Many people are contributing to the fight against Covid-19, including more than one million workers in more than 400 councils who have been helping to keep essential services running across the UK. From help with housing, benefits, transport and waste collection, to social care, public health, community safety and business support, council staff and volunteers have been working very hard to support local people through the current challenges.
Here, 15 council leaders in Oldham who have participated in The King’s Fund Population Health programme share their top tips for other leaders as they lead through the current and future phases of Covid-19.
Recognise that people will be experiencing Covid-19 differently
The experience of living and working through the current pandemic will generate different emotions for different people. Some staff and service users may be anxious, scared, or experiencing great personal challenges. Others may feel more positive. It is vital that leaders help people to recognise and work through their individual circumstances. Leaders need to reassure people that councils, the NHS and other partner organisations are working together to help overcome the current challenges and do their best for local people.
Keep connected across and within teams
Councils are large organisations with many departments supporting thousands of people every day. In the current unprecedented circumstances, staff may be working in new or different teams, or in different ways with their own teams. It can be difficult to do this when everyone is focused on Covid-19, but leaders should support and encourage connectedness within and across teams.
Make time to have ‘virtual’ cups of tea
Take time to ensure staff feel valued and supported, especially now they are working more remotely or with less visible management. Some staff have adapted well to working from home while others miss the energy that comes from working alongside others. Having regular times to catch up over a ‘virtual’ cup of tea can help keep the team together and makes everyone feel cared for.
Keep messaging clear and consistent across organisations
Answers to questions like ‘What PPE is needed in care roles?’ or ‘When is it safe to return to work having tested positive?’ can cause unnecessary stress and concern if the advice is unclear or inconsistent across the different organisations involved. Work with partners to agree and promote consistent messages.
Be a great role model and look after yourself too
Leaders are working hard to support staff and Covid-19 efforts as best they can. In so doing, they may neglect to look after themselves. This carries a risk of burnout for leaders and for others. So, remember to set a good example – look after yourself as well as others.
Use learning from current work to inform future efforts
Leaders should use learning from the current situation to inform future efforts. In Oldham, we’re helping leaders across 20 local organisations use their learning to inform six cross-system projects we started before Covid-19 to improve population health.