Hunts and Cambs 01223 233047
Peterborough 01733 553166

Hunts and Cambs 01223 233047
Peterborough 01733 553166

The link between the pandemic and suicide

There are many factors relating to suicide and the feeling of hopelessness and that there is no other solution to ending the pain of life.  Financial hardship and job instability as well as health concerns are all proven causes of anxiety and depression, so a combination of all of these during a pandemic are going to combine to create a very difficult situation indeed for some people.

All of these factors are likely to cause social isolation - a major contributor to poor mental health.  All contribute to a pessimistic outlook.  All may affect your close personal relationships.  All will be difficult to deal with for those with an existing mental health disorder.  All have a stigma associated with them, meaning a victim of any or all is less likely to seek support.  Add to the mix that anyone who preceives themself to be the breadwinner of the family unit, will feel extra pressure and be less likely to confide in other family members.  During a pandemic, people are generally less able to continue with their usual routines and coping mechanisms - eg CLANGERS - connecting with support networks, learning, being active, spending time in nature, eating healthily, relaxing and sleeping well.  They are also more likely to indulge in unhealty coping mechanisms such as excessive indulgence in news or unhealthy habits such as smoking, alcohol or drugs, violence or self-harm.  

The final major factor in the mix is bereavement.  Grief is a difficult process to go through even in more normal times, but with additional pressures, a sufferer is more likely to get stuck in one of the stages and be unable to more through into acceptance.  When someone loses a parent, child or partner, they may feel that they have nothing left to live for and find it difficult to foresee a happy future for themselves.  Those who believe in an afterlife may also yearn to join their loved one in a place of rest, convinced that would be a preferable option to continuing to live in the moral world.  At a time when thousands have people have been bereaved because of COVID-19, we need to be aware of the signs of suicide and how to support anyone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts.

The stats

Of course we won't know for some time (or ever, if the statisticians can't agree on how to compile the data) how many people have died as a direct result of COVID, and how many people have lost their jobs or been prevented from getting the job they would have had because of COVID, and given those who die by suicide are not always clear to others about the reasons for their decision, we may not even know how many people take their own lives as a direct result of COVID, but we do know that all of these things have a clear impact on mental health, which in turn affects levels of suicide.

What we do know, is that pre-COVID, many suicides were shown to be linked to unemployment and financial hardship.

According to the WHO, one in five suicides is linked to unemployment

Almost two thirds of those claiming health related benefits have had suicidal thoughts and are six times more likely than the general population to attempt to take their own lives.

Although statistically women are more likely to suffer from a mental health problem than men, they are more likely to seek help, so more men die by suicide each year, particularly middle aged men.

What should organisations be doing?

If your organisation does not consider the possibility and potential impact of an attempted or successful suicide amongst one of your staff members, you are lacking in your risk assessments.  It is imperative that you equip your line managers, workforce influencers and mental health first aiders or champions with the skills to identify when someone is struggling and how to support them, as well as understanding where their responsibilty as work colleagues begins and ends.  Too many managers either consider it to be a personal problem and don't want to get involved, or take on their colleague as a personal project, being available to them 24/7 and crossing professional boundaries.  The ideal solution is to create a supportive environment and a culture of openess and non-judgement whilst ensuring you have the practical mechanisms in place for them to access support quickly and without cost to themselves.  This is particularly important during times of organisational change, restructuring or redundancy when people who are already vulnerable can tip over into a dangerous state of mind.

Find out more about suicide here

Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to discuss counselling support or line manager workshops.  Give your teams the skills to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.  Should the worst happen, contact CCC for crisis support and ongoing proactive solutions. 

 

 

Depression and anxiety rise during the coronavirus pandemic

One in 5 people has suffered from depression in the pandemic

 
According to the Office for National Statistics, twice as many adults are suffering from depression as this time last year.

