Creating a conducive workplace for staff wellbeing

By Peter Thatcher, Treasurer, CWCAs more and more organisations are planning for their employees to return to the workplace on a more regular basis, time is likely to be well spent thinking about the work environment that their employees will return to. Much has been written and discussed over the past few months about employee well-being and the need for employers to create a supportive environment for their staff.

As I was musing over this, I was reminded of a client of mine from a few years ago. The client was a financial services company based in the centre of London and they occupied two floors of a very nice office building. The company had gone to great lengths to create a physical environment where people were encouraged to talk, to take time out from their desk and even to take some exercise. Three things that they did have stayed with me over the years.

  1. There was an amazing spiral staircase linking the two floors. The company had installed it themselves on the basis that they wanted people to walk between floors, rather than use the lifts, so that it increased the chance of interaction with colleagues as they passed each other on the stairs. Plus there was the added benefit of encouraging people to exercise while walking up and down the staircase.
  2. They also created a number of seating areas throughout the two floors, in different alcoves and spaces, with comfy seats of varying colours and styles. People were encouraged to use them as an alternative to sitting at their desks, to use them to take some time out for reflection, creative thinking and for chats with colleagues.
  3. And, finally, they had a small coffee bar, which also sold snacks, on one of the floors. Nice idea, but the genius point (I thought) was that they closed it at lunchtime. You might immediately think that odd, to close at one of the busiest times of the day. The logic was quite simple. It was to encourage people to leave the office and walk somewhere to buy lunch rather than simply grab something from the coffee bar and eat while sitting at their desks.

And all of these things worked. They had an engaged, motivated team of people and there was a real buzz about the place. Everything that an employer should want.
Of course, these initiatives cost a lot of money and not every organisation can afford to do what they did, but in these times where the focus is, and should be, on staff well-being, maybe more organisations should devote some time to think creatively about what can be done to create a physical environment that is conducive for people to pause, exercise and chat.

Online seminars and workshops:

Wellbeing topics, reflection, chaplaincy and more…


Here is a selection of online events (July – autumn) that we spotted are coming up which may interest supporters and Chaplains alike; covering a range of topics relevant to work, spirituality and more.

Ageing and spirituality  
3rd July (there is a registration fee to attend)

Faced with the norm of seeing ageing as despair and fragility, we explore ageing as a source of wisdom, joy and growth through Spirituality.

Lighting up eternity in the midst of work and life 
5th July (small charge to attend)

A time of visual and verbal reflection based on the life and work of Vincent Van Gogh. This lunchtime event will be accessible to Christians of all denominations and to people of all faiths and none.

Can we overcome rhetoric and address the tensions of workplace wellbeing? 
6th July (free to attend)

This webinar will pose several questions – such as: Are you a wellbeing donkey? Or is your work becoming more of a health burden? In the webinar we will explore what is wellbeing, can it be measured and better understood? What research is taking place to fully understand workload pressures and how these effect our mental, and physical wellbeing?

Safeguarding Adults – Strengthening Faith Institutions
6th July
Strengthening Faith Institutions is running online training on Tuesday 6 July on ‘Safeguarding Adults: An Introduction’.  The webinar runs from 3pm to 4pm.

Listen to the World Open Mic Night
6th July

St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace is hosting an Open Mic event on Tuesday 6 July on ‘Listen to the World’.  It will be an evening where the musical traditions and talents of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers find a home among local artists. It is being held from 6.30pm to 8.00pm. For more information, contact Jo Winsloe Slater at jowinsloe@stethelburgas.org or register in advance here

Neurodiversity in the Workplace. 
8th July (free to attend)

A virtual webinar event for professionals looking to understand more about Neurodiversity in the workplace. The term Neurodiversity encompasses (among others) attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyscalculia, dyslexia, dyspraxia, Asperger’s and Tourette ’s syndrome. In the workplace, often there is a fear and stigma about employees whose brains work differently which does nothing to help the employee or employer. In this webinar we will review the key aspects and best-practice regarding disability discrimination.

