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Civil Service

Championing mental health and wellbeing through the pandemic

Head and shoulders image of Rupert McNeil, Government Chief People Officer
Rupert McNeil, Government Chief People Officer

As Government Chief People Officer, I want to thank you for your innovation, collaboration and expertise to support the government and maintain corporate and public services during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Whether you are working at home, in the workplace, taking special leave for caring responsibilities, or in self-isolation, you are helping to fight this virus and the ripple effect it has on our lives.

You are adapting to the changing circumstances to deliver outstanding work and prepare for the next phase. The human aspect of managing this transition and communicating what it means is at the heart of our planning. 

A shared experience

The pandemic is a shared experience, but everyone experiences it differently. When faced with such uncertainty, it can be hard to manage anxieties and feel in control of what’s happening. 

What we have achieved over the past three months proves we can perform in a volatile environment and move to the next phase with confidence. Our leadership, employee policies and business planning have blended business continuity with health and wellbeing to support people in staying safe and juggling work and personal responsibilities. 

However, despite all this good work, it’s okay to acknowledge any difficulties you are facing, the emotions you are feeling and speak about it. 

People are stretching out their days to teach their children, care for loved ones and get their work done. And home locations may not be ideal for all sorts of reasons. People are missing the buzz of stakeholder events and socialising with colleagues. Plans are on pause, people are waiting to hear about jobs, while others are commuting to and from the workplace because they carry out essential roles or cannot work from home.

The 5 step wellbeing conversation tool* can help people discuss how they are feeling, identify early warning signs of emotional distress, and find a way forward. Maybe you will be the person who meets someone halfway to help them decide what support they need. If anyone is reaching crisis point, then please reach out to someone you trust and use any of the employee support services listed below.

[* Click on the embedded link to log in to the Civil Service Learning Platform for Government and then click on the links to access the information.]

Looking after our people

The Civil Service Leadership Academy has developed a virtual wellbeing and leadership learning package on how to manage through a crisis, come together as a team to reach a common goal, and apply strengths and positive psychology to how we work and communicate. You can find out more by clicking here

It’s great that organisations are responding to the wellbeing needs of their diverse workforces by seeing the whole person, not just the employee. This includes helping people to have mental health conversations with their children, financial wellbeing guidance to deal with the economic impact of the pandemic, and how to handle bereavement, isolation and loneliness.

Before the coronavirus, we would champion employee wellbeing, working flexibly and setting boundaries to thrive in the workplace and live healthy and fulfilling lives. The world around us has changed but the commitment remains. We will get through this together.

Kindness makes a difference

Kindness is the theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (18-24 May) and this is a time to reflect on those acts of kindness, big and small, that people are carrying out at this time. No matter how busy our lives are we can still find one minute a day to spread some kindness.

Be kind to yourself, don’t burn out, and get involved in helping us understand what the new normal will mean for you.

Employee support

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1 comment

  1. Comment by Gavin Thomas posted on

    Thank you Rupert McNeil for promoting this important topic. I would agree that at what has been a time of great concern and personal challenge for many, it is important that we look after our own wellbeing as well as the wellbeing of others.

    As the current Chair of the FCO Staff Association for Wellbeing, I have been extremely encouraged to see colleagues step up and offer advice and support to others who have reached out for help. Such acts of kindness are priceless and have such a positive effect.

    I have also sought to ensure that I have structured my daily life to achieve a work / life balance and set aside time to be able to manage my own wellbeing and mental health.