One in 5 people say they are experiencing symptoms, as opposed to one in ten previously.  It's hardly surprising that people have struggled with what has been a massive change to most of our lives and uncertainty about health, personal safety, availability of food, and job security as well as life limiting restrictions on our personal movement.  For many people, especially those who live alone and have been unable to attend their usual workplace, isolation has significantly affected their mood.  For some, their personal safety has been put at risk, either because of their risky working environment or because of an unstable home life.

Those most at risk include people under 40, women, people living with disability, and those without savings.  Those who have been just keeping their heads clear during normal circumstance with a programme of self-care have found the additional pressures of the pandemic have tipped them over the edge into a more unstable condition. However, even people who have never previously struggled with their mental health are reporting occasional and longer term challenges as the pandemic continues.  Thus far, the UK has been blessed with relatively good weather, and since April, falling death and infection rates, but as the winter months approach, and we become less able to take advantage of outdoor meetings and hobbies, it's possible that the mental health of the nation may reach crisis point.
 
As with all mental health issues, early intervention is key if a longer term and more difficult to manage condition is to be avoided.  Therefore, anyone who feels they are on the edge of a diagnosable mental health problem is advised to seek help straight away if they are to avoid further health complications and potential time away from work.  Employers are urged to support their staff through their mental health struggles, both by effective line management and by offering professional support to minimise the potential cost of mental health problems to their business.  Absence through mental health not only costs the employer in terms of sick pay and line management, but also backfilling workload and supporting phased return to work.  Long term absence because of depression requires particularly careful management.  Supporting staff may incur and initial cost of a few hundred pounds but avoids the above expenditure or cost of replacing staff as well as promoting a good relationship between staff and management.  Any staff member who has been supported through a difficult period is more likely to show company loyalty, be more productive, be less likely to leave the business, and importantly, will promote a positive impression of your business as an employer, attracting other good people to work for you.  It is said that the younger generations increasingly value staff welfare and benefits over salary and promotion prospects in today's job market.

 

As we come out of lockdown, anxiety is increasing

As restrictions are lifted in most areas, many people are keen to return to some kind of normality, but for others, the return to work and going out brings a whole new set of challenges.  Whlst some, particularly those with additional health challenges who were able to work from home, were safe and happy in their own small bubble, the thought of putting themselves and their families at risk by returning to work and school and being in the same place as other people is causing a great deal of stress.  A study by HealthDay shows that rates of anxiety were nearly 400% up in May 2020 from January of the same year and anecdotal evidence and referrals to counseling services indicate that those figures are growing steadily.  Educational and business leaders need to recognise and address concerns before enforcing a return to school and work and take into account the personal circumstances of each individual.  We also need to question whether a need to return to the same as before is necessary or even desireable.  Some staff will have found that the ability to work from home (on at least a part time basis) has increased productivity and staff wellbeing as travel costs and stress are reduced and interruptions may be fewer.  A good business leader will review the effects and changes of the pandemic objectively and consider continuing with the positive measures they introduced, whilst eliminating those that have adversely affected their business.  Many of us have embraced new technology which has allowed a different way of working, perhaps more efficiently and effectively?
 
The added change of adopting personal protective equipment such as masks and visors is likely to increase the anxiety around returning to work.  Many will find these uncomfortable, especially if worn for prolongued periods of time, but some will experience panic attacks and feel completely unable to wear them.  There is a lot of hype about people with certain conditions being physically unable to wear masks, but in truth, unless you are actually experiencing an asthma attach at that moment, or have a specific physical condition which limits your airflow at all times, most of the issues with wearing masks are psychological.  Try to reassure staff of the necessity and benefits of wearing a mask, and listen calmly about their concerns.  Show them the equipment you will be providing and discuss how it can be worn safely or adapted for their needs.  Allow them to practise wearing it and increase their time wearing it gradually.  Be sympathetic but firm if there is a clear need.  Seek professional advice where necessary. 

 

Managing a return to work in a pandemic

 
The CIPD reccommends the following key tests before returning staff to the workplace:
 
Is it essential?
Can any part of their role be done from home or by one person in the workplace at a time?  Do tasks need to be reorganised to minimise the number of people who need to return to the workplace at once?  Consider prioritising a return for those who really want to return.  Some people will consider themselves to be very low risk (or have already has the virus) and may be struggling with their mental health or personal safety at home more than they would at work.
 
