s through scheduling or issues or things that they have going on at home, it just all helps build that culture.”
Keys to a more flexible workforce
In today’s senior living landscape, empowering staff with flexibility and control is not easy, but there are some focus areas that can help develop a culture of flexibility:
- Work-life balance
- A culture of responsibility and teamwork
#1: Putting scheduling at the caregivers’ fingertips
Scheduling is a vital aspect of caregiving in senior living, as dictates well in advance when and where caregivers will work.
For paper-based schedulers, this requires caregivers to call the office or a coworker when they want to change shifts. But for those with staff scheduling technology, employees have the freedom to schedule shifts at their convenience at any time, from the comfort of their homes.
“Prior to using [staff scheduling platform] EasyShifts for scheduling, we were using paper and pen, and Excel,” Liptow says. “Anytime changes came up in the schedule, it meant reprinting and notifying people. EasyShifts has really simplified that for us.”
While self-scheduling can make life better for caregivers everywhere, it is especially important in rural areas where the drive from a caregiver’s home to the facility, or from one facility to another, can be an hour or more. Caregivers in sparsely populated regions have to be more strategic about how they plan their schedules, and staff scheduling technology makes that much easier to achieve. These platforms are essential to creating healthier and more sustainable work environments for everyone involved — residents, patients and families included.
3 Ways Self-scheduling Helps Providers
- Reducing burnout and turnover
- Improving care quality by increasing staff satisfaction and efficiency
- Increasing caregiver accessibility to fill shifts quicker
#2: Offering work-life balance
Since long before the pandemic, caregiving has been a demanding profession with unconventional hours, heavy workloads and emotionally taxing responsibilities. But with the current staffing shortage also at play, providers are dealing with a workforce that is more prone to burnout.
This senior living environment has led approximately 100,000 nurses to leave health care entirely, according to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing’s study, “Examining the Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Burnout & Stress Among U.S. Nurses.” But for those who remain in the industry, staff scheduling technology provides caregivers with flexibility and control.
Caregivers who have the freedom to prioritize their personal life and interests outside of work are more likely to feel fulfilled in their jobs, leading to greater retention rates and a more positive work environment.
“Stop doing things that are making people quit. Give them what they want and they’ll stay,” says Michael Christensen, CEO of Wisconsin-based health care scheduling platform EasyShifts. “The fact that hundreds of thousands of nurses are signing up for these apps to pick up temporary shifts or traveling nurse-type shifts proves that there are enough of them who still want to do the job, they just want flexibility.”
Work-life balance goes far beyond the ratio of work to free time. It allows caregivers to nurture their physical and mental health while maintaining their relationships, and it also enables them to improve their job performance and satisfaction, which is critical as providers battle heightened turnover rates.
#3: Facilitating a culture of responsibility and teamwork
Creating a culture that prioritizes responsibility and teamwork promotes open communication, transparency and accountability. Before scheduling platforms were at the core of this dynamic, that culture didn’t exist, and the scheduling responsibility typically fell on one manager or director. It was an impossible task to keep everyone happy, but with a staff scheduling platform, the responsibility to make sure all the bases are covered, and that every resident is taken care of falls on each individual team member. Likewise, the responsibility to look after oneself falls on the individuals as well.
Caregivers no longer have to fight over the most desirable shifts, and they certainly don’t have to put their mental or physical health on the line. Instead, the team can work together to determine the best long-term strategy for patient care and make real-time adjustments as needed. Work-life balance is achieved on their own terms, and that is invaluable in today’s senior living environment.
“The self-scheduling model takes the responsibility off of the nurse manager, and it shifts that responsibility onto the individual nurses and caregivers to make sure the work schedule’s covered,” Christensen says. “It enables providers to create a culture where respect is emphasized and caregivers feel respected. They have the ability to take that afternoon off when they need to live their life, but they also understand that as a team, they have a responsibility to provide care for the people in their facilities.”
Tackling staffing challenges with scheduling technology
The high turnover rate in the senior living industry can be addressed by providers who offer caregivers the flexibility to schedule their own shifts. This approach not only helps caregivers to manage their personal and professional commitments more efficiently, but it also reduces the risk of burnout and enhances the quality of care they provide. By enabling self-scheduling, senior living providers can attract and retain skilled and committed caregivers, thereby improving the overall performance of their organizations.
This article is sponsored by EasyShifts. The 24/7 365 online staff scheduling system from EasyShifts allows managers to quickly create schedules for their employees based on their availability, skillset, location, and more in just minutes. The software also provides helpful features like shift swapping tools to ensure everyone gets the hours they need each week without overlapping shifts or double-booking a single employee’s day off. To learn more, visit easyshifts.com.