Self-care for staff and volunteers 
13th July and other dates available, usually one per month (free to attend)

It is essential that as a volunteer, you are putting the same care and love towards yourself as you would towards the programs you serve. Join this monthly session to hear how others are managing under pressure and, if you wish, share your stories. Hear some tips and strategies for Self-Care from a trained counsellor, with opportunities for further support if you need it.

Returning to the workplace – employee wellbeing 
14th July (free to attend)

As restrictions are starting to ease many of us will be swapping our home offices, kitchen tables, trackies and slippers and returning to workplaces over the coming months. If you have been working from home, or managing staff who will going back to the workplace it can feel like a big change and for many a daunting challenge, it may well be very different from what you previously experienced. In this session we will be sharing some practices that may help you with upcoming transitions.

Bereavement Friendly Church  
14th July (free to attend)

Run by Ataloss.org this session helps individuals and religious leaders consider accessibility to the many bereaved people in their communities. The learning from this webinar can be applied to chaplaincy such as in prisons, hospitals and Universities/colleges.

Hannah Malcolm – ‘Grief and Courage in a Dying World’
15 July (free to attend)

Hannah Malcolm is currently training for ordained ministry and writing a PhD on theology, climate and ecological grief. She campaigns around the subject of climate justice and recently edited a book entitled Words for a Dying World: Stories of Grief and Courage from the Global Church (SCM Press, 2020). This event is part of Heaven & Earth at Ely Cathedral Tickets are free, but please book a place here. If you can’t join us in person, the talk will be live streamed.

Meditation in the Christian tradition – weekly practice sessions 
Saturdays, weekly (free to attend)

Meditation in the Christian tradition is a very ancient and very simple way of prayer. It is a way of being fully present to the gift of our life, each other and God. It’s about establishing peace in ourselves so we can be places of peace in the world. Each session will involve a short talk, a period of silent meditation practice and an opportunity questions and conversation.Happy people – healthy workplaces 
24th August (free to attend)

Organised by Workplace Chaplaincy Scotland this seminar will help you to consider the ‘Why’ and the ‘How’ of engaging with wellbeing in the workplace. ‘Why’ explores how happy employees benefit the workforce and the ‘How’ explores the role of senior managers and line management in enabling a happy environment.

What is Mindfulness? Buddhist Roots of a Modern Movement 
14th October (£17 to attend)

This two-hour talk will cover the fascinating roots of mindfulness. Mindfulness is used widely in the world today. But, how did these practices come about? Mindfulness is useful everywhere, so the Buddha said. Using Early Buddhist Texts, this session will focus on the Buddhist foundations of Mindfulness. 

Love @ Work


It could be a slogan for Work Chaplaincy. But it isn’t! It’s the title of a book about the 100 years of the Industrial Christian Fellowship (Love@Work – Ian Randall, Phil Jump, John Weaver – DLT – 2020). 

Its forerunners, the Navvy Mission Society (1877) and the Christian Social Union (1889) joined together in 1920 to become the ICF. 

The book details a fascinating history of social thought and action by Christians. Included in its history is the work of G.A. Studdert Kennedy, perhaps better known as “Woodbine Willy” the First World War chaplain and poet. Much of what it has been about could be termed a form of workplace chaplaincy.  The history talks of sacrificial practical action by individuals and groups. It also tells of challenges to institutional religion to take seriously the social needs of workers and to industry to take seriously the spiritual, social and emotional needs of workers. 

Quotes from Studdert Kennedy make clear some of the values and mission of the Fellowship. Faith “does not relieve us from the duty of thought…It does not put an end to research and enquiry, it gives a basis from which real research is made possible and fruitful of results; a basis without which thinking means wandering round in circles, and getting nowhere in the end, and research means battering at a brass door that bruises our knuckles, and does not yields by a millionth part of an inch.” (p.55)

On the place of organised religion, in this case the Christian church, “If the Church is to be the Church, and not a mere farce – and a peculiarly pernicious farce, a game of sentimental make-believe – she must be filled to overflowing with the fire of the ancient prophets for social righteousness, with the wrath and love of Christ.” (p.57)

In these words we hear, an awareness of the need for a holistic approach to work life which includes social, emotional and spiritual needs, a challenge to religion to take seriously the life lived at work, based on experience not sentiment, a driving passion for justice and the good of all.

