Colette McKune, group chief executive at ForViva, talks about putting better wellbeing at the centre of a new society
‘Wellbeing’ is a term that is used often, but rarely has its importance to individuals and communities been so well recognised.
Physical and mental health, keeping connected with loved ones and ensuring financial stability have been the pillars of the UK’s response to the coronavirus crisis. We have a role to play in each of these areas as the outbreak continues and thereafter.
For many of us wellbeing had simply meant keeping fit and active. Now we understand that it is much more than that.
Wellbeing translates as ‘how we are doing’ and is affected by almost everything in life, including our homes, workplaces and social opportunities.
Ultimately, it’s about living a happy and fulfilled life, having good physical and mental health and feeling stable with our circumstances.
Recent months have taught us how hard it is when some of those opportunities and securities are taken away from us. We must remember this when the crisis is over.
Looking after wellbeing in the current climate
At ForViva we’ve been discussing the importance of wellbeing for a long time.
Improved wellbeing reduces anxiety and depression, improves self-esteem and provides hope and purpose – all goals we will push towards on a daily basis.
It feels like a strange time to be launching our new Group Wellbeing Strategy. Yet a commitment to focussing resources on improving wellbeing for staff and tenants is more relevant now than it ever has been.
The long-term goal is to create the best possible environment for people and communities to thrive and fulfil their potential.
During this unprecedented time our focus is on giving people the tools to look after their own wellbeing as much as possible while supporting and empowering them in new ways.
Our principles of being customer focussed, sustainable, resilient and responsive are at the heart of our decisions.
For staff, this has meant becoming more flexible and giving people the freedom to do things differently and adapt to our current circumstances. It is essential staff are able to carry out their roles and deliver key services, whilst also looking after themselves, their colleagues, and their loved ones.
How we work in the future will be different and will combine all that was good pre lockdown and all that is great now. As the pandemic has unfolded we’ve turned to staff for their ideas and innovations around how we should change the way we work.
We use our weekly podcast and intranet to share different views. Nobody is clear what the future of work looks like – so this is an opportunity for our teams to start to shape it.
For those of us now working remotely, we’ve been staying connected as much as possible, using social media to share stories, ideas, photos and videos and helping to keep morale high.
For tenants, we’re keeping people connected however we can and listening to their voices as we plan and shape future services.
Across communities tenants who are classed as vulnerable are isolating. For those without close friends or family there is a real danger that they can become hidden and cut off. We are not letting that happen.
We have identified those in need and to date we’ve made more than 22,000 calls to them.
Whether it’s a chat about the grandkids or alleviating their concerns over the outbreak, we’re there to listen.
For those living in extra care or supported housing schemes, many of their daily activities have been cancelled to keep people safe.
To keep spirits high, staff have been coming up innovative ways to keep people connected while following social distancing guidelines. Bingo from balconies and doorstep dance sessions are bringing smiles to the faces of vulnerable tenants.
We’re working hard to ensure that people aren’t experiencing hardship as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and signposting tenants to other organisations offering a range of different support services, including advice on mental health.
Our homelessness support service, forfutures, has been working in partnership with Cheshire West and Chester Council to ensure that nobody is sleeping rough during this time.
Everyone sleeping on the streets have been moved into accommodation where they can safely self-isolate. Our team is now working with people on an individual basis so they can look towards a future away from the streets.
Looking to the future
While we’re operating in uncertain times it’s important to look to the future. We want to improve wellbeing so that more things are possible for more people.
To do that we need to consider the activities and initiatives that will provide stable, safe, quality homes, create opportunities for people to learn new skills and deliver better access to digital services.
All this will need to be done in the context of the new post-coronavirus world.
We are using this time to shape the future. That will mean more people being involved in influencing their communities, taking ownership over the places where they live and feeling empowered and respected.
We want to invest in learning that boosts self-esteem and confidence, and we’ll be providing opportunities for people to develop skills and earn qualifications to improve their chances of getting a job.
The divide between those who have access to digital resources and those who don’t has never been more apparent. We want to close that gap.
We want to offer new ways for people to be physically and mentally active, as well as improving access to green spaces to increase opportunities to get out into the fresh air.
Working with tenants, partners, communities and staff we have the chance to put better wellbeing at the centre of a new society. Together we can make a difference to people’s lives.