Is it safe?
All employers have a duty of care to staff, even if there are only a couple of employees.  Carry out a risk assessment and ensure that all reasonable measures are put in place to ensure the safety of your workforce.  Consider physical and mental health and balance the risks of work and home.
 
Is it mutually agreed?
It is vital that any changes are discussed openly and honestly and agreed.  Conditions for any indiviudal should be considered not only in the workplace, but also their journey to work and during any breaks.  There will need to be flexibility on both sides and a trial period with a clear set of points to review should be introduced, with regular consideration of a changing environement, both in the workplace, in the country of local area and in personal circumstances. 
 
What additional support should be put in place?
Regular review with a line manager or trusted colleague is essential.  People will need more support than before and you must not assume that just because someone has been strong in the past, that they will be fine now.  No-one is able to predict who will and will not struggle with their new normal.  Look out for signs of someone struggling and be prepared to initiate caring and supporting conversations at times when they are willing to open up, not just when it's convenient for your schedule.  Enlist the services of professional counsellors where necessary, particularly where someone is experiencing irrational fear about their situation but remember that what you consider to be acceptable risk may not apply to someone else.
 
If you have mental health first aiders in your organisation, remember that they are first line support, not professional counsellors.  They, line managers and HR teams may need additional support as they grapple with the stresses of their colleagues on tops of their own role responsibilities and managing furlough or even redundancy.  Those providing support also need support.  Find out about CCC's facilitated peer support services by contacting CCC's BDM. 
 

We may all be in the same storm, but we are all in very different boats!

To find out about counselling support or mental health awareness sessions for your staff, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Tips for working from home during isolation

Working from home is on the increase as technology allows increased flexibility in the office.  But for many, this current period of isolation is a new experience and home working is providing some challenges.  You've survived the first couple of weeks, but with no clear end date in sight, how can you thrive in the longer term?

 As a worker

Maintain normal working hours

Familiarity of routines may help you to feel more focussed and organise your time better.  You need to be available to colleagues when you usually are and are more likely to be able to reach others during their standard working timetable.  Lack of availability from either party will cause frustration and increase your workload.

Designate a workspace

Unless used to hot-desking, very few of us find we are able to completely clear our desks at the end of every day.  Although we are increasingly operating in low-paper environments, there will be inevitable clutter associated with your work time.  Have a designated space to carry out your work and somewhere to tidy your things to at the end of the day.  Separating work from home physically and mentally as far as possible will help you to switch off at the end of the working day and create less conflict with the people you share your living space with.

Get the right tools for the job

With little or no notice for home working, some workers will be struggling with unsuitable tools to do their job.  Accept that things won't be perfect or as you may have them in your usual workplace, but try to make reasonable adjustments to assist you and reduce your frustration or associated problems.  If your internet connection is slow, consider upgrading.  This can be arranged remotely and although may have additional costs associated with the change, it may be worth the investment and result in better productivity and less frustration.  Your employer may be willing to help you with any costs in the short term.  Likewise, carry out a basic risk assessment on your workstation.  Use cushions and pads to ensure your back is supported if you are using a chair which is not designed for extended periods of sitting.  If your screen is not at the correct height and you find yourself with neckache at the end of your shift, stack some books under it to elevate it to a comfortable level.

Take regular breaks

 Particularly important if you are not fully comfortable at your temporary workstation, but also as you are likely to be spending more time staring at a screen, even during your leisure time, it is important to take breaks and vary your body stance.  If you are on phone calls, stand up, try stretching and doing simple exercises for a few minutes in each hour to ensure your blood is flowing and your body doesn't become stiff.  Even a break to make a drink or do the washing up and be a welcome change of posture.  Ensure you take advantage of your daily outdoor exercise too for a complete change of scene and for fresh air.

