Resources for managers 

As a manager, you may feel concerned about your capacity to support your staff through this unfamiliar and exceptionally demanding situation. You may feel ill-equipped to manage this level of staff distress, lacking in support for yourself, and unsure of the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ thing to do.

The first thing to emphasise is that you are human - it is reasonable to expect that you might have some emotional and psychological reaction to the circumstances that you are encountering. The resources in this web area are equally applicable to you, they are relevant for everyone.

The resources below are some of the key documents that underpin the support offer at Joined Up Care Derbyshire, and some additional resource hubs that may be useful for you as a leader. 

If you have five minutes...

Your main task will be to listen well to your staff at this time. Listening may be one of your strengths, or you may be wondering whether you could improve your listening skills. Samaritans have produced a 45-second video on listening well with some simple tips such as using open questions and saying back what you’ve heard. Remember to pause, often staff will fill the gaps.

You may have heard of a person-centred approach, the key principles of this may be useful to consider in your interactions with staff at this time:

  • Showing empathy, for example: "It sounds like that was really tough for you."
  • Being real or authentic - you are also a human, you don’t need to hide that you are
  • Demonstrating non-judgemental respect, for example: "You’ve coped by drinking, thank you for sharing that with me. I understand that it was a way of trying to cope with the day."

Empathy and sympathy are very different, and understanding this difference may help you support your staff effectively at this time. A short video by RSA (three minutes) provides a great illustration of the difference – empathy is described as ‘getting alongside’, sympathy can be experienced as pity by some.

You may be concerned about how to support a staff member when they are upset. There are a few things to consider that we know to be helpful:

  • Don’t 'do nothing' – if you notice it – acknowledge it
  • Stay calm
  • Reassure your staff member that it is ok to be upset
  • If you can – find an appropriate space so they can express themselves
  • Listen
  • Potentially offer to go outside together
  • Respect their wishes – they may choose to continue working, they may need a break
  • Reassure them that they are valued and respected.

It may be helpful for you to have an awareness of the three main phases of staff support during Covid 19. This may help you to anticipate, recognise and respond to the common emotional health needs of your staff throughout this period.

You and your teams may be at different stages (depending on setting, role, task, and locality). Some of you may feel you are in the preparation stage – some may feel they are in the active stage. You may also feel that you are cycling between these stages.

  1. Preparation stage (worry about family/own safety, coping with things to come, fears around competency at this time)
  2. Active stage (intense period, exhaustion, harder to pay attention to own self-care and needs)
  3. Recovery stage (issues around what staff have experienced, fears about it happening again) 

Summary of the three stages of staff support (opens new document)

Increasing the psychological safety of your team

We recognise that at present it is normal for staff not to feel fully safe, this is a time of significant uncertainty for many colleagues. It is therefore important as a leader to think about what you can do to increase your team’s sense of psychological safety.

Here are some key tips to consider at this time:

Model care and compassion

Start with yourself, and your self-care and self-compassion (we are often better at giving this advice to others, than applying it to ourselves). Then, think about ways you can show care and compassion to your team. Checking in with staff, making time to talk (in whichever medium this may be), if you are in work together supporting staff to take a break and get access to food/drink and anything else that may make them more comfortable. Thank staff for their hard work, adaptability, care and compassion. Perhaps there may be a role for you to advocate for your staff to have the things/spaces/set-up they need to look after themselves (it may help to work with your wellbeing lead on this).

In advance, discuss with teams that distress, worry, anxiety and fear is an understandable and human response to threatening events such as this. 

These emotions can be scary for staff to experience, particularly if they usually feel quite calm in other very demanding situations that they face. It can be helpful to normalise their reaction to this situation, reminding staff that they are not ‘failing’ or ‘being negative’. It’s okay not to be okay at this time – and also to move between being okay and not okay. It is also doesn’t mean staff can’t do their jobs, or that they are ‘not good enough’; which may be a concern for some staff.

Ensure your team feel supported in being able to talk about worries and concerns

With whom can they speak and when? Where can they speak, is there a supportive space? Is it possible to set up a physical space for staff, or a virtual space if staff are remote working? How can they speak with you? How and when do they find it helpful to communicate with you? Can you make space for this? Consider the following three questions to generate supportive conversations - What went well today? What was difficult? Are you ok? 

Ensure colleagues who may be experiencing difficulty balancing commitments to service against responsibilities at home (fro example, childcare, fear for vulnerable family) have opportunity to discuss these concerns and, ideally, resolve them with you or your colleagues.

Managing a remote team – perhaps for the first time

If you have suddenly found yourself managing a remote team you may be wondering whether you are ‘doing it right’, or if you are doing what you can to support your team. Ethos Consulting have produced this helpful summary of tips to consider as a leader, if you are leading a team where some or all of your staff are remote working. 

Top tips include providing clear direction, supporting your staff to know ‘what’ to do (not necessarily telling them ‘how’ to do it), and minimising emails (using calls to build trust and relationships).

If you have 10-20 minutes...

Psychological first aid, as opposed to psychological debriefing, is the evidenced-based approach after recent exposure to trauma (World Health Organization recommendation, 2009).

Psychological first aid is not professional counselling or something only professionals can do.

The main themes of psychological first aid are:

  • Non-intrusive practical care and support
  • Assessing needs and concerns
  • Helping staff to address basic needs (food and sleep)
  • Listen to staff, not pressuring them to talk
  • Providing support to calm and comfort
  • Providing support to connect staff to services
  • Protecting staff from further harm

Psychological First Aid for Field Workers (opens document)

MIND has produced guidance on supporting employees with mental health difficulties. This includes advice on opening up the conversation, and tips for supporting staff.

How to support staff who are experiencing a mental health problem - Mind (opens document)

General mental wellbeing – NHS Employers has a webpage focused on mental wellbeing with a few key tips for supporting staff and linking to other sources of support such as the Mental Health Foundation.

The Intensive Care Society has produced a range of resources, and tips for improving workplace wellbeing.

Mental Health at Work toolkit – a resource site for a range of tools that may be suitable for helping you to support your staff at this time (including the 'how are you feeling NHS tool', the Every Mind Matters Hub, and Head First - a set of resources designed for ambulance staff).

The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) has produced a 20-page briefing document on addressing the mental health and psychosocial aspects of the current situation. The document outlines common responses, overarching principles for the response and globally recommended activities.

Briefing note on addressing mental health and psychosocial aspects of Covid-19 outbreak (opens document)