Protecting our people during the Coronavirus pandemic
19th May 2020
Taking care of our mental health is more important now than ever. The pandemic and ensuing lockdown is causing pressures, worries and social isolation that most of us have not experienced before.
Protecting our people
As we have adjusted to remote working and continue to navigate our way through this pandemic, our Head of HR, Claire Oliver shares how our focus on health and wellbeing has been invaluable in helping us through these challenging times.
Taking a people first approach
The success of our business relies wholly on the effectiveness of our people and providing a safe and healthy environment for them to flourish and achieve their career and personal goals is vitally important. That’s why our health and wellbeing and business strategy are aligned to drive the business forward. Our commitment to the development and wellbeing of our people is representative of our Investors in People (IiP) ‘We invest in People’ Platinum classification and Health & Wellbeing award which we were reaccredited with in 2019.
Doing the right thing at the right time
Since learning of the first cases of Coronavirus in the UK, the business took immediate steps and preventative measures to help keep our people safe and to support their health and wellbeing. Our first step was to risk assess all of our people to determine those who may be deemed at a higher risk and those with pre-existing medical conditions, they were subsequently told to work from home to protect themselves in advance of the Government advice. We then set about transferring our whole national business to working from home, prior to the Government social distancing guidelines and lockdown. Since then, the board have communicated across all levels providing updates, opportunities, reasons for hope and reassurance through all this uncertainty. This has been hugely comforting and motivating for our people and was echoed in our employee survey, issued in April, with 90% agreeing that communication has been clear and straightforward.
Promoting positive health and wellbeing during this pandemic
We completely acknowledge that these times put further pressure on people and their personal lives and commitments as well as adapting to working in a new way, we therefore introduced complete flexible working patterns set by each individual so that our people can balance their work commitments around their personal lives and any caring responsibilities. This trust based approach has promoted a better work-life balance and increased productivity with many saying they have adopted a healthier lifestyle and taking more regular exercise, making the most of not having a daily commute! Our ‘Wellbeing and Working from home guide’ has been shared to promote the benefits of health and fitness, staying in regular contact with family, friends and colleagues who usually provide support, along with advice on setting up a comfortable work station at home to minimise discomfort.
Our online Learning and Development wheel is a hub for all training. It includes a suite of mental health & wellbeing modules with the inclusion of specific resources tailored for use during this pandemic as well as mandatory coronavirus training to educate and help minimise the potential spread of Covid-19. We’ve encouraged everyone to use this in-house resource to help support their wellbeing and take advantage of any extra time they have to drive both professional and personal growth and development.
Building on the positives
Our employee survey has helped us to gauge feedback on our people’s experiences of the current working arrangements. It’s helping us to shape our plans and processes as we move forward, specifically in relation to how we work as we return to some degree of normality. Our people are also sharing their tips and resources with one another via our Intranet to help each other cope during this period of lockdown and our quiz and weekly virtual team socials are all helping to keep us connected. We have always encouraged our teams to socialise and it’s during this difficult time that they are continuing to find ways to be together, demonstrating the strong relationships within the partnership.
Initially, we thought that working as teams delivering coordinated projects and maintaining the levels of service for all of our clients would be our main challenge, but communication has improved considerably and although virtual, the teams are working at a very high level. The main challenge that our people reported has been the lack of face to face contact in both the workplace and social environments. They also commented on initial difficulties working without printing documents but as time has progressed we have learned to work around it and as a result we are addressing our paperless office aspirations which has the obvious environmental benefits.
Looking to the future
We are adapting to the changing circumstances and like many, we are steering our business through unprecedented challenges and times. The importance of trust is crucial in continuing to deliver work as efficiently from home as in the office and virtual meetings will continue to work well if managed correctly. We see these becoming the new normal, certainly for the foreseeable future as we continue to protect our people and our business. It has been really encouraging to see how resilient and adaptable we can all be as we face new challenges and see the opportunities that arise as a result.
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