 Agree boundries with the others in your living space

Ideally you should be able to work in a separate room away from the other people in your property, but not everyone has this luxury.  Therefore it's important to agree when you can and cannot be disturbed.  This is particularly difficult if you have young children at home, but if you have another adult with you, enlist their support in ensuring certain times are quiet and uninterrupted, especially when in virtual meetings, unless you want to become a viral YouTube sensation!

 Use technology wisely

Try to replicate your usual meeting routine, whilst taking the opportunity to drop anything that isn't productive.  Review which meetings are worthwhile and continue them but take the opportunity to stop doing things that are more habit than use.  Whilst video chat and telephone meetings are useful, it does mean more time on your phone.  Give yourself the same rules as when in your usual workplace and don't let yourself be distracted by social media and personal calls.  Activate unavailable messages where appropriate, turn off notifications during your working time and tell friends and family not to contact you during certain hours.  This will allow you to be more productive.  

Schedule in time to catch up with colleagues

Remote working can present additional challenges in working relationships.  Without the same visual clues and social nicities, communication can be misinterpreted, particularly at a time when people may be more axious about their personal or financial situation, their job security, workload, deadlines or are just finding the change a struggle.  Be extra sensitive to the possibility of upsetting people, use email to confirm verbal agreements where possible rather than relying on it and check in on people whom you haven't spoken to for a while.  It's easy to get caught up in your own silo and forget to advise other stakeholders of what you are doing, so ensure you let people know what you are working on and ask about them, even if at first it may seem they will be unaffected.  Ask colleagues how they are.  They may welcome the opportunity to offload and appreciate your kindness.

Review your own progress

It might be difficult for your line manager to review and recognise your progress during this period, so ensure you maintain your motivation by setting your own daily goals and reviewing your progress in achieving them.  If there are obstacles which are preventing your success and you can't overcome them, allow more time to complete tasks and explain to your line manager what is different,  Use your own feedback sandwich, listing your achievements, outlining what may not have been a success and summarising with the positive elements of how you are adjusting what you are doing and what you hope to achieve before you next report back.  Don't wait to be asked.  Your line manager has additional challenges too. 

 As a team leader

Check in with people regularly

Speak to all of your team individually and as a group more regularly than you ordinarily might.  Remember that these times may be a big change for them with new obstacles and additional workload.  Consider that some people may be more prone to bouts of anxiety than others (not always who you imagine) and some may have additional health concerns which affect how well they perform.  Try to adapt to the needs of each individual and underline your support for them and that you can be contacted if they need you.  Ensure you organise group meetings too, which should allow time for personal interaction and exchange as well as covering the crucial business needs.  It's important to make people that they are individuals and they matter and to acknowledge their successes and additional challenges as well as keeping information flowing more than usual.

Agree priorities

With less supervision, people tend to gravitate towards the tasks they like to do rather than what is important for the business and if it's all part of their job role, why wouldn't they?  Ensure you set SMART objectives as you usually would but think shorter term.  Things in this climate are changing on a dailly basis and it's important to review and revise goals regularly, even if you think they may be unchanged.  Rather than giving orders, ask where your team see their priorities and why.  Work together to ensure the important things are done to deadline.  Choose the right time and tone for any discussion about performance and goals.

 Be positive

Your team may need more reassurance at the moment.  Give it!  You will reap the rewards.  Give praise where it is due and ensure successes are recognised.  If there are negatives to be highlighted, prioritise what is urgent.  Criticism is unlikely to be received as well over a telephone chat or video link (where many visual clues of response are lost on the untrained eye) as in person.  Be clear but sensitive.  Limit chat about the negative aspects of the news coverage.  Some of your team may be struggling with the uncertainty and don't need further reinforcement in their work space.  If you want to talk about current affairs, try to offset any negatives with a positive slant and always end any interraction with a positive statement or a light-hearted or humerous mood booster.  Together you can do this!

Tips on returning to work after a break

 
You may have spent the past few weeks lazing around in your nightwear, eating chocolate and watching films.  You might even have been struck down by the widespread virus.  So the idea of returning to work after a prolonged period away is particularly uninviting to many especially after what may have been a relaxing break.
 
