Now is the time to go big on people

February 19, 2021

19th February 2021 - They say it’s darkest before the dawn. I think that right now, in the UK, we are at that point, waiting for the sun to rise. Our vaccination programme has surpassed targets.

Boris Johnson is promising to lift lockdown in the near future. COVID-19 deaths are falling. And, last but not least, winter is slowly lifting and the days are getting longer.

And yet, for many people, life is harder than it’s ever been. I’m conscious that despite all the reasons to be hopeful, the road to recovery will be long and difficult.

Now, more than ever, we have to look after one another and be kind. For managers, this means reaching out to employees and letting them know you are there and you’re listening. For the team, it means asking for help if you need it, and doing whatever you need to do in order to preserve your mental and physical wellbeing.

All of us need to remember to be patient with anyone we speak to, whether we’re complaining to our broadband provider, booking a plumber, or at the supermarket checkout. Every single person who is trying to do their job right now while dealing with the pressures of lockdown is a key worker and deserves the utmost respect and consideration.

So many people are suffering right now. When we are going through difficult times, it can be hard to think of others but it's vital we do.

A recent study by VIDA Health analysed the mental health of workers during the pandemic and 88% of participants reported at least one symptom of depression and 51% said they felt hopeless. These figures are staggering and many are suffering in silence.

Data from the Institute for Employment Studies shows that young people, in particular, have been cruelly impacted by the ongoing crisis. Under-24-year-olds represent almost half the fall in UK unemployment; 47% of the people currently furloughed are under 24. Think of how that must feel, to have your ambitions and earnings crushed so young? And the job losses aren’t over. It is estimated that 2.5m Brits will be out of work by the end of 2021 – and the unemployment rate for those with disabilities is double that for the able-bodied.

Domestic violence has surged during lockdown and many victims have nowhere to go to escape their abuser. It is estimated that there are more than 2.3m sufferers of domestic abuse across the UK now – two-thirds of those are women. As employers, we have a duty of care to actively find and support victims of abuse, and take action to get them to safety.

The good news is that British employers are doing a sterling job at supporting their people. New research by GRiD shows that 63% of us have increased their support across mental, physical, financial and social wellbeing in light of the pandemic. This shows the dedication and commitment of the leadership teams at many UK companies. They too are prioritising their people and doing their best to reach out.

I had my first COVID-19 jab this week and, like many of those who have had the vaccine, it made me feel hopeful. But I won’t let that glimmer of hope distract me from the needs of those around me. That is why I recently held a company-wide huddle online to talk to every single person at BigChange about our commitment to their wellbeing. I told them not to suffer in silence, not to feel compelled to work too many hours and to talk to their managers – or me – if they need support. My door is always open.

I have been blessed with mental resilience. I can be physically broken but, aside from family tragedy, I can usually keep going whatever life throws at me. I want to use that ability to be there for the people who need me, whose resilience has taken a real battering over the past year.

Whatever reserves of kindness and compassion we can find, we must use it to help others through the coming months. Things may get harder before they get better but if we help one another, we can all get through it.

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