Looking after our people

May 11, 2020 CEO blog Theresa Shearer - Group CEO

In the First Minister’s address to the nation this evening, she reflected on what really matters to us all – health, family and community – and described the continued lockdown arrangements in Scotland not only as a science-led public health intervention to contain and control COVID-19, but also as an “expression of love, kindness and solidarity”.

It was a very human tone and approach to communicate why the lockdown in Scotland will continue; we have a duty to act collectively to keep everyone safe.  Whilst it is hard to be apart from those we love, our actions right now are probably one of the most caring and selfless things any of us will do.  That notwithstanding – it is tough, and it will take its toll on people.

For organisations like ENABLE Scotland and the Piper Group, whilst our primary focus is on keeping the people we support safe, well, and connected at home, it is essential that we look out for the health and wellbeing of all the people who work for us too. How our staff are doing has become one of the most important questions I ask every day, closely followed by: what can we do to support them more?

This is always true, but the COVID-19 pandemic has brought it more sharply into focus than ever before.

Leadership during COVID-19

This afternoon, I was delighted to welcome the inspirational Raymond O’Hare on to a Zoom call with some of our senior leaders across the charity to discuss models of leadership, with a particular emphasis on how leaders can navigate the current challenges.

Raymond has extensive experience in senior roles, including at Microsoft and RBS, and is a former Chair of the Institute of Directors in Scotland.

He generously shared (as all great leaders do) his wisdom and experience of the principles of effective leadership – clarity, communication, strategy, decision making, and critically – focus on your people.  An organisation could have the most expensive and impressive strategies and marketing campaigns in the world, but if it doesn’t recognise that its most important asset is its people – and ensure they are happy and supported at work – then it will not deliver on its objectives.

Looking after our people

On the Zoom calls with our frontline staff teams that have become a key part of my week, I always ask how they feel and how they are getting on, not just whilst they are at work, but in general across all aspects of their lives and their household.  As we head into the eighth week of the lockdown, for all of us without exception, this is a very strange and unusual situation that throws up many new and different challenges for people to cope with.

Our Personal Assistants (PAs) are keyworkers on the frontline of the country’s response to Covid-19, heading out to work every day leaving their own families behind to keep some of our most vulnerable citizens safe and well at a time when so many industries and workplaces are closed.

And for all the staff working from home in vital roles to support delivery of our social care, employability and charitable services, we cannot overlook the challenges that come with working from home.

I think the best description I’ve read of the current set of circumstances for those of us in that position is that: “You are not ‘working from home’. You are at your home, during a crisis, trying to work.”

It is not easy.

Staff Wellbeing Survey

Whilst real-time feedback on Zoom calls is one thing, I was keen to give our staff team more opportunity to feed in how they’re feeling through an anonymised Staff Wellbeing Survey.

I was pleased that 40% of our workforce completed the survey, and it revealed that 93% felt they were getting the support they needed from us as an employer at this time, with 75% feeling very or fairly well supported.

93% said they find our daily email updates for staff helpful, and 72% said they feel we are providing the right amount of support for staff health and wellbeing.

I am very grateful to everyone who took the time to share their thoughts in this survey, and these positive findings are a real tribute to everyone across our teams who has worked so hard to look out for their colleagues to help all of us through this challenging period.  But I was also interested to know how people are coping with the situation in general.  Of those who responded, almost 40% said that personally they were worried or very worried about the general situation, outside of work.

We are already acting to address issues raised through the survey, and the feedback received will help us understand what more we need to do to make sure we are doing everything we possibly can to give everyone the support they need.

One of the first things we have done is to initiate dedicated Wellbeing Wednesdays, with ENABLE Scotland’s specialist Practice Development Team sharing guidance and resources on self-care, managing stress, and a range of ideas and techniques to make sure staff are taking care of their own wellbeing at the same time as they dedicate their energy to supporting vulnerable people.

For any staff member who wants to discuss a particular issue, we have a dedicated People Helpline available from 7am to 7pm, 7 days a week, and additionally, our Employee Assistance Programme offers confidential access to professional support to help employees manage stress, anxiety, grief, financial concerns, and much more.  And we will do more over the coming weeks, with our staff, to provide all the support we can.

The First Minister is right – our individual actions at this time represent ‘love, kindness and solidarity’ – our organisational approach to how we treat our people at this time must reflect the same principles.

 Theresa Shearer, Group CEO
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