Here are some tips to help you approach your return to work with more positivity and make the most of your first few days back in the saddle.
 

Preparation is key

Ensure that you're ready for that dreaded alarm call by doing as much preparation during the night before as possible.  Decide what you are going to wear, remind yourself where you need to be and what the day has in store for you, make a healthy snack and ensure you are prepared for your journey (that there is fuel in the car, your train or bus ticket is valid and handy and your car actually starts).  If you car share, maybe remind your lift or passenger of the pick-up time and wish them a Happy New Year).  Most importantly, practice good sleep hygiene to do your best to be fresh for your first day.

Good sleep

Although there are many factors that can influence how well we sleep, there are some tried and tested dos and don'ts.

  • Do ensure that your sleep environement is relaxing and comfortable
  • Do take some fresh air or exercise during the day but not immediately before going to bed
  • Do have a hot milky drink and a relaxing bath before bed
  • Do ensure that your room is a comfortable temperature - not too hot or too cold
  • Do ensure that the room is dark and quiet

 

  • Don't engage in any activity that is too stimulating during the couple of hours before going to bed, such as playing video games, watching scary or thought provoking drama, arguing with your family
  • Don't eat or drink caffeine or sugar during the 12 hours before going to bed
  • Don't look at blue light immediately before trying to sleep, such as TV or mobile phone
  • Don't use artificial methods to induce sleep, such as drugs or alcohol.  Although they may help you to drift off, your sleep quality is likely to be poor so you wake up feeling groggy

Positive mental attitude

Try to think about what you enjoy about work, rather than the things you like less.  Remind yourself of all the good things you did during the previous year and congratulate yourself on your successes.  Focus on what helped you to succeed and resolve to repeat that success and start afresh with projects and colleagues.

Get organised

Start by organising your desk and workload.  Declutter your workspace, shred old files, reorganise your folders and tackle your bursting email inbox.  Rather than dealing with each item in chronological order, take time to prioritise and manage your first week effectively, creating a realistic 'to do list' and scheduling meetings and deadlines for the following days and weeks.  Catch up with colleagues and clients to establish their priorities to help you set your goals to benefit everyone in the team.

Set goals and SMART objectives for your new start

When you have seen what is on your list, decide on your goals for the day, then look at the next few days, and finally look longer term.  Be clear with anyone pushing you to meet an unrealistic deadline that the quality of work may suffer if sufficient time is not available for you to give their project your full attention and be sure to focus on what you can do, rather than what you can't.

Don't feel you need to do everything in the first day.  If you feel tired at the end of your working day but still have things to do, go home and schedule additional time for when you are more able to cope with the pace and demands of your working day.  Make the most of supportive colleagues and be a supportive colleague to others if you are coping well. 

Be kind to yourself.  Take proper scheduled breaks and kick start your diet and exercise resolutions by making healthy choices.  Better to have a 10 minute brisk walk in the fresh air, than spend 30 minutes moaning to a colleague.  Better to have a nutrient-rich light lunch than to skip a meal.

If it's all too much...

Speak to your line manager or HR about how you are feeling.  If you don't feel any better after a couple of days, review your wellbeing plan and how well you are looking after your physical and mental health.  If things haven't improved after a few weeks, it's time to get to the bottom of the problem.  There may be things about your work or personal life that you need to change.  If you need help to identify what's bothering you, counselling support may help.

 

To book a session, contact your nearest CCC reception.

Peterborough - 01733 553166         Hunts and Cambs - 01223 233047

Your employer may agree to fund your sessions.  If this is the case, ask them to contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to arrange support for you.

 

 

 

 

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How to change your workplace culture

 
In today's competitive environment, recruiting and keeping the right people is tough and sought-after staff are making increasingly advanced choices about where to work.  Where high salaries and career opportunities once topped the wishlist of prospective employees, work/life balance is increasingly playing a large part in their decision making process about which employer to work with.  Short commutes, flexible holiday arrangements and wellbeing initiatives are increasingly part of the equation and it is the caring, more supportive organisations with a range of wellbeing initiatives in place who are attracting the best people.  Less stress is the name of the game.
 
