Simon Blake: Keeping well, staying motivated, and delivering in a tough climate

As we become more accustomed to working from home, we must not stop taking action to support our people and our wellbeing through the winter months

Two weeks ago we entered a second phase of national restrictions in England, seven months after locking up our offices for the first time.

Like chief executives across the social sector, I am enormously proud of how my team has responded to the challenges we face as a result of the crisis caused by Covid-19.

As a face-to-face training business we made a significant shift from classroom-based training to digital delivery in a very short amount of time.

That commitment, energy and impact is replicated everywhere.

Those of us in the social sector have pushed ourselves out of our comfort zones and adapted.

We have continued to deliver against the odds with huge creativity and determination, against a backdrop of uncertainty about resources, funding and sadly, for some, jobs.

This lockdown is different from the first one; we already know what lockdown feels like. It is the wet and dark of winter.

Lots of people are tired, and already overstretched. Some are anxious or angry about different things, including the threat to our services and support.

The strong focus on wellbeing through and beyond the first lockdown was very welcome.

This is a reminder that, as we become more used to working from home, we must not stop thinking about, talking about, and taking action to support our people, and our own wellbeing, through the winter months.

Not surprisingly, given our mission to improve the mental health of the nation, we have been talking about this a lot at MHFA England.

We are clear that staff wellbeing is core to our success as a social enterprise.

We also know that in a fast-changing environment that has placed extraordinary demands on everyone, sometimes conversations and actions designed to support wellbeing can seem out of tune with the pressure that can be felt to deliver change and impact at pace.

We need to know what keeps our people going when the tanks are running low, and how we can maintain and support wellbeing and the motivation to ensure we deliver on our goals.

At the heart of this is the simple and important recognition that there is no one-size-fits-all way of doing things.

This is especially true in the context of the pandemic.

There is no blueprint. We have to muddle through the opportunities and challenges together – working with clarity and confidence about our objectives and what is achievable.

Now is the time for empathy and courageous leadership, emotional intelligence in bucketloads, and demonstrable care for our peers and ourselves.

We all need to be trusted, and afforded maximum flexibility within the context of our own needs, as well as the needs of our teams and organisations.

Along with maximum flexibility as leaders and managers, we can helpfully be directive at times: helping teams focus on priorities and building boundaries so they can manage their work and take rest, including using their holiday.

Colleagues at MHFA England said they want us to pay attention to connections across the organisation.

They told me that individual teams feel as connected than ever, but relationships and connections outside of the immediate teams are waning, which reminds us that creating the wider office life in our own homes requires energy and focus.

We know, but it is worth saying again, that talking about mental health and wellbeing is not an optional extra.

It is on everyone to be talking about wellbeing and motivation as part of one-to-one meetings, and doing what we can to make sure work contributes to a sense of wellbeing and purpose.

Many of us find the winter months difficult in any given year. This year, perhaps, especially so.

Conversations and actions that put wellbeing, motivation and high performance on the agenda at every level of our organisations are essential for success.

Now is the time to be thinking about self-care, checking in on each other and thinking about how we can create spikes of joy for ourselves and others.

It is the time to draw on our talents and creativity in service of individual and organisational wellbeing, so we can do our absolute best to deliver on our mission.

Simon Blake is chief executive of MHFA England. To find out more about MHFA England and to access free resources to support mental health and wellbeing, click here.


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