19
Aug
Stand Agency

Reframing annual leave – a win for mental health, the environment and local businesses

Posted by Stand AgencyTagged , , , , , ,

Whether it’s our environmental conscience, Brexit-fuelled visa uncertainty or – yes, you guessed it – the pandemic, the way we are thinking about holidays has changed.

Firstly, we’ve been forced to reconsider how we approach annual leave. In the past taking days off from work almost invariably meant travel, often travel overseas. Over the past year of course things have been different, and the pandemic forced us to rethink how we use our annual leave entitlement. There’s a reason the Government makes it compulsory for employers to give their staff annual leave – and it isn’t because they want us to be catching flights to exotic locales! It’s because working continuously without any breaks is bad for productivity, results in poor mental health, and the risk of burnout.

The mental health benefits of taking time off are well-documented and understood. In 2020 many employers reported their staff weren’t using up annual leave, hoping to save it up for when international travel resumed. Sadly, for many, this wait wasn’t fruitful and just resulted in unclaimed holiday being lost, and months of break-free work. With this came the realisation that annual leave is more about a break from work than it is about travel.

Read more “Reframing annual leave – a win for mental health, the environment and local businesses”

26
Jul
Grace French

Wellbeing is not a one-size-fits-all approach

Posted by Grace FrenchTagged , ,

It’s safe to say that being plunged into multiple lockdowns across the past 18 months – though for good reason – has played havoc with the nation’s mental wellbeing. With restrictions changing at short notice and guidance sometimes unclear, at times it’s been hard to know where to turn and what we can safely do.

A consequence of that has been growing uncertainty and instability in how we monitor and look after our wellbeing. It’s a story of two halves – with the stay at home guidance we’ve had much more time to reflect on our mental wellbeing and focus on self-care. But at the same time, increased isolation and ongoing uncertainty has meant that a one-size-fits-all approach to wellbeing can’t be applied, and we haven’t all been able to access our usual coping strategies.

Recognising that wellbeing means different things to different people, Stand has offered a wellness bounty for a number of years, which colleagues can use however they wish for the benefit of their own wellbeing. By giving everyone the freedom to choose what serves their needs best, we can ensure people feel supported, but not pigeon-holed by a restrictive wellbeing programme.

It’s really come into its own since the pandemic – allowing people to explore new coping strategies as well as reinforce existing ones. Here’s a roundup of what we’ve been up to with our wellness bounties recently.

Tash

“I used some of my wellness bounty to buy a Fitbit. I started running during lockdown to get out of the house, get fitter and clear my head before work – my Fitbit has really helped to motivate me to continue doing this.

“Even on days when I don’t go running, it encourages me to get up and walk around every hour to get at least 250 steps in, which helps take my eyes away from my screen and gives my mind a quick rest.”

Cait

“During lockdown, I found solace in running over the summer months. As we started going into autumn / winter, and another lockdown loomed, I realised I didn’t have the kit to run in the cold. The wellness bounty enabled me to buy active wear that would be warm enough. Exercising outdoors really helped with my mental wellbeing and knowing that I was going to be able to continue to use running as an outlet lifted a big weight off my shoulders.”

Georgie

“I’ve invested in some refreshed yoga equipment, including this eco yoga mat. Yoga is a bit like the swiss army knife of exercise for me – it can be intensive, restorative, focusing – whatever you need it to be. Having a new mat has been very welcome.”

Grace

“During the pandemic I channelled a lot of energy into creative activities. I used my wellness bounty to buy some papercutting, silver jewellery-making and arm knitting supplies.

“Being able to focus on a task I could control, and then have something tangible at the end that I can now enjoy, has done wonders for my wellbeing. And I’ve discovered some lifelong skills in the process!”

Sadie

“I’ve used some of my wellness bounty so far on some walking shoes, for trekking around the Cornish coast when visiting family. I’d had my eyes on them for a while but couldn’t quite afford them, so I’ve been extremely pleased to now have the means to do so! I look forward to making the most of the rest of my wellness bounty and remain appreciative to work at such a thoughtful agency who support health and wellbeing.”

Laura

“I’ve put my wellness bounty towards some new trainers for the London Marathon 2021!  Hoping they will keep me niggle free and help me get across the finish line in October!”