As a result, many organisations are looking at wellbeing in the workplace, but those who merely pay lip service to the initiatives and see it as a tick box exercise may find and recruit the best people, but will soon find that the costs of a high staff turnover outweigh any benefits.  Employees rarely go back to an employer where they had a bad experience, but will often return to a good one once they realise that the extra few pounds in their pocket each month is poor compensation for bad management and a toxic atmosphere.  Companies who argue that some employees exploit their goodwill are missing the fact that these are in the minority and that whatever your approach to staff welfare, poor performance must be managed rather than ignored.
 

So what changes should I make?

Culture is infectious!

Try and look at your company culture objectively.  If most people consistently work a 70 hour week, despite being on a 40 hour contract, any new people will observe and slip into the cultural norm.  Whilst this might give you short term gains, staff will quickly develop burnout, feel exploited, work out their hourly rate, and worst of all, not make productive use of the time they are working, instead using the time to bemoan their plight to other co-workers and spread feelings of resentment towards the organisation.  If the managers and sending and expecting replies to emails at 11pm and 5am, staff will feel that their personal time is being invaded.  If managers are dictatorial and dogmatic rather than collaborative, or take credit for the achievements of their staff and blame them for their mistakes, any colleagues promoted to those positions will behave in that way because that is what they have experienced from their managers.

To change the social norms, encourage managers to listen to staff and work as a team to provide solutions to problems rather than imposing new process.  If people feel that they have been part of the solution, they are much more engaed in trying to make it work.  Encourage staff to take breaks, work effectively rather than long hours, and reward achievement.  Encourage a collaborative approach and an open environment where problems can be discussed openly without fear of retribution.  Put in place a structure wellbeing programme to promote good physical and mental health and encourage people to work together to maintain their health in a mutually supportive environment.

 

Redefine Success

Whilst success is seen as reaching the top of the management structure, earning most money, reaping most benefits and stamping on others to get where you want to be, a dog eat dog culture will prevail.  Encourage initiative which promote a kinder, more supportive workplace and strive for happiness.  Allow people to be who they are, provided it doesn't negatively impact others, encourage volunteering and helping others, both at work and as part of a society, and promote healthy living - both physically and mentally.  Redfine success as living authentically, purposefully and healthily and promote the goal of creating a better environment in the workplace.

 

Build a community

If people exist only as individuals they eventually feel isolated and in competition with their colleagues.  Teams need to know each other and understand each other's strengths and weaknesses in order to be able to function effectively.  Difference should be embraced.  Although most research shows that our natural instincts are to surround ourselves with like-linded personalities with a common ethos, team building models all recognise that in order for projects to succeed, a variety of skillsets and approaches are necessary.  A team full of 'completer finishers' will never make any changes or get anything implemented, whereas a room full of plants will conflict and not see projects through to the end.  Encourage teamwork and help people to recognise where they fit and how they contribute.

If new staff are just given a workspace and a job specification and left to achieve their goals independently, they will bring the culture from their old workplace, which is always a bit of a gamble.  People recreate what they already know as it is the path of least resistance, but if this doesn't match with your culture or where you want to be, there will be conflict.  So don't leave it to chance.  When new people join you, assign a buddy who already demonstrates the culture you are aiming for.  Ensure they introduce the new person to all of the specialists, that they know where to go for help and that it's OK to ask for help, and most importantly, ensure that it's more important to be kind, collaborative and supportive than to shine by being selfish, isolated and concerned only with the success of their department.  Introduce the idea of shared goals, company-wide success and humanity.

If we do not actively create the culture we want, another culture will develop on its own, which could be terminally damaging to the reputation and sustainability of your organisation.

 

CCC can help to support your wellbeing programme with general counselling, mental health awareness and stress management programmes.  Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to find out more.