As we approach the end of the ninth week of lockdown in the UK, Mental Health Awareness Week seems particularly relevant this year. Feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, overwhelm and disconnect amongst staff can reduce their ability to work effectively. This week, we held a virtual discussion group with some senior local government clients to explore how they have been supporting their staff through this period. We had a wide ranging discussion, but the 3 key messages were: the importance of “checking in”; take the opportunity to create new ways of working; and focus now on well being post lockdown.
1 The importance of “checking in”
Every individual’s experience of lockdown is so different. Our clients noted that it was parents with young children and those who are living alone that they tended to be most “worried” about. However, there was also a recognition that uncertainty tolerance can shift wellbeing in individuals that were previously thought to be “ok”. This was felt to be especially true for those who work in local government who are used to, or thrive in, environments with constant routine. So it’s important to have a way to “check in” with everyone and not to make assumptions about who is “ok”.
2 Take the opportunity to create new ways of working
The impact of lockdown has shifted the meaning of wellbeing at work. It is now governed by factors such as housing or family situation and so it’s not possible to expect office ways of working to be simply transplanted to the home environment. Our clients have noticed a shift in the dialogue with staff to an increase (or normalisation) around emotions and how people are feeling. There was a sense amongst our clients that this was a good thing. More organisations are now using social media platforms to communicate with their employees. This can create a space for employees to feel engaged and offer opportunities for those who don’t like to contribute in face to face dialogue. Other opportunities to do things differently were identified, such as:
3 Focus now on wellbeing post lockdown
Our clients felt that there’s an exciting opportunity to use this experience to define how we want to work in the future. And that wellbeing has become such an important issue that it should become part of the organisation’s strategic plan in future.