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COVID-19 places increased importance on mental health and kindness within business

Cumbria’s Business and Economic Response and Recovery Group (BERRG) is encouraging local organisations to consider the mental wellbeing of their employees, now that we have moved into a further lockdown.

The reminder comes on Kind Cumbria Day, Friday 13 November, a day that is focused on showing kindness to one another.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, mental wellbeing was recognised as an important issue for business and the economy, with many local employers ensuring supportive measures were in place. Being a good employer, encouraging a healthy workforce and supporting employees through difficult times is beneficial for business and productivity.

However, despite these efforts, the pandemic is undoubtedly creating bigger challenges for both businesses and their workforce. Employees’ mental wellbeing is being affected by worries about COVID-related issues such as whether they or their loved ones might contract the virus, reduced job security in an uncertain economy, increased and changing workloads, and challenges posed by remote working such as childcare, as well as social isolation.

Cumbria County Council, local NHS, district councils and the community and voluntary sector are reassuring those facing mental health challenges that ‘help is here’ with a support booklet distributed to every household in Cumbria, as well as a webpage highlighting sources of local and national support:

Mind and Mental Health at Work, two of the organisations featured, have created a ‘Mental health at work commitment guide for employers during Coronavirus’:

Given the significance of the pandemic’s impact on mental wellbeing, employers within Cumbria are developing new initiatives or strengthening existing programmes. Companies and organisations such as Oxley Group, The Family Business Network and The Farmer Network are using a variety of approaches, including workforce surveys, voluntary ‘wellbeing champions’, hosting frequent team activities and events, and ensuring that all employees are aware of the internal support on offer as well as external organisations that can help.

Jayne Moorby, Marketing Manager at Oxley Group, said: “This unprecedented year has been very tough for some people and we’re conscious of the impact that it’s had on wellbeing. At Oxley, we are in regular communication with our team to understand both how they are feeling and what we can do to best support them. We are using the five ways to wellbeing model to plan innovative activities that keep us connected and support good mental health and wellbeing.”

Sue Howorth and Dave Clarkson, Co-Directors of The Family Business Network, said: “The rise of the movement to demonstrate a business as a “responsible business” has never been greater than in 2020. Business owners and their teams are being judged on their ethics and demonstrations of human kindness, from the support they provide to employees as well as the support given to supply chains and every customer.”

Adam Day, Managing Director at The Farmer Network, said: “Whether your team is part of a small family business, or a large-scale corporate entity, each and every colleague needs to feel valued and appreciated. Rural Cumbria has faced many challenges in recent years, and this winter may present very real problems such as rural isolation and wellbeing issues. Within your team or your community, making time for a chat, a call, a message, or even sending a card may make all the difference. As we celebrate Kind Cumbria Day, we know from experience that little things matter.”

Jo Lappin, Chair of BERRG, part of the Local Resilience Forum structure and the body responsible for developing Cumbria’s business and economic response to the pandemic, said: “COVID-19’s negative impact on mental wellbeing cannot be underestimated and I am really encouraged by the way that our businesses are responding to this in a serious and considered way. Kind Cumbria Day is a timely reminder to all of us to think about what it means to be a kind and supportive employer.”

Mrs Lappin, Chief Executive of Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, added: “Many of our local employers are rethinking their businesses going forward and part of this is about the way that they engage with their workforce, communities and business colleagues. We have all learnt a lot about what is important during this pandemic and supporting each other through difficult times is a critical one.”

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