The workforce needs to build resilience to ensure it is ready to face potential future disasters that may dwarf the impact Covid-19 has had, a House of Lords report has suggested.
The Covid-19 committee’s report suggests that “we must adapt our lives, and world, to the economic, social and health consequences of the pandemic”, and take on board what it has taught us about resilience and wellbeing.
It says that our societal understanding of resilience and preparedness “is not fit for purpose”, and that national resilience is often undermined by health, financial and racial inequalities.
It recommends that a national emphasis on building resilience “must have the wellbeing of its people at its heart”, and suggests that collective resilience will only improve by “reaching into every part of our society, and actively engaging with them about the interventions that will improve their wellbeing”.
“If specific groups, communities or neighbourhoods are left behind, not only will we have failed in our aim to create an inclusive Wellbeing State, but also failed in our aim to increase resilience. We cannot claim to be resilient, until all groups, communities and neighbourhoods are resilient, and continuing vulnerability amongst specific groups, communities and neighbourhoods will make us all vulnerable to the upheavals of the future,” the Living in a Covid world: a long-term approach to resilience and wellbeing report states.
Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho, chair of the Covid-19 committee, said: “This is a wake-up call which must be heeded. Political leaders and policy makers must begin to think about ways to deal with long-term issues, where the problems and possible solutions will extend beyond the life of one parliamentary regime or single electoral cycle.
“Our ability to plan and to co-ordinate has been shown to be wanting; now is the opportunity for us to reset the state and build it back to be more adaptable, more resilient, more devolved, and more collaborative so we can effectively deal with any disasters, crises or systemic shocks that may occur in the future. Wellbeing and resilience must be at the heart of this reset for it to be successful.”
At this week’s Health and Wellbeing at Work Show in Birmingham, Dr Jo Billings, a clinical associate professor at University College London, made several recommendations for rebuilding resilience, with a particular focus on frontline health workers who have seen their mental health and wellbeing plummet during the pandemic. These included:
- Ensuring that workers’ basic health and safety needs are met. Dr Billings said: “Think about the basic hierarchy of needs – we need to have those basic health and safety provisions in place for our workforce.”
- Raising people’s mental health awareness. “[This involves] making people more mental health literate and giving people permission to talk about their mental health at work,” said Dr Billings.
- Upskill line managers. “We don’t just need to give them training, but we have to give them support in order to facilitate and enable them to support their workers,” she said
- Give people time to recover. “Healthcare workers have gone through wave after wave of the pandemic, and there’s [negative] articles in the tabloids about them wanting to take annual leave,” said Dr Billings. “People need time to recover and we need to resource our teams to allow this to happen.”
- Reconnect people with their teams and each other
- Maximise peer support. Dr Bllings said: “Also take into consideration that those participating in peer support can actually see it as a burden. It’s not sufficient on its own and it has to be there alongside other interventions.”
- Reduce stigma around mental health. “Culture change is essential,” said Dr Billings. “We have to think about both bottom-up and top-down change and leadership role-modelling and talking about mental health at work.”
- Family-friendly working
- Ensuring people feel valued.