Since then we have been working hard to support the wellbeing of staff through a uniquely challenging time. Now that there is light at the end of the tunnel and we are starting to think about re-opening the building in a very limited way. Even though this will be for staff and residents only, the planning is much more complex than for the shutdown. Not only are there virus-related issues to consider (How do we social distance? How do we create a rigorous cleaning schedule?) but a return to work is as significant a change to staff as leaving was in the first place. It will take a while for the enormity of what’s just happened to sink in properly. Staff wellbeing needs to be put first, and embedded in a long-term, sustainable plan.
Throughout lockdown Hackney CVS has been trying to prioritize staff wellbeing. Many people have been overwhelmed with work, trying to keep our programmes and Covid-19 response going to help the community in Hackney. Some have been personally affected by loss, have had caring responsibilities for elderly parents or young children, whilst others have dealt with the challenges of isolation.
Our CEO Jake was keen from the beginning to let staff know that they should not feel guilty for looking after themselves or the people they care for. A new team was created to work on staff wellbeing and internal issues, and this team ran wellbeing initiatives, including guided mindfulness sessions, online social spaces, competitions and shared resources. Staff adapted to working in this new way, learnt how to use online meeting software effectively, and continued the work we do by moving online.
Alongside the difficulties experienced navigating working from home and online, our staff reported that they were pleased to be able to spend more time with loved ones and avoid the commute. Our staff survey showed that almost everyone wants to retain some element of home working in the future. We recognise that a return to work now, even in a limited form, means another huge change in the way we work (rather than back to normal), and which needs to be navigated carefully. We may look back at Covid-19 as a golden opportunity to cement staff wellbeing once and for all, and to shake up our old work practices.
What we did