These don’t seem a bad summary of how workplace chaplaincy might perform!

Given our present context of pandemic, we have been appraising how we might continue to be in contact with people in the workplace now that so many work from home and covid makes personal contact so difficult. Perhaps we should also be reflecting on some of the issues raised in the historic ICF approach.

Are we “speaking truth to power” over the injustices and inequalities the pandemic has underscored? 

Is there a “prophetic” element to chaplaincy directed both to the religious and the secular?

Are we sufficiently energised by a vision of meeting the whole needs of people, emotional and spiritual as well as material? 

The mental burden of lockdown cannot be underestimated, nor the hollowing out of spiritual sensitivity that it is bringing. 
We have seen the best of people in the dedication of the NHS and of the myriad of volunteers giving time and energy to help their communities.  But we have also seen the worst in the carelessness and selfishness of some, the outright and ignorant denial of the problem by others and the slovenliness (at least) of some government decisions.  What does workplace chaplaincy have to say and do in the light of all this? 

As the pandemic begins, please God, to fade these are questions and issues we need to face if the work of chaplaincy is to be relevant post-covid. 

What are your thoughts and views on this?  Please let us know what they are. There is a future as well as a present in which the whole range of human need must be addressed, physical, mental, social and spiritual.  Love@Work requires our passionate engagement. 

Tells us about yours and let us share what we know and have for a better future in the workplace.  Paul Hills, Vice-Chairman. CWC

The Past is a Different Country

Today, as November ends and December begins, across the UK the numbers of people affected by COVID19 have been rising dramatically. Even now, we are hoping the recent lockdown may have slowed the spread of the virus. While the emergence of possible vaccines is giving us some cautious reason for optimism, we know that it will be a long time before we are out of the woods. The situation in Cambridgeshire is a microcosm of the national picture.

We’ve heard about the different areas of life in our county: hospitals – especially intensive care units – in danger of being overwhelmed; schools constantly having to reorganise their ways of working; some businesses facing imminent insolvency or bankruptcy with employees being made redundant whilst others are so busy that they don’t have time to think; prisoners being locked up almost around the clock; police officers trying to understand and implement frequently changing regulations; and local government officials battling with ever increasing demands on rapidly dwindling resources. And there will be others known to each one of us.

Although the present circumstances are unprecedented in our recent history, it is times of stress and trauma that underline the need for someone who can be ‘present’ for those who are struggling with the pressures of life; someone who can offer listening ears and words of encouragement and guidance. And that, surely, is what the ministry of chaplaincy has always been about?

How can those who are chaplains fulfil that ministry when the pressures on host organisations are so great, and not just financial pressures, although those will be a factor. There are so many challenges for chaplains who want to walk alongside those in the various workplaces where they have a role. But it is not something that is easy to do at the moment, when people have to socially distance and wear masks that muffle their voices. You can’t have a confidential discussion with someone when you have to shout through a face covering to someone who is six feet away.

It seems as though the pressure on government to ‘move things on’ has been amplified because of the desire to be able to celebrate Christmas in some sort of traditional fashion. But, deep down, probably most of us realise that there will be no return to that which was there before. In the notable opening words of (one-time Peterborough resident) L.P. Hartley’s The Go-Between:

‘The past is a different country: they do things differently there.’

L.P. Hartley’s The Go-Between

The normal in future is going to be very different to the way it was.

Over the past few months many people will have started to interact with their doctor, their supermarket, their bank, their children’s school, even their place of faith or worship, via the medium of the internet. However, even as these interactions take place, there is a recognition that there is something missing. No matter how good our electronic device nor how fast our broadband connection is, there is something of the muffled shouting through a face covering about it. We are rediscovering that it is the personal contact, the soothing voice, the fleeting smile, the gentle touch on the arm, that makes all the difference.

Today, as November ends and December begins, we are starting the season of Advent. Contrary to popular belief, Advent is not about putting up the Christmas decorations and opening calendars to find bits of chocolate. For Christians, Advent is a time for anticipating Christ’s return to earth, for desiring an immanent God to be present in this corner of creation.

