Mental health, wellbeing and our team
The Coronavirus pandemic is a unique event that has truly affected each and every one of us, in so many different ways. We won’t dwell on the depressing and seemingly ever-increasing figures that fill our screens and make headlines every day now – they speak for themselves - but will instead consider the hidden human cost of this pandemic: the effect on mental health and wellbeing, and what we’re doing here at Connexus to help support our colleagues through these challenging circumstances.
Mental Health First Aid and Mental Health Awareness Courses
COVID-19 has certainly taken its toll on people’s mental health, with mental health charity Mind reporting that more than half of UK adults feeling their wellbeing has deteriorated since the pandemic first hit. Losing love ones, social isolation and strained relationship can have a devastating impact on our psychological health.
Like many during the lockdown, Connexus staff have been working at home where possible, conducting meetings using video calls and sharing ideas online. We’ve been pleased with how quickly Connexus has been able to adapt to this new way of working, but this distance between colleagues and lack of day-to-day interaction does make it more difficult for colleagues to support each other and for managers to recognise that a member of their team may be struggling with their mental health.
With these issues in mind, our Learning and Development Team have arranged for all managers here at Connexus to take a Mental Health Awareness course. Conducted online by Mental Health First Aid England, the course will first provide an introduction to some common mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, and then give them to confidence to support someone on their team who may be experiencing mental ill-health.
A number of our colleagues are also taking part in a Mental Health First Aider course that will help them to reassure and support a person in real distress – be they staff or customers. Our Mental Health First Aiders will have a vital role to play beyond the pandemic and current lockdown by becoming the ‘go-to’ person for anyone at Connexus who is going through some sort of mental health issue. Beyond that initial reassurance and support, Mental Health First Aiders can then help guide the person in distress to the relevant that they need, from immediate emergency medical attention to signposting to mental health support charities and organisations.
Welcome to Jo Tracey, Director of People
Reflecting our renewed focus on colleague wellbeing and mental and physical health is the latest appointment to our Executive Team: Jo Tracey, who joins us in an all-new role as Director of People. Jo’s role as Director of People brings together our teams from HR, Recruitment, Learning & Development and Insight & Change. Jo was previously Interim Director of Resources at Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing in Yorkshire and brings a wealth of experience to Connexus from her time there and as a Director of People at Plus Dane Housing. Our new People directorate will ensure that our values are embedded throughout Connexus, with a strong customer-focus that never forgets to consider the wellbeing of our colleagues.
Bringing colleagues together, virtually
The outset of this article set-out the effect that social isolation and being away from your friends, family and work colleagues can have on your mental health and we've used technology and colleague initiative to fight this isolation. We were delighted to see Jo Tracey and many other Connexus staff joining in with #BrewMonday on 18th January, a day organised by Samaritans to encourage people to share a cuppa online and reach out to someone (18th January is often dubbed ‘Blue Monday’ – supposedly the most depressing day of the year).
#BrewMonday was just the latest initiative that saw our staff keeping that team spirit alive despite the physical distance between us. We’ve organised photo competitions throughout the various lockdowns that have seen colleagues get really creative, and several teams have been holding their own Zoom quizzes and other weekly events. No, it won’t replace the kitchen gossips and Christmas parties that we’ve all missed, but these virtual get-togethers can go a long way towards keeping people feeling connected and boosting their wellbeing.
Of course, we mustn’t forget about our physical wellbeing – which can so often be tied to good mental health. The NHS have placed great importance on keeping our physical health in good condition throughout the pandemic and the positive effect this can have on our mental wellbeing, with exercise linked to improved sleep patterns and energy levels. With this in mind, our latest company-wide virtual event is the On-The-Move Challenge, which sees colleagues walking, running, cycling and hiking their way towards a shared target of 2021 miles.
Supporting each other and delivering for our customers
While vaccines have given us some 'light at the end of the tunnel', the Coronavirus pandemic continues to affect the ways we live and work, with a potentially harmful impact on our health and wellbeing. The lockdown has encouraged us to refocus our efforts to support all of our teams and to make sure that nobody is suffering in silence, but the lessons we've learned will ensure we can support a passionate, effective workforce that delivers to our customers for years to come.