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What COVID-19 is teaching us about ourselves

What COVID-19 is teaching us about ourselves

Right now, our sense of community has never been more important. Amongst all the grief and worry, COVID-19 has taught us to be more understanding of other perspectives, to prioritise the vulnerable and isolated, and to be more generous with time and resources.

Should this be any different when 'normal life' resumes? Do we want to go 'back' to normal?

Wednesday 13 May is National Day of Staff Networks; a day to reflect upon and celebrate the work achieved by employee networks to #MakeWorkBetter. Wesleyan have four employee Networks who work to ensure that our employees feel supported to truly be themselves at work. Our networks have their specific focuses (Gender, BAME, LGBT+ and Health and Wellbeing), but work together to create an inclusive culture for all.

Today, our Employee Network Chairs reflect on the current situation and the lessons they'd like to take from this crisis as we work towards our 'new normal'.

Gender Employee Network (GEN):

A health crisis exacerbates inequalities of all kinds. While COVID-19 doesn't discriminate, it doesn't mean that all parts of society are equally affected.

Death and infection rates point to men being more likely than women to contract the disease, and to suffer severe or critical complications if they do.

Right now, women are bearing the economic brunt of COVID-19 in the UK. They're more likely to work in sectors that have been entirely shutdown by the pandemic, and they're more likely to be on zero-hour contracts or in insecure work. 90% of single parents are women - a population that's been hit hard by prolonged school closures.

Women are also on the frontline. 77% of healthcare workers are women and of the 3.2 million workers in 'high risk' roles, more than two-thirds are women.

At a time when people are being told to stay safe at home, reports of domestic violence have surged. In response, we've launched a 'lockdown fundraiser' to raise funds for Refuge.

On the positive side, remote working, flexible hours and openness about the challenges of balancing work and family are coming to the fore in ways that may reshape the future of work forever.

Open Minds Group (OMG!):

This has been a such a strange time for all of us. At home we've been making an effort to keep in touch with all our friends, in particular those who are single and may not be so close to their families because of their sexuality.

Single people, regardless of their orientation, are often very much dependent upon their friends and work colleagues for their social interactions, and now that's even more important.

We all need to make sure we take the time to show our colleagues that we care, to check how they are, to share a laugh and a joke.

We can all set aside some time to have fun, perhaps sharing 'virtual' gossip, coffee and cake to help keep everyone's spirit high.

Black, Ethnic Minority & Everyone (BE ME):

In its early days it was reported as the great leveller, a disease that doesn't discriminate. Unfortunately, that is turning out to be far from the truth.

Those on lower incomes are more likely to be impacted, as are those who live with larger family groupings, with caring responsibilities, or who themselves are unwell or vulnerable for other reasons.

We are also finding that ethnicity seems to play a part with over a third of those in critical care being from minority backgrounds.

We have much yet to learn, but in the meantime let's try to help each other. As our sponsor says: 'Let's check in with our colleagues, be there for them, and try to understand their situation. Show them that We Care'.

Network for Employee Wellbeing (NEW;):

We've come a long way in reducing stigma, but it can still be difficult to open-up on a personal level. This situation has had the side-effect of breaking down barriers; we finally feel able share when we're not coping.

From sharing wellbeing tips on social media, to replacing after-work drinks with video calls, to meeting through Teams, we are now motivated to navigate barriers that we couldn't fully appreciate before.

As our sponsor notes: "It's so important for all of us to make time to prioritise our wellbeing and to look out for those who might be struggling and need our support."

If you are struggling, please don't feel alone. Our Employee Assistance Programme and Mental Health First Aiders are available for you at any time. Our Mental Health for Managers course on WeLearn is also now available online. 

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