It’s been a few weeks since our Chasing the Stigma X Creative Kitchen Google Hangout. In that session we discussed the pace of change at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in the UK. We’re now four weeks in and I think we’ll all agree that the pace of change has not let up.
Where we would usually have had a blog written and live within days, we’ve had to turn focus to other areas of our business and personal lives as we adapt to the new situation we have found ourselves in. We’re sorry for the delay, but we’re sure that you understand.
Looking back at our call notes, one thing has become clear. The five things that came through most clearly are the points that we have turned to as we’ve adapted to life working from home, for an indeterminate period of time.
Whether it’s working out how to have your daily team meetings virtually, how you are going navigate the financial implications of the crisis, or how to make your product or service relevant and deliverable in a socially distant world, thinking differently has been key. It’s also been challenging and scary, but necessity has led us to overcome those fears and challenges. Chasing the Stigma has taken those first steps by organising regular hangouts for the businesses who have received its Ambassador of Hope training, to help them support their employees. For Mashbo, it’s been furloughing part of its team and focusing on future planning, after projects we were working on were put on pause.
During the call it was clear that, in the midst of this crisis, everyone’s structure was different, but it was there – regardless of form. From working in different time zones – getting up to work from 4am until 7am so you can look after the kids for a few hours and then finish earlier in the afternoon, to planning your days around set meal, break and exercise times with a now also-WFH partner, to establish routine and deliver productivity. Setting a structure has been the key to becoming accustomed to the new situation we have found ourselves in.
Communicating honestly and effectively
Rapid change breeds uncertainty and uncertainty leads to insecurity, which can be devastating to anyone’s mental health. For those of us with staff or contractors who rely on us acknowledged just how vital communication is. As Jake Mills, CEO at Chasing the Stigma, said: “you have an opportunity to help them get through this a little more secure. Whether that’s an email or call to explain the situation, to say if you’re going to be implementing pay cuts – or if you’re not. Whatever the news is, tell them.” At a time when the news isn’t always going to be good, this can be extremely hard. But people appreciate being informed, rather than being kept In the dark. Knowledge allows them to plan and prepare as much as possible. It’s not just the big announcements either. It’s checking in with staff working at home and facilitating opportunities to chat about the mundane and the day-to-day as much as work stuff – recreating the ‘watercooler moments’ from the workplace that we often take for granted.
Accepting change and allowing flexibility
Perhaps one of the most difficult things over the past few weeks has been accepting change and accepting the fact that this situation may be in place for some time. Accepting change means we let go of the ‘norms’ we have been used to, we have to step away from the plans we had laboured over to go another way. But as we slowly do this, it opens up new paths and opportunities. What has come alongside this acceptance is the allowance of flexibility. Our teams are working different hours, as they juggle childcare alongside work life (because no child is going to pay a blind bit of notice to a “Mummy is working” sign), healthcare takes a priority and we should all be being a little bit kinder to ourselves, as we accept that things aren’t going to work exactly as they did before.
Looking to the future, supporting staff and looking after yourselves
Three weeks on and it becomes apparent – and rightly so – that lockdown will continue for another month at least. Right now, many of us have fallen into some form of routine, a new normal. But the longer this continues, the harder it will be on your business, employees, family and yourself.
Above and beyond everything right now is the importance of staying in touch and taking care of yourself and those around you. If you’re worried about someone, ask them if they are ok. If you’re not coping, ask for support yourself.
As Jake said in our call: “You’ve got to appreciate what this is going to be doing to people’s mental health. Let’s talk to people as people. If you are worried about somebody or even if you’re not, ask the question anyway. If you are worried about them, ask them if they are ok. Ask the question, whether that’s via text, email, face-to-face on a video call. If the answer’s no, then ask them what you can do or what they think you can do to help them. You need to be directing people to experts.”
Chasing the Stigma is the organisation behind the Hub of Hope (available at hubofhope.co.uk or as a free downloadable app) The Hub of Hope is the UK’s biggest mental health database, which can be used to signpost to relevant support and help available in your area and beyond.
At a time when services are likely to be disrupted, you can also access our immediate text support service, by texting HOPE to 82528 and seek free, confidential support (nothing will show up on your bill).