As we head into the dark months, I shift the expectations I have of myself and turn the dial down a few notches. I’m forever thankful to the wise colleague who taught me this essential life lesson and it’s one I’ve since shared with countless clients who’ve welcomed the permission it can give to allow ourselves to be different in winter.
Back in 2012, while writing an article called ‘SAD at work’1 for Counselling at Work, I talked to Cindi Bedor, who was then Head of Staff Counselling at the Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust, about how her team supported NHS staff to respond to winter. Information sharing, awareness raising and workshops on planning for winter, were all offered to help staff psychologically prepare for the impact of shorter days, she told me: ‘Winter is not summer, yet we expect to have the same energy levels and ease of movement as during the long, light, warm days of spring and summer.’ How true.
This winter, I’m conscious of the workforces across industry that are facing increased demand and rising COVID cases while being depleted in so many ways – a lack of staff, empty shelves, shortages of medicines, supply-chain issues, a winter fuel crisis, all occurring in a climate that is hostile to any suggestion that this was actually all predicted in 2019, in Operation Yellowhammer,2 by none other than the UK Government.
Last week a cross-party report3 was published into the Government’s early response to the pandemic claiming it to be the country’s worst public health failing ever, associated with over 150,000 deaths. Strange timing then that Health Secretary Sajid Javid chose the same week to reverse COVID rules, stating that GPs must increase face-to-face appointments and announcing that a league table of GP practices would be introduced to tackle ‘underperformance’.4 Responding to the Health Secretary’s comments, GP, Dr Gora Bangi said that his job had become so ‘daunting and horrible’ that no one wanted to do it.4
Workforce planning is always essential for business, so it’s timely that Helen Kewell takes a look at our changing demographics and writes our fascinating lead article, ‘Are we ready for an ageing workforce?’ Helen, a therapist specialising in working with older adults, argues that a new era is dawning and our society will have to value its older people in new ways, especially when it comes to work. The pandemic showed us how brilliantly adaptable we could be, as individuals and organisations reconfigured what work looked like and where it took place. Similarly creative and innovative responses will be required to adapt to an ageing workforce, and employers will need to resist the urge to shove the flexible working genie back into the bottle.
In ‘Race matters’, Letesia Gibson asks us to reflect on what Gareth Southgate’s masterclass in leadership can teach us about creating a sense of belonging in our workplaces. When you’ve read it, I urge you to pass it on to anyone and everyone you know who has a leadership role. Letesia offers a clear plan for how leaders can become an ally and create an actively anti-racist workplace.
Turning 50 can be one of those moments when we need to take stock and are called to change direction. In ‘My workplace’, I talk to Andy Price, who trained to become a therapist after 30 years as a firefighter.
If you have read something in BACP Workplace that’s got you thinking, or if you have an article idea of your own, I hope you’ll let me know.
Whatever your plans for winter 2021, I wish you well.
1 Banning N. SAD at work. Counselling at Work 2012; autumn
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Views expressed in this article are the views of the writer and not necessarily the views of BACP. Publication does not imply endorsement of the writer’s views. Reasonable care has been taken to avoid errors but no liability will be accepted for any errors that may occur.