Workforce Wellbeing during the Pandemic and Beyond

Katherine Heredge, NHS Graduate Management Trainee – HR

Katherine Heredge, (pronouns She/Her), NHS Graduate Management Trainee – Human Resources

The past year and a half has been extremely challenging and testing for all of us. While many would agree that we have experienced an increased sense of pride for what we do, the unprecedented demands and expectations on us throughout the pandemic have highlighted the importance of ensuring our wellbeing so that we can continue to help with the local and national response.

Reflecting on my personal experience and my role as an HR Graduate Management Trainee throughout the pandemic, witnessing the care and dedication of colleagues has been incredible and has made me increasingly curious about the impact upon the wider workforce. Many of us will have worked significantly more hours, been redeployed, asked to shield, worked from home, or taken on more responsibility in our role, all of which will have had an impact upon our personal wellbeing and work-life balance. We have all been affected.

As part of my studies towards my CIPD qualification, I have had the opportunity to explore this in a little more depth not only through carrying out my own research, but also by reviewing recent literature and reports. Indeed, such documentation has overwhelmingly suggested that as the pandemic has progressed, there has been an increasingly negative effect upon employee wellbeing and work-life balance, indicating the extent of the issue.

9 in 10 leaders in the NHS, therefore, are concerned about the longer-term impact of the pandemic upon their staff, an alarming but largely unsurprising statistic (NHS Confederation, 2020). Alongside this, a report ordered by the House of Commons which was published earlier this month declared workforce burnout across the NHS as an ‘emergency’ (House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee, 2021). While it is concerning to read, ongoing support and reflection will be key as we maintain and enhance our focus upon our health and wellbeing (NHS Employers, 2021).

The wellbeing of our workforce is something I am hugely passionate about, and my varied role on the HR specialism of GMTS has allowed me, in many ways, to adopt a role of “caring for the carers” through both operational and strategic work whether this has been direct HR support for colleagues or involvement in project work focused on improving experiences, for example. Supporting the wellbeing of our workforce is very much a challenge faced by NHS colleagues throughout the UK, and I am looking forward to seeing this being further embedded in our work as we move forward together.

Highlighting how fundamental it is to the effectiveness of the NHS, staff wellbeing has been named as one of five priorities for health and care, part of which will involve improved mechanisms of support to ensure and sustain wellbeing across the NHS (The King’s Fund, 2021).

Our NHS People offer some fantastic resources to help support you, and your colleague’s wellbeing…

References

Anderson, D. and Kelliher, C. (2020) ‘Enforced Remote Working and the Work-Life Interface During Lockdown’, Gender in Management, 35(7), pp. 677-683.

Kumar, R. et al. (2020) ‘COVID-19 and Work-Life Balance: What about Supervisor Support and Employee Proactiveness?’, Annals of  Contemporary Developments in Management & HR  2(4), pp. 1-9.

BBC (2021) NHS and Social Care Staff Burnout at an Emergency Level.

House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee (2021) Workforce Burnout and Resilience in the NHS and Social Care. 

NHS Confederation (2020) NHS Reset: A New Direction for Health and Care.

NHS Employers (2021) Mental Wellbeing.

Nursing Times (2020) Coronavirus: 90% of NHS Leaders Worried About Staff Wellbeing.

The King’s Fund (2021) The Road to Renewal: Five Priorities for Health and Care.

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