Adjusting to the ‘new normal’: Federation on hand to offer support
Adjusting to the “new normal’ of the post-pandemic world could have a huge impact on people’s mental health with officers being reminded that the Federation is on hand to offer help and support.
Dan Lever, the Cheshire Police Federation wellbeing and equality lead, says the Federation has already seen an increase in members reporting depression and anxiety as a result of what have been two extremely challenging years on a professional and personal front.
“The onset of the pandemic in March 2020 turned everyone’s lives upside down,” says Dan, “In addition to the obvious concerns about the spread of Covid and the seemingly ever-increasing number of deaths, almost overnight many people were expected to work from home where they could, setting up in a home office if they had one but if not working from a bedroom, on the kitchen table or in a corner of the lounge.
“They were home-schooling, trying to care for vulnerable family members, adapting to the restrictions on everyone’s lives and sharing the anxieties experienced by everyone else at the time.
“Meanwhile frontline officers were sent out into the unknown really. They knew they were risking their own health, and potentially that of their families, by being out and about serving their communities but they remained committed to providing an effective policing service. They also faced a backlash from the public, almost constant media criticism plus an increase in officer assaults, with mindless individuals weaponising the virus by spitting and coughing over them while claiming to have Covid.
“All this has taken its toll on people and I am not surprised at all that the stresses and strains of the last two years are now starting to be revealed by those whose mental health has been affected.
“We are now supporting these members or putting them in touch with organisations that can offer them the specialist help they need.”
With the Government’s “work from home if you can” ruling now eased, Dan is hoping that the Force and managers will now not insist that everyone simply returns to the office.
“During the pandemic, we have seen a real shift in working practices,” he explained, “The agile working we have witnessed had been almost unheard of in policing with many people having previously been told that it was impossible for them to do their job from home.
“But we have seen so many people can actually work from home very effectively and that there have been benefits in terms of their wellbeing and their work-life balance which has a knock-on effect on their productivity and their morale.
“I don’t believe that there should now be a push for everyone to rush back to the old way of working. In any bad situation, there is always a positive point to be taken and in the case of the pandemic I think it will bring a change to working practices in the future.
“Unless it’s operationally imperative, I don’t think people should be forced to return to work in police stations and offices and there should be no automatic assumption that they will.”
Dan believes managers need to carefully consider any request from officers wishing to remain working from home for the majority of the time, and also questioned the need for a return to a 9 to 5 standard working day.
“Some people may need to work around the school run or other caring responsibilities, but if they do that and then make up those hours later so that their work still gets done, surely that will work for all sides of the arrangement,” he said.
“I think there is a real opportunity now for policing, right across the board, to help officers and staff with their work-life balance, which will have a positive impact on those people and their morale, but also the organisation as whole. If you treat people the right way, they will bend over backwards to help you so the Force will get great returns for favouring a more flexible way of working.”
- Members with concerns about returning to offices, or facing difficulties when wishing to remain working predominantly from home, can contact their Federation workplace reps or the office officials for advice and support.