Resilience for Managers in Adult Social Care

Whist office workers start to return to the office and the “new normal” is being widely spoken about for most workers in the UK – what does this mean for the battle-weary workforce and the leaders of Adult Social Care?

This is a population that have had to carry on working in a turbulent time:

  • Knowing that, as social care workers, they were more likely to die from Covid-19 than other adults.

  • Seeing the people they care for die in large volumes and being the only ones with them.

  • Absorbing the emotional struggles of families who could not see their loved ones.

  • Working in a sector that has high turnover and a high vacancy rate that ultimately meant they were often understaffed.

  • All in a backdrop of a globally stressful time that will have included many personal challenges too often whilst earning minimum wage.

There has been universal praise for the sector workforce but now its people are at breaking point and praise alone and hand clapping is not going to be enough. This is a group of people who even in normal circumstances must be emotionally resilient but now they are a bit like soldiers returning from war who have suffered PTSD. But instead of having a time to recover they are right back in the thick of it.

The front-line teams have been going through incredibly challenging times and some have reported feeling like they have been forgotten due to the large focus on the NHS and at the heart of this weary workforce are weary managers.

The Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) has lobbied government to produce a workforce strategy for social care to include better pay, promotion, and skills but in the meantime, what can be done for this skilled, compassionate and undervalued group?

I have recently spoken to former colleagues who are registered managers and leaders in the profession. They worry that lessons will not be learned and that skilled people will leave the profession as the emotional toll is too great. I know first-hand of at least two Care Managers with careers spanning some 15-years each that have left the profession recently. This scarred workforce has now got some equally scarred managers that are not used to thinking of themselves first.

Whilst the problems in the sector holistically cannot be solved overnight, small personal steps can be taken to ensure managers are not running on empty.

We all know that at the heart of every outstanding service is a manager who is working hard to ensure that they can create a person-centred culture that delivers great, high-quality care a support and alongside them are a group dedicated care staff.

The Concept of Emotional Resilience

Emotional Resilience is the psychological quality that allows some people to be knocked down by the adversities of life and come back at least as strong as before.

“Taking steps to look after your wellbeing can help you deal with pressure, and reduce the impact that stress has on your life. This is sometimes called developing emotional resilience. Resilience is not just your ability to bounce back, but also your capacity to adapt in the face of challenging circumstances, whilst maintaining a stable mental wellbeing. Resilience isn't a personality trait – it's something that we can all take steps to achieve”

Some managers are bouncing from one situation to another and expected to have all the answers whilst on the front line of care and when surrounded by stressed staff teams and families.

Emotional resilience can also sometimes be likened to having some form of superhuman strength; that someone is, in a sense, unbreakable, incapable of being hurt. Thinking of yourself as not being human is unhelpful as we all know supressed emotions will burst out at some point. Being aware of your own limits and triggers will help you be more aware of when you are at your limit.

Leaders exhibiting resilience can take a step back from a challenging situation and view it with perspective and focus on what can be changed and not the things that cannot.

Being aware of and understanding our emotions is important, as is not letting them consume us.

Emotionally resilient leaders are also aware of emotions and needs in others and are supportive of them. The workforce needs as much care as the service users since nobody can pour from an empty cup.

Here are few pointers on building emotional resilience:

  • Know your emotions and triggers.

  • Manage your own emotions – do not supress them – just ensure you have an outlet to let them out.

  • Recognise and understand other people's emotions.

  • When it is all going wrong and emotions are high, focus on the now.

  • Think and reflect before you decide.

  • Be prepared to fail and be kind to yourself, perfect is not always possible.

  • Involve teams in finding a solution, so they own them and do not always rely on you to have all the answers.

  • Say thank you, not only to your team but to yourself.

There is some great literature and resources out there about mindfulness, wellbeing and emotional resilience.

Useful and Interesting Resources

Skills for Care guide to developing emotional resilience in practice:

SCIE - Beyond COVID: New thinking on the future of adult social care:

Best stress-tracking Apps:

The funny side of social care:

How to not take things personally – Frederik Imbo Ted Talk:

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