Recruiting, Selecting, and Retaining Direct Service Workers to Provide Self-Directed HCBS

Creating a Good Environment for DSWs

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If DSWs are leaving because the job is causing them to feel stressed, consider if there are parts of the job or how you supervise people that you can change.

The following list offers ideas for ways that you can provide a healthy work environment for DSWs who work with you. Take a minute and think about each of these ways to reduce stress for DSWs.

It is important for you to develop a relationship with DSWs so that DSWs feel comfortable asking questions and asking for help when they need it.

If you do not provide clear expectations through onboarding, training, and regular conversations, Modules 4 and 5 would be good to review. It is important to balance expectations with choice – what do you have expectations for and what are you okay with letting the DSW choose?

DSWs respond to situations differently, so it’s important to ask DSWs what part of the job makes them stressed and how they manage stress. You can use this information to create a less stressful working environment for your DSWs. For example, if a DSW gets stressed when their schedule changes, you can focus on keeping their work schedule consistent.

It can be stressful for anyone to work for a long time with no break to take time to themselves. If a DSW has things going on outside of their work, they may need a break to check on family or other things going on.

It is important to give feedback and show appreciation for DSWs on a regular basis. When you provide praise and appreciation for a DSW, they can feel like they have more purpose and may get a sense of pride out of doing a good job.

If DSWs are not giving feedback, it does not mean that they aren’t comfortable sharing things with you. If you are giving them time to ask questions and give feedback, great! By giving them that time, the DSWs who support you will understand expectations and you will understand what they need from you.

Just like you want services to be person-centered, DSWs want training to be person centered. If you aren’t sure what they need or want from training and feedback, it is okay to ask!

Overtime can be expensive for you and may lead to burnout or increased stress for the DSW. Limit the number of overtime hours your DSW works for you. 

While a DSW’s friends and family are a source of support for a DSW, being in contact with other DSWs who can relate to each other can be important for some DSWs to reduce stress and burnout.

By paying a DSW a higher wage, it is less likely they will have to have multiple jobs or work overtime to pay for their needs. This can reduce a DSW’s stress and burnout. There are limits to how much you can pay a DSW, but balancing higher pay with other expenses (such as health insurance, unemployment insurance, worker's compensation insurance, and pay increases) is important.

You and the DSW can support each other in figuring out ways that the DSW can get time off while you still get the support you need.

There are resources you can share with DSWs at the end of this training in the resources section.