Directors and CEOs from some of the UK’s national and regional home care providers have shared the biggest lessons they have learned from 2020.
From the benefits of remote working and strategic planning, to the importance of communication and always being alert to staff members’ needs, these leaders reflect on what the COVID-19 pandemic has taught them about how to run a successful domiciliary care business.
Scroll down to read their comments.
Bluebird Care director of Care, Quality & Compliance, Neil Murray
“Business continuity planning has never been more important. It needs to be given a much higher priority by all businesses. We cannot predict what the future brings, but having well thought-out plans in place for emergency or urgent situations can be the difference between disaster and resilience.
“No one could have predicted the effects of COVID-19. It’s had a huge impact on the health and wellbeing of staff and teams, for a variety of reasons. Firstly, fear – the first lockdown and announcement of a global pandemic scared a lot of people. The sudden need to wear multiple layers of PPE, socially distance or quarantine took its toll. Secondly, isolation – as the weeks turned into months, people became even more isolated – working from home, not being able to see family and friends – we saw a rise in mental ill-health and wellbeing.
“So, what lessons have we learned? To always be ever mindful and alert to needs of your staff. People react differently to crises, so as employers we need to be aware of the signs, so we can act accordingly and support our employees.”
Caremark franchise recruitment director Jeremy Dunn
“We knew that the home care sector was growing due to the national projection of demographics. However, one never realised just how delicate the balance was in that projection. This year has shown, with the focus on the care sector from the media, and indeed COVID-19, just how thin on the ground quality care in the community is. Most care business have significantly grown their volume in the last eight months and the Caremark network has been no exception, having achieved, on average, over 20% volume growth of the hours of care it delivers.
“Managing that growth has meant we needed to react quicker in matching clients with carers. It also meant that we needed to recruit more carers quicker, be more flexible with recruitment and adapt our recruitment processes to enable us to assess and train within COVID restrictions. This embracement of new ways of working has meant more effective remote training over the internet and this use of technology has not stopped there – the management team has been incredibly effective working remotely, actually citing increased productivity working from home.
“Mental health training has also proven to be of greater importance during COVID-19, and a real blessing. These skills are going to be a strong bedrock for any quality care company going forwards.
“Finally, we all know high quality care depends on the quality of our carers, and looking after their wellbeing has proven to make a real difference. Recognition and gratitude has been really important in retention, as has the public outpouring of appreciation for social care workers during the pandemic, which was not prevalent before.”
Good Oaks Home Care director and co-founder Ben Ashton
“It’s almost a cliché now to say that the pandemic has sped up existing changes across society and the economy. In home care, we’ve seen the trend of more people wanting to stay in the safety and comfort of their own home with extremely personalised services, such as live-in care and bespoke visiting care packages, and we envisage that this will continue throughout 2021 while the virus remains prevalent throughout the world.
“Witnessing the sheer commitment and resilience of home carers striving to do the best for the clients in such challenging circumstances has confirmed our understanding that the key to providing quality care at home is to support, value and reward the caring people who go above and beyond for their clients every day.”
Helping Hands chief executive Andy Hogarth
“The best lesson we have learned is the amazing resilience of all of our carers and staff. When we first had customers moving from hospital back home with COVID I thought we’d struggle to find carers prepared to take the risk of looking after them at home. Whilst some carers felt unable to do so because of their family needs, the vast majority were happy to take a big personal risk and care for their COVID positive customers.
“Secondly, there really is no need for everyone to come in to an office to work each day – we’ve learnt that we really can trust people to balance home life and work.
“Video calls can be brilliant for a quick catch up and save lots of travelling time for face-to-face meetings, but it’s not the answer to everything. In particular, it is so easy to call a quick Teams meeting when there is a problem.
“Finally, there’s no need to be frenetically busy all the time, it’s good to take time to smell the flowers or, indeed, hug trees!”
Mumby’s Homecare director of commercial Joel Mumby
“We’ve learned the importance of being adaptable and flexible. Being a fluid business with great communication has meant we can inform clients and staff of updates rapidly and adapt to changes instantly.
“The pandemic has re-enforced the communication channels that we have in place and cemented their importance. Speaking to our carers about isolating, PPE and counselling them was critical during the height of the pandemic. We’ve grown stronger links with our staff due to this commitment to them.
“We’ve learned how important home care is. Our sector rarely gets any good press, but we carry on regardless with our services. This year has brought home care to the forefront and it’s a pleasure to be part of it during this time.”
Right at Home chief executive Ken Deary
“The pandemic has demonstrated the importance of financial reserves. Having these in place enabled us to act quickly to support the network with the bulk purchasing and subsidising of PPE. Handling this centrally at National Office took a huge amount of pressure off our network, allowing them to focus on the wellbeing of their clients and staff. In addition, in an environment where guidance was complex and rapidly changing, at National Office we worked around the clock to dissect this information and provide it in an easily digestible format.
“When the pandemic first hit, we set up a taskforce made up of senior management and a handful of franchise owners and have regularly engaged with them to support with effective decision making. Taking a calm and measured approach, combined with regular communication, has been key to our handling of the pandemic and this approach has been mirrored by our franchise owners with their own care teams. For example, we have been holding one-to-one wellbeing calls with our franchise owners and, in turn, they have been doing the same with their staff at a local level.
“2020 has also highlighted the importance of having a trusted team in place. From our franchise owners through to our CareGivers working on the front line, having the right people onboard, who you can trust during a very challenging time, is invaluable.”