DHO Collaborative Conversation 1 Summary Blog
Finding time to stay connected and informed during a crisis is one of the most effective ways of maintaining balance and perspective for your own work and organisation – particularly if that’s in a shared space with other leaders who are going through the same experience. That is why we brought together our Developing Healthy Organisation network for the first in a series of online collaborative conversations to discuss and learn from each other during this time and to provide a safe space to reflect and think about the future.
Our Developing Healthy Organisation (DHO) programme has been running for 9 months and is designed to bring together leaders from across sectors to assess and identify the health of their organisation. We create a safe space where leaders can discuss the challenges they face when considering the health of their organisation and their workforce. We invited a number of sector leaders across Public and Third sector to discuss the importance of continuing to create and sustain a Healthy Organisation during this time.
What was clear from our first online session (06 May 2020) is that the impact of such sudden and dramatic change is still very much being felt across organisations. Workforce wellbeing was understandably top of the conversation list and our participants shared some great examples of how they are offering staff additional support and care that they need, ranging from counselling for frontline staff to drop in zoom sessions, or specialist helplines for staff. Some organisations are running twice weekly webinars for line managers to ensure they are developing the right skills for facilitating the different types of conversation they need to have at the moment. For many line managers they are learning how to manage in a whole new way and that takes the right support to do well.
One particular area of interest in our conversation was the apparent changes in behaviour around sickness reporting, particularly in areas where sickness levels have massively reduced. It’s easy to think that this is great news, but digging a little deeper (as these conversations allow you to do!) showed it was less clear what is driving these changes and whether or not they are positive in terms of individual and organisational wellbeing. Are staff less inclined to call in sick for minor illnesses, because they are already at home, and therefore potentially less of a risk to their colleagues? Are they concerned that, in the context of Covid-19, other illnesses will be regarded differently? Is behaviour being influenced by loyalty and not wanting to let people down, or are people feeling anxious about being judged differently during these times. And how should organisations respond to changes in beliefs, expectations and behaviours when staff are already going the extra mile, on the one hand, and ‘invisible’ at home, on the other?
We also discussed the importance of supporting mental health and wellbeing and, in particular, the risk that the full impact on mental wellbeing will only be truly known at a later stage. Many organisations are excellent at responding to a crisis, and have done so in the past but nothing has been like this and for the length of time we are now seeing – particularly in those areas where the Covid outbreak has compounded the effects of the floods only a few months ago. Should we expect a wave of mental ill health to hit later on? How long can we sustain this level of response without a bigger impact on wellbeing? It is what we do now, to recognise and mitigate both the risk and the reality that will be the biggest factor. Sending an email with a list of wellbeing resources for staff to access may not be enough.
Conversely, there are also organisations where this is a similar issue with those employees who are furloughed. Whilst for a short amount of time, gardens will flourish and people will discover new hobbies, we must consider the long term impact of not working and make sure that our approach to supporting our workforce longer term factors this in.
So what we did conclude? We must not underestimate the emotional and practical support needed to deal with these unexpected and dramatic changes. In our next session we are talking about Change Curve Theory and will be looking at the three phases of change in more detail, to understand how we can all move beyond the chaos and the aftermath of change into the acceptance phase and then into taking longer term, sustainable action.
It was also great to hear some great examples of leadership, where clarity of priorities from the outset has really helped some organisations. Knowing exactly what is critical work and that everything else can wait – there is no business as usual. Ensuring that the collaborations that are happening now can continue to happen and grow will be a key measure of success for organisations and for our community (and indeed all our communities!) over the coming months.
This all feeds into the DHO work we have been exploring - assessing and identifying where you are on that journey captures all these areas and our DHO programme is a great framework for helping organisations to navigate the changes ahead. Over the next few weeks we will be exploring in more depth the issues that are relevant to these organisations involved and helping to provide a way forward. Our next event will be around Navigating the Change Curve: next Tuesday 19 May, 3:15, please register your interest if you wish to attend: https://share.hsforms.com/1ORq_pNjvQd2PWV57zQ8fgQ3xinq
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