The year that work changed (Coronacoaster Blog – 1 of 5)

The year that work changed (Coronacoaster Blog – 1 of 5)

We all hear about the devastating impact of the pandemic and as a local mental health charity, Stockport Mind have seen this first-hand. Most people you speak to have very much had the ‘Coronacoaster’ experience – some days good, some days hard to get through – but can we remember the positives that have come from this pandemic and the impacts they have had within this turbulent experience?

This blog series is aimed primarily at office workers, and though we continue to reflect that everyone’s journey through this pandemic is unique, we wanted to acknowledge that other non-office-based industries have often had less choice and flexibility over where and how they work.

In these blogs, Stockport Mind employees reflect on their journey during the past 18 months, about the additional challenges this pandemic has brought to their support of vulnerable service users. But they also discuss and reflect on their work continuing – whilst able to work from home – and that they have felt fortunate in that new transition; especially being able to continue to support those who have needed it most.

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Coronacoaster Blog 1 of 5 – The year that work changed (for some more than others)

So many aspects of our lives have been profoundly affected by the impacts of Coronavirus, the world of work being no exception.

You might have worked from home, or had to carry on working largely as before. Some people have been furloughed, sadly others have lost their jobs. People have adapted their practices and arrangements overnight. Some have found new opportunities, others taking the opportunity to reassess what it is that they really want from their career. Work has changed for some more than others.

Stockport Mind kept all staff working, primarily from home since March 2020. Our office – Dove House, previously a hive of activity – has become quiet at best, staff going in on a rota, though we are now moving to a more ‘blended’ approach.

There are perks to working from home, of course. Cutting out the commute can be refreshing, from the perspectives of both work-life balance and the environment. Being able to get up later and cook food at home for lunch has been a positive too. Plus, quieter downtime away from a busy office can help with finding the space to get things done, depending on the task.

But we know there are downsides too. Not being able to physically see your team as often can have quite an impact, even if subconsciously.

There are the blurred boundaries between home and work – many of our homes have been somewhat ‘invaded’ by work, and psychologically your space becomes compromised. Not everyone is lucky enough to have room for a home office.

And as some have observed, working from home can feel more like sleeping in the office, making it harder to ever feel fully switched off –  constantly being ‘logged in’ for 16 months and counting can’t be a good thing, if that’s how it’s felt.

The depletion of ‘surge capacity’ was said to be one of the reasons behind the total exhaustion many of us were feeling in the third lockdown. After months of crisis and constantly being briefed on a national level, it makes total sense that our stores of what are meant to be finite internal resources for short-term stressful situations, were near-impossible to refill. Far from ideal for work productivity, though as people have said – it’s not just a case of working from home; you’re trying to work from home during a global pandemic.

And on that, it must be difficult to underestimate just how challenging it is to continue working from home whilst simultaneously becoming responsible for delivering your children’s education – some of our staff have had to do this, and especially with some of their roles involving supporting vulnerable people through a pandemic all at the same time, they have done remarkably well.

It has been a very difficult and challenging time for us as a staff team, even more so for some of those we support in the local community.

The pandemic has had a significant impact on society’s mental health, and a national survey by Mind – published June 2020 – found that 60% of adults and 68% of young people said their mental health got worse in lockdown.

Our support services have continued in an adapted way as much as has been possible to keep people safe, primarily via phone and video call. Some face-to-face work (Covid-safe, in PPE if indoors) has taken place, where people have really needed this.

The kind of thing colleagues have supported people around are largely the same as ever – isolation, anxiety and loss being some key issues. Yet the pandemic has exposed many of us to these things more acutely than ever before.

People we support used to be able to pop into our office during opening hours, an ‘open door policy’ we were proud of. Regrettably but understandably, this just hasn’t been possible (or at times, legal) to maintain.

Despite support services now being needed more than ever before, some options in our communities have been very stretched, with years of cuts now exacerbated by newfound additional challenges in terms of funding and logistics.

We were fortunate, then – as the immediate crisis presented itself, at least – that we were awarded some grants, albeit short-term and emergency-focused. Plus, more than £15,000 (including gift aid) was raised in response to our Emergency Coronavirus Appeal.

Thank you to everyone who continues to donate or support our local services – you can still do so on the page linked above.

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If you work for a Stockport or Cheshire East business that may need some support around Workplace Wellbeing in these ever-changing times, please feel free to encourage your HR department to get in touch at workplacewellbeing@stockportmind.org.uk

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Coronacoaster Blog 2 of 5 will be from the perspective of a working parent, including the challenges of working from home alongside home-schooling, and links to resources to support childrens’ and parents’ mental health. This will be published soon, on the News section of our website.