Becky Thoseby: Supporting employees during the festive period

Becky Thoseby: Supporting employees during the festive period

With autumn weather already here, increased restrictions across England and grim predictions for the coming months, many people will be looking towards winter with trepidation, and this is likely to affect their wellbeing. At Ministry of Justice (MOJ), we have, therefore, been looking at how to safeguard employee wellbeing during the challenging winter months.

We take a person-centred approach to wellbeing, with the line manager at its heart, so one of the important things for us is to recognise that not all our employees will be having the same experience of the pandemic, and will have different needs to be met. An employee put it beautifully when she said, ‘we are not all in the same boat, we are all in the same storm. Some people will be experiencing the storm differently, and some peoples’ boats will be leakier’. So our winter wellbeing programme will be inclusion focused to ensure that nobody is left behind.

One of the obvious landmarks of winter is Christmas, and there are also other religious festivals coming up during the winter months such as Diwali and Chanukah. We recognise that for many people, these festivals are something to look forward to and a way of getting through the winter months; however this year they may have to be celebrated in a different way. To help staff who might be feeling down about this, we will be running a webinar entitled ‘Reframing Our Festivals’ looking at alternative and fun ways to celebrate, and innovative ways to connect with loved ones who we cannot be with physically. Building on the success of our ‘by staff, for staff’ webinars during lockdown, the facilitator will be an employee from our leadership and capability team who ran a popular session on positive thinking during uncertain times. We received great feedback that our staff loved having sessions run by MOJ staff and it increased their sense of connection to the organisation, so it was important to me to continue this method of delivery through this work on winter wellbeing.

For the rest of the programme, we will be focusing on what worked for us during lockdown: storytelling communications, toolkits and webinars. A good line manager relationship incorporating regular wellbeing conversations will be key to meeting individual employees’ needs through autumn and winter, so I will continue to promote the line managers’ e-learning and toolkit for wellbeing conversations that I introduced during lockdown. The toolkit provides a framework to have an action-focused wellbeing conversation where responsibility for the individual’s wellbeing is shared between themselves and their line manager. The e-learning walks managers through how to have this conversation, while providing context around what drives workplace wellbeing and what the line manager’s responsibilities really are.

Autumn and winter this year may bring wellbeing challenges like never before, but my hope is that the increased profile of workplace wellbeing that the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has brought about will enable many employers to meet this challenge better than ever.

Becky Thoseby is head of workplace wellbeing at Ministry of Justice.