Jevan

“I used my wellness bounty for my gym membership and an apple fitness subscription, which has kept me active during lockdown (and kept my sanity). It’s so nice to work for a company that supports employees’ wellbeing, across both physical and mental health.”

16
Jul
Aga Maciejewska

The pandemic of inequalities

Posted by Aga MaciejewskaTagged , , , , , , , ,

Last week, the Health Foundation’s Unequal pandemic, fairer recovery report made headlines, revealing that throughout the pandemic, the chances of dying from Covid-19 were nearly four times higher for adults of working age in England’s poorest areas than for those in the wealthiest places.

The report is just the latest in the string of evidence that the pandemic has not been ‘a great leveller’, as some people referred to it back in the spring of 2020. The UK has struggled with deep-rooted, socioeconomic inequalities for years. Those have not only contributed to the country’s high and unequal death toll from Covid-19 but have also been exacerbated and made worse, particularly for some groups, including ethnic minorities, women and those on low pay.

Andy Ratcliffe, Executive Director for Programmes at Impact for Urban Health, has been working with families in the South London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark to understand how various inequalities impact population’s health. As he explains:

“Health inequality is the starkest manifestation of other inequalities – unfairness tends to layer on unfairness. If you’re subject to systemic racism, you are also more likely to be poor, live in lower quality housing and then you’re more likely to get sick. All those things interact. Fundamentally, it’s the inequality that’s the issue and health inequality is just the starkest example.”

Looking at the impact of the pandemic,  Andy has no doubt that it has made the existing inequalities worse and that this might sadly be just the beginning:

“We layered Covid on top of an already very unequal situation. We haven’t really even started to feel the impacts of the economic pandemic and the long-term health effects of it. We’ve seen a lot of policy changes, such as furlough and the uplift of universal credit, designed to help people through the pandemic. When those start to fall away, we will have an economic wave that could have huge long term health consequences.”

 

Read more “The pandemic of inequalities”

02
Jul
Grace French

Has the pandemic set us back 50 years, or will it propel us forward?

Posted by Grace FrenchTagged , ,

At its onset, Covid-19 was described as the great leveller. But the pandemic has exposed and exacerbated inequalities across many facets of life. For many, the situation has never been worse. But we also discovered a renewed intolerance for inequalities, a greater appreciation for those around us, and a desire to cement a better future for all.

This has created a unique moment for change. It’s vital that we examine what’s changed during the pandemic – both the good and the bad – and learn from it, to create a more equal and inclusive society.

Shining a light on mental health, during the pandemic we saw a story of two halves; more people struggling with mental health, and more people speaking up about it. In a year of drastic change and lockdowns the mental health of people of all ages and backgrounds has been greatly impacted. At the same time, mental health is being discussed more than ever and there’s a desire to improve mental health outcomes as we emerge from the pandemic – which itself comes with its own stressors.

The figures speak for themselves. Depression and anxiety levels significantly increased since the pandemic began, but at the same time diagnoses and referrals plummeted in lockdown. This is creating a pressure point – with an anticipated 11% increase in referrals in the next 3 years – a bottleneck of people who urgently need support.

Read more “Has the pandemic set us back 50 years, or will it propel us forward?”

13
May
Sadie Fox

Taking the time to reflect, recoup, reset and reward

Posted by Sadie FoxTagged , , ,

As many will say, the pandemic which has consumed our lives over the last year, has provided us with opportunities to reflect, recoup, reset and rightly reward ourselves.

In one full cycle, we’ve gone through the ups and downs of home working, the trials and tribulations of Zoom and ongoing lockdown fears. After what has felt like a 2-year life break for many, we are now starting to see the circle of life spring back into action, once more.

It’s certainly been an emotional journey; however, despite the majority of us being eager to get back into the swing of things, it is of course important to remember those in our lives who have anxiety about returning to a ‘normal’ society and those who have consistency struggled throughout the pandemic. We are all human, with our own poignant pandemic story to tell, so taking the time to reflect recoup, reset and reward will be just as prevalent post-pandemic, as it was beforehand.

As we break out of our home offices and return to our social offices, now is the perfect time for us to reflect on the workplace champions who vow to continue investing and understanding the importance of the infamous work life balance.

Read more “Taking the time to reflect, recoup, reset and reward”