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Beyond lockdown: looking after our mental health

As the gradual easing of lockdown continues, for many of us this brings long-awaited reunions, social plans and the pressures of the pandemic starting to ease. Unfortunately, the challenges and isolation of the past 14 months aren’t just going to vanish overnight, and the effect on people’s mental health will likely be long lasting. At Principle One we are committed to doing everything we can to help our staff navigate their way through the changes ahead. In addition to the measures already in place, we have introduced new ideas to make the transition back to working in the office as easy as possible.

We have always supported flexible working at Principle One, taking into account the needs of the business, our clients and our staff. This covers a range of measures including flexible hours, part time working, unpaid leave or leave to volunteer, and healthcare benefits which include provision for mental health support. We have built up a strong and supportive team culture since Principle One was founded in 2018 and were conscious of the need to strengthen the support we provide our staff as we went into our first lockdown last year.

Moving our weekly knowledge sharing session online provided a focus for connecting our staff and associates back to the team, allowing us to touch base with everyone, share knowledge about different projects and hear from external speakers. This has helped establish a rhythm to our week – and enabled new starters to learn about the broad portfolio of work we are involved in while figuring out where they can go for help and support.

Lockdown 2.0 saw us invest in staff training around mental health first aid, with two staff attending a mental health first aider course last year. This enables them to act as a sounding board for staff who may be struggling with ill mental health, especially while working remotely, and help signpost the services and tools that are available.

We’ve also introduced a weekly coffee catch up – an opportunity to sign up for a lucky dip catch up with a colleague while working remotely; this has given staff old and new a chance to get to know colleagues on a more informal basis. We’ve now run this for 16 weeks with more than two thirds of the team signing up each week and it continues to be so popular, with a few catch ups beginning to take place in person, that it’s likely to be a permanent fixture post lockdown.

With lockdown beginning to ease, we wanted to set ourselves a team goal as part of Mental Health Awareness Week (10th - 16th May 2021). Although we can’t yet all get together in one place, we wanted to take on a challenge that everyone could take part in and would benefit us all. With the theme of nature at the centre of the 2021 mental health awareness campaign, we set the team the challenge to walk 1000 miles over a two week period as part of National Walking Month’s #WalkThisMay’s campaign.

Whether it’s a lunchtime walk, a fake commute or walking part way to our offices in Vauxhall, the team have been racking up the miles daily over the last fortnight with some heroic efforts in wind, rain and hail at the weekend to raise our total.

As part of this challenge, we are also raising money for our partner charity Police Care UK who provide help to serving and veteran police officers, staff, volunteers and their families who have suffered physical or psychological harm as a result of their work in policing.

Police Care rely entirely on donations and fundraising to provide mental health services and practical support to those affected and it’s been great to support them in a small way through our fundraising efforts. We were lucky enough to have Teri Kearsey from Police Care join the weekly knowledge sharing meeting to tell the team about the impact that our fundraising will have, before sending us out to get a few more miles in. More information about Police Care and the work they do is here.

Many of us will experience new anxieties as we move out of lockdown, establishing different routines and ways of interacting. We should never feel reluctant to ask for help with our mental health and providing the right support to our teams has never been more important.

Principle One has drawn on the guidance provided by the Mental Health Foundation to help us evolve the support we offer to our staff as we all adapt to keep pace with our changing world.


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