Being part of a supportive team is a great thing.
At their best, teams promote a sense of community, shared purpose and pride. And being happy at work is an important factor in good mental health
Lots of people working in health and social care feel part of strong teams already. Our role here is to sustain these against the particular challenges of the pandemic; shielding, social distancing, exhaustion and new teams being quickly formed.
Below are some suggestions from us and tips from colleagues on things you can do to support your teams
Do your best to maintain the routines and structures which support staff in normal times. Pay particular attention to staff who are disconnected from their colleagues, through shielding or absence and those who are new to the team. Try to get to know them and make sure you stay in touch with people working at home.
Encourage teams to find ways to still be teams. Protect time for team activities; formal meetings and informal coffee breaks, either in real life and virtually. If Wednesday was the day you all had a breakfast roll together, then try to still do this. These routines and this informal social support are at the heart of what keeps us well at work.
Recognise problems, acknowledge losses, share and celebrate positives. Build links with other teams and help staff see their work as part of a local and national response to Covid19. We’re all in this together.
Perhaps you could spend 10 minutes at the beginning and/or end of shift managing stress with this offer from Scottish Ballet – Health at Hand: Movement and Breath sessions for NHS and Social Care staff. Each 10-minute session is designed to address physical and mental health, and is accompanied by specially created music.
We check in with each other…we celebrate successes
We have virtual coffee chats with each other and permission to be flexible with our hours
Everyone is playing an essential role contributing to the national response to COVID-19 and a common feature of a crisis response is the need to form new teams. Currently facing COVID-19, many people within these teams are also faced with new roles that are unfamiliar to them and new colleagues.
The team has a critical role not just in delivering essential health and care services, but also in sustaining resilience and protecting workforce wellbeing. Mental wellbeing in threatening situations is supported by the resilience that comes from social and peer support. The connections between team members are, therefore, an essential component in our response to COVID-19 in protecting individuals’ physical and mental health both in the immediate and long term. It is vital that within teams in Health and Social Care – whether newly formed or familiar – that meaningful team engagement and participation is enabled.
No matter how short a time, building rapid team reviews into daily team routines – virtual or in person – provides dedicated, predictable space allowing team members to learn together, support each other, understand the team’s shared values, celebrate success and reflect on their experiences shared. According to the Kings Fund, time spent on the above reaps a 35% improvement in wellbeing.
There can be confusion between the language and function of professional or performance debriefs, which are recommended, and Psychological Debriefing, which is not. This paper clarifies the difference and recommends Psychological First Aid.
Professional debriefs are an opportunity to discuss both teamwork (communication, cooperation and coordination) and taskwork (technical aspects of the job). They can focus on what went well (continue doing this) as well as what could be done differently in the future.
Carey explains how they’re using daily huddles at their General Practice:
“It’s really important to connect and communicate. Our team has a daily huddle to discuss challenges and solutions.”
As healthcare services begin to explore ways to reset and restore following the initial outbreak of COVID-19 the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has published a report Developing professional identity in multi-professional teams setting out how team working involving a wide group of healthcare professionals improves both patient care and staff wellbeing.
Extensively researched, using focus groups and case studies from across the UK, the report also shows:
You can read the report here
When working with teams beyond your own, key principles to hold in mind include:
Be thoughtful about the needs of others; the success of your team depends on the effective functioning of others.
Check in with them.
Choose an appropriate time and ask how they’re doing. Let them know that you’ve noticed that they seem a bit different (e.g. flat, irritable, tearful) and are wondering if you can help.
Don’t be surprised if they don’t open up there and then. (Remember they didn’t know you were going to ask them, even if you spent ages preparing your approach. The main thing is they will have clocked that you are interested in their welfare and someone they can turn to if they want to in the future.
If they do open up, don’t feel you need to fix things. Listening is powerful in itself. Having space to talk and think and knowing that someone cares is really helpful.
Depending on the source of the stress, you can signpost them to this website for practical help, on understanding their reactions and tips on coping. If they would like additional support they can find information on where to call on the Support for You page.
If you would like more information on how to effectively support those around you during this time you can find more information here on Psychological First Aid. PFA is based on a set of principles that we know help people to cope with and recover from ongoing situations like those arising from COVID19. There’s also an e-learning module designed to teach the principles of PFA to anyone who is delivering health or social care.