Our Training Manager, Sophie Francis, has written the first Flannery blog. She’s passionate about Mental Health and the wellbeing of our team. This blog is a summary of the steps we have taken over the last twelve weeks to support each other. We hope that it is informative and can help you to make positive steps to increase your personal wellbeing and those of your colleagues. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to get in touch.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has posed a huge threat to both our physical and mental health. Everyday activities that we have previously taken for granted, like getting outside and spending time with family and friends, have been temporarily halted (or limited). For many, job security, financial stability and the health of families and friends all hung in the balance. As lockdown measures are cautiously being lifted, it’s a good time to reflect on some of the positive steps taken to support those in need and how the pandemic has raised awareness and empathy around mental health issues. Now more than ever it is important that we recognise kindness and its value, as we were reminded in Mental Health Awareness week last month and many times during the last twelve weeks.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, like many other companies, we had to make some big business changes. The introduction of increased home working and limiting travel to sites were two of the biggest challenges we faced. With these changes, it was vital that the senior team carefully considered the effect it would have on our teams. Construction is a fast-paced workplace. It requires constant operational decisions that then have to be communicated, all of which demands exceptional teamwork. Stepping up communications during this unprecedented time was paramount.

For us, it was important that our teams had the necessary resources to adapt to their new ‘working environment’. People sit at the centre of the Flannery proposition and so we sought ways to minimise the impact on their physical and emotional well-being. As we entered into lockdown, all staff were trained on how to effectively work from home, which included an introduction to virtual communication platforms, tips to look after their mental health and ways to support others. We introduced a weekly engagement newsletter, with each issue focusing on mental health and well-being advice, ways to communicate effectively in our “new world” and upcoming team events and activities. We wanted our teams to immediately feel a sense of “togetherness” despite our distance.

We started a weekly virtual quiz and competitions to maintain contact and engagement with our team, as well as a 10k Virtual Dash which has raised over £5000 for The Lighthouse Club Family Crisis Appeal. The Flannery Team walked, ran and cycled for a charity that does fantastic work for the construction industry. Over thirty-five members of the team took part, and collectively we dashed over 350km! These activities were a big success with input from the Flannery Family, office teams, operators, lorry drivers and apprentices. At a time when we could have drifted apart they have definitely bought us closer together.

We understand that supporting others can have a significant impact on our own mental health and wellbeing. To this end we engaged with our team to find charities that are important to us all, this included local Foodbanks, The Lighthouse Club and homeless shelters. We also encouraged our teams to get behind some of their local community initiatives, with many delivering shopping to vulnerable people. One member of staff began making facemasks for the NHS out of unwanted fabric, another chats to vulnerable people in the evenings to provide companionship over the phone and another made personalised keyrings in aid of the Dogs Trust. We are very proud of how our teams have stepped up and have supported others during this difficult time.

Throughout the lockdown we also continued to work with Mental Health First Aid England to run online courses for our teams and also made COVID-19 Resilience Training available to staff. This workshop was designed to reduce the impact of the pandemic. It brought together groups of staff in a supportive, safe space, aiming to increase personal insight, boost resilience, and to support and inspire in equal measure. Other contact included the launch of our online training videos and remote toolbox talk series, although not linked directly wellbeing and mental health we felt these were an effective method of communication and “keeping in touch” with our more remote team.

We are proud of the programs and work that we do to promote mental health and wellbeing across the business. Whilst we have always put our people first, COVID-19 has without doubt introduced us to new and effective ways of better supporting our teams. Our culture is open, and we will now look to further build on our experiences during this crisis. Empathy has been a key driver to help the industry get through this together, and we now need to continue these positive steps forwards, which will in turn break down the barriers surrounding mental health.”