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Coping as a workplace or business during COVID-19

Chris Attoe talks through how a workplace can take a strategic approach to supporting staff health and wellbeing needs.
Hello again. So, in this step we want to focus on is how organisations and businesses can take a proactive approach to managing some of the psychological impact of COVID-19 on their workforce and their delivery of work. So in doing that the first thing I want to do is set a bit of a tone in terms of the messaging of with all respect to this very difficult time that lots of people are facing real challenges and as we’ve addressed already in this course, everyone is affected to some degree.
In this we really want to think about what some of the proactive and positive steps that an organisation might be able take to play their role in their part in supporting people with the needs of their facing during this difficult time. So I think taking that idea of proactive and positive steps is a really important way to frame some of this activity in terms of managing the psychological impact. The first thing for me that’s really important is around how do we understand people’s needs? So this could be something that’s done very formally, like survey and consultation. It could be something much more informally that is done through an existing network within an organisation, a group of managers and leaders.
But really, it harnesses that sense of noticing taking a step back, trying to use and build our awareness of what is going on for people, what the challenges they are facing, in this local context are, and then thinking about how we can translate that into some action. And so, in terms of how you translate that into action, we tend to lean towards a more strategic approach where we want to think about things at multiple levels, and we want to think about things being proportionate to what we want to achieve. So that’s this idea we’ve seen X need we want to address that in a comprehensive way that is likely to make change, and likely to have a positive impact.
And we also want to think about things at multiple levels. So an individual level what the reality for a person, a team or group level, maybe thinking bout department’s in particular. And then also an organisational and leadership level. And so how that translates into a particular approach to take the example of flexible working, examples that we’ve seen developing in practice, it might be that an organisational level leadership are role modelling this style of working. There’s a clear updated policy with that takes in mind the current circumstances that were in, and there’s a clear message that this is the the way an organisation wants to work.
In a team setting, or team level, these teams are encouraged and supported to have conversations about how do we work flexibly what are everyone’s needs and how do we balance them as a team with those of the overall organisation and facilitating some of that discussion and then an individual level. Hopefully that filters down to an individual feeling permission and autonomy and control to be able to meet their personal needs, as well as their work needs, but by working flexibly.
So particular example, and I think that can be applied to a range of the important workplace factors that we’ve touched upon throughout this course, from work life balance, through to thinking about relationships and some of the new structures that we have in place in workplaces. Another thing I mentioned was around being proportionate, so this idea that if we found a need that people are facing in the workplace, we’ve taken a step back, noticed it, come up with a strategic approach at multiple levels to address that. Is it fit for purpose? Is it likely impossible that this will meet the need that we’ve identified?
So having a chance to again step back and notice and think whether that’s the case is really important. And then Lastly, there is some wrap around factors that are super relevant for any of this work and will already be things that organisations are doing to help manage that. But really, having a revisit of what’s are clear communication during this difficult time with any changes we’re facing any proactive steps we want to take and also how we internally engaged our workforce in feeling bought into and and signed up to that.
So those are some really important steps that again at leadership level can be considered into how we do it as an organisation, So hopefully that’s some thoughts in some approaches and a bit of a framework for how we might be able to take forward some positive steps and positive changes within an organisational setting.
Chris highlighted the importance of trying to understand the needs of a workforce, consider a strategic and proportionate approach, and deliver this with clear communication and internal engagement. These principles are designed to be tailored flexibly to each organisation.
While the previous step focused on key workers, and this step on the workplace more generally, we acknowledge that not all organisations are in a position to undertake work such as this. However, we hope to engage anyone to be able to think about what an organisation can do in line with these principles.

The Organisational Approach

The first step of trying to understand the needs, challenges, and resources of a workforce has roots in Organisational Psychology. Examples such as the Job Demands-Resources Model provide a framework for understanding workplace health and wellbeing. This can be applied to all work contexts, including during COVID-19 with this specific situation in mind.
The second step of a strategic approach to meeting needs at the individual, group, and organisational level draws on theories of Organisational Behaviour. This field of psychology has focused on understanding individual psychology, group dynamics, and the wider organisational context. This gives a comprehensive picture of behaviour and needs, including the systemic thinking we mentioned in week 1.
The additional considerations raised by Chris relate to early steps in models of Organisational Change and Development. One example would be Kotter’s 8-Step Process for Leading Change. Such approaches highlight many key factors in implementing changes in organisations, including among others:
  • Creating a clear strategic vision.
  • Engaging your workforce.
  • Clear and regular communication.

Chris’ example of flexible working could be replaced by any other local needs.
Image of Susan
In Susan’s story, we may deduce that her organisation has taken a strategic approach to work relationships and connections:
  1. Individually she is encouraged to meaningfully engage with her manager.
  2. Her team is supported to meet regularly and stay connected.
  3. Her organisation has made social activities available online.
To reiterate, these approaches should be locally tailored and driven to provide the best outcomes for staff and the organisation.
What approaches have you seen in your workplace? For those involved in supporting a workforce, how have you been doing this? Sharing experiences in the comments below is a great opportunity to generate ideas.
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COVID-19: Psychological Impact, Wellbeing and Mental Health

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