Well-being of staff is key
"Associations should do more to ensure frontline staff are equipped to handle the pressures of work."
Chan Kataria, Chief Executive
The role of our frontline staff has changed dramatically over recent years. Benefit cuts, low pay and insecure employment are having a noticeable impact on our communities – as evidenced by the increasing use of food banks.
The Grenfell Tower tragedy has brought a new focus to social housing organisations and their relationship with tenants. It has reminded us of the importance of supporting people with high and complex needs with sensitivity and empathy.
The recent interim report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) Commission on Economic Justice, Time for Change: a New Vision for the British Economy, is timely and suggests that the plight of disadvantaged people in our society is not likely to get any better any time soon, at least not unless we rethink our approach to economic and social justice.
The findings are stark but not surprising. The UK economy is not generating increasing prosperity for the majority of the population, and we are in the middle of the longest period of stagnating real wages for around 150 years. Young people are poorer than previous generations, and hit by an increasingly casualised labour market. Demographic changes (the number of over-65s is forecast to grow by 33% by 2030) and technological changes will also have a significant impact on our customers.
Uncertainties surrounding the nature of Brexit will not help this situation, at least not in the near future.
Housing associations are a key part of the solution. As well as providing affordable housing, our employment initiatives and care and support services are crucial in helping to address the productivity gap.
To be able to deal with these emerging issues, we need to ensure our frontline staff and others in day-to-day contact with customers not only have the right skills and tools to do the job, but also the right support in dealing with customers against the backdrop of a more stressful climate than ever.
At emh group we are launching a well-being programme for staff. It is intended that the programme will also have a have a positive impact on tenants, through a more human approach to sustaining tenancies and community cohesion.
The programme will be delivered through the ongoing leadership development programme to ensure that all managers and directors have a thorough understanding of their role in the well-being of their staff.
The increasing digitalisation of services has also taken housing staff out of the office and put them into the community practically full time, where they are having to work with more and more complex and stressful situations. This move towards remote working can lead to feelings of isolation from their managers and colleagues.
Welfare reforms have also generated tensions like never before, with staff having to bear the brunt of and pick up the pieces from government cuts. This can exacerbate problems and lead to longer-lasting concerns, which in turn can mean they are less able to serve their customers.
The well-being programme will be launched on National Stress Awareness Day on 1 November. It aims to have a significant positive impact on the health and well-being of our staff and enable them to create conditions in which tenants can also address aspects of their quality of life and well-being.
The theme of our internal programme will be ‘It’s OK not to be OK’ and will help us work towards a new culture of openness about stress and mental health issues. We recognise that from time to time everyone feels stress and anxiety, and we want to remove any stigmas that are attached to these types of feelings.
The launch will be followed by a series of roadshows called ‘You Matter’, covering themes such as government recognition of the need to manage stress and well-being, the business sense behind having a motivated workforce in good mental health, and food and nutrition.
As part of supporting well-being in the community, we are one of the main sponsors of both the North West Leicestershire Sports Awards and the Coalville Colour Run, in which a number of our staff take part.
Our development team recently organised a charity seven-a-side football tournament, from which all the funds raised were donated to the Rainbows Children’s Hospice in Loughborough.
People are the greatest resource we have and a healthy workforce is integral to happy and vibrant communities.