The signs that a colleague may be struggling are as diverse as the people themselves
Manager of Freeman Brothers Funeral Directors
As part of the Our Frontline campaign to support the mental health of all those out working to protect us during the coronavirus crisis, we’ll be regularly sharing stories, tips and other thoughts about what life is like for them at the moment, in their own words.
Abi is the Manager of Freeman Brothers Funeral Directors. The firm has seen an increase in workload during the pandemic, but have pulled together as a team to keep their spirits up and ensure their mental wellbeing is supported.
As the Manager of Freeman Brothers Funeral Directors, I feel those in senior positions are essential in encouraging team members to reach out for mental health support, and creating a work environment which fosters supportive conversations about wellbeing. This can be achieved in several ways. For example, our trade associations have sector-specific employee support hotlines and I ensured that my team knew how to access those, but also knew that they were confidential. There are also initiatives such as Our Frontline offering confidential support to all key workers. l think in small teams where you are communicating daily about various issues, it is easier to. Being aware of relationships and understanding who team members are close to and might means you can check up from a distance.
Being honest about times when you have struggled in the past is useful
I also find that being honest about times when you have struggled in the past, or indeed are struggling now, is useful. I particularly keep in mind that a significant part of our workforce is men under the age of 45 which we know is a key demographic that struggles with mental health issues and so transparency and openness which encourage talking, in whatever forum, is very important.
During the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, as funeral directors we were busy (which is stressful in itself), leading tofor on-call teams who may be woken more than usual to respond in the night. It was important to differentiate ‘normal’ responses to the fear and uncertainty we felt around with something more serious or longer-lasting.
I’ve noticed that the signs that a colleague may be struggling with their mental health have been as diverse as the people themselves. Sometimes it depends on knowing people’s characters so, for example someone cheerful and vocal may become withdrawn. Equally, a quieter team member might become louder as if they are overcompensating. Changes in attendance or punctuality are another indicator.
We have really bonded together as a team
Keeping up morale throughout this difficult year has been crucial. At Freeman brothers, we’ve ensured there were plenty of healthy snacks (and a few non-healthy treats) available to keep the team’s nutrient levels up. Several team members have embraced the trend for baking and shared recipes and their results. We have a staff newsletter where colleagues can share jokes, recommendations about good service they have received from other local businesses and celebrate birthdays and other events. We also planned some fun activities such as a baby shower for a colleague starting maternity leave, and have done more of this during the second lockdown to try to keep spirits up. Like other key workers, we have really bonded together as a team during this very difficult period – shared experiences tend to do that, in my experience – which I hope will be helpful in future times.