Princess Royal Trust Borders Carers Centre

Last reviewed on 24/01/2013 14:31

Since getting involved with Healthy Working Lives, Princess Royal Trust Borders Carers Centre has taken steps to resolve its issue with long-term sickness absence. 

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Lynn Gallacher is the Operations Manager at Princess Royal Trust Borders Carers Centre.

The organisation provides advice, information and emotional support to anyone who is caring for friends and family regardless of the caring situation, and the nature of this work can at times place a significant emotional strain on staff.

‘We had several people who were off on long-term sick leave,’ Lynn explains. ‘When providing emotional support, staff can be at risk of burning out, particularly if they are coping with personal issues at the same time. It can be difficult at times to juggle the demands of both work and personal life.’

'There has been no long-term sickness absence for the past 18 months'
Lynn Gallacher
- Operations Manager






As a small organisation with only 13 employees, any staff absence can have a significant impact on the service the Centre provides. Remaining staff members can begin to experience stress if a backlog of work develops, and staff returning from a period of absence can feel overwhelmed by the large workload that awaits them.

‘When people were off sick, they were often met with a significant workload on their return,’ Lynn says. This self-perpetuating cycle of absence and stress is what prompted Lynn to contact Healthy Working Lives for advice, and to look at measures that could be put in place to help the situation.

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The solution

The first thing that the Healthy Working Lives adviser recommended was a Health Needs Assessment. This was carried out using a staff survey prepared by Healthy Working Lives, which helped to identify what employees considered as important to help increase wellbeing at work.

The results confirmed that stress had the potential to be a prime cause of absence. Through joint working, the Borders Carers Centre and Healthy Working Lives were able to come up with a range of suggestions to improve the mental wellbeing of the workforce. These included:

  • stress management training for managers
  • stress awareness workshops for staff
  • workload mapping exercise
  • a new team structure
  • lunch time walking club
  • team building activities

Reduced sickness absence

It had also been highlighted through regular support and supervision that workload was one of the main issues, and so some simple measures were introduced to reduce the pressure on team members.

‘Most of our staff carry an average caseload of about 90, and the difficulty was how to best manage these caseloads without staff becoming overloaded. I gave everybody 12 months’ worth of calenders, and said, "OK, don’t book in more than 10 reviews in a week".'

'Now people have time to deal with their case work and with any new referrals too. It’s very simple, but it has worked and people are using it all the time,’ says Lynn.

All of these combined changes have had positive impact on stress-related absence.

‘Our sickness record has really improved, Lynn says. ‘There has been no long-term sickness absence for the past 18 months.’

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Improved service delivery

‘We found that when people were off sick, no-one was picking up the work, and because we’re such a small organisation this had a significant impact’.

Lynn has introduced a new team structure, so that short-term absence is now covered more effectively. This improves the consistency of support offered to service users, and reduces the strain on staff returning to work.

‘We developed a crisis management strategy. We physically divided staff into teams, so that if anyone was sick, their work would be distributed between the other members of the team, rather than just one person taking responsibility.’

They also looked at communication in the organisation, to help people pick up the work of an absent colleague easily. This includes simple concepts such as colour coding of important messages and a shared drive for easy access to information.

Expert support

The advice and training that Lynn has received from Healthy Working Lives have given her the confidence to make changes.

‘I’ve found it really useful. When you’re dealing with stress you want to get it right. It’s good to know that I am doing the right thing.’

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