The great German theologian Dietrich Boenhoffer, who was tortured and died in a Nazi concentration camp for speaking out against Hitler’s horrors, said that “The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come.”

If there ever was a time for people to be troubled in soul and to know themselves to be poor and imperfect it is now. But Advent is also surely the time for us to sing:

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appears.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

A prayer: Almighty God – we hold before you at this Advent season those who hold roles as chaplains in our county; those whose desire it is to walk alongside people with a whole variety of needs. Compassionate God, may our chaplains be aware of your firm and constant embrace as they minister to those they stand with at this difficult time. Amen.

(Photo by Smart on Unsplash)

The Place where I work…

It sounds simple enough. The place where I work. My workplace.

We used to say this in a matter of fact statement in a conversation, and often it involved a physical description; a description of an organisation, based in a town, a specific industry, business park or office perhaps.

Of course, if you’re working in healthcare, or retail or perhaps education your workplace is still the same physical place; albeit with many modifications and possibly some virtual existence too.

But living through Covid-19 is showing how everything has been shaken up like a pair of dice, then thrown in the air whilst we all look around at where the dice have landed! Some of us are struggling with the constant uncertainty – it’s completely normal to feel like that as humans need some certainty.

Recently at CWC we have been discussing the need for interactions with others and how the changing dimensions of a ‘workplace’ is affecting so many people. If the workplace is now as varied as kitchens, offices, living rooms, co-working spaces, shops and factories then how do we ensure employees and the self employed are best served emotionally? How do workplace chaplains respond and adapt to this? This is a key area we are considering and discussing with chaplains to ensure CWC can support them as best we can.

Boundaries for comfort

Whatever your personal circumstances; it’s important to create boundaries that comfort and support our emotional, physical, spiritual and practical needs during these times – wherever our place of work may be.

How do we separate work (paid and unpaid) and home life? I know of some friends who are working from home but have a ‘commute’ to help get them in the mode for the working day, it could be a walk that is equal to a (previous) commute or it could be a different morning ritual to nourish and separate home from work.

I recently read 7 great tips that many of us can try, whatever your circumstances. I hope you may find some of these useful:

  1. Plan ahead – plan out your week and days so you can see where you need to divide up time for things to replenish you. It could be a lunchtime walk or set breaks every 30 minutes if you’re working at a desk. Work with your other household members so that everyone knows how the week is looking for you all.
  2. Routine – It sounds boring but these strange times mean your mind will be craving routine when life around us feels so uncertain – these boundaries will help you feel more organised and give structure to your week
  3. Maximise your outside allowance – we all know time outside is important and never more so than now. Whatever you can manage outside will boost your overall health and wellbeing, even if you can only fit in a quick walk round the block.
  4. Learn to switch off – make food breaks the time to switch off or hide your phone/laptop to aid you switching off. Go for a walk. Plan something nice for the evening like a social call or a hobby. Talk through your day with someone to help you process your day.
  5. Make time off sacred – whether you have a morning off in the week, a day off or a weekend, make this time special and restorative. Make sure it is relaxing or fun – whatever you crave and don’t feel guilty about a lie in or treats!
  6. Create a designated workspace – if you’re someone working from home, try to create an area where you only work. A spare room/office is of course a luxury for many so it could just be a section of worktop, a certain chair or area of the kitchen table that is the only place where you work. It just means you can separate out where you might sit to relax or watch TV and this simple divide can help.
  7. Prioritise your relationships – Everyone is experiencing the pandemic in a different way so we all need to be tolerant of how others are feeling even if it is at odds with how we’re personally feeling. At home if you are part of a household then remember that being together 24/7 under exceptionally stressful circumstances can put a lot of pressure on relationships and dealing with these thoughts and emotions is necessary so that you don’t bottle them up. You may feel you can’t talk to a loved one if things are difficult but find someone else you can talk to. We all need this release!

Jane Thompson

Administrator, CWC

Image credit: Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

What do we do now?

What do we do now?

With the Covid-19 crisis there are plenty of restrictions on what chaplains can and cannot do.  What do you do when a lot of people are “home-working”?  How do you help those being furloughed or even made redundant?  Things have eased up somewhat, but as I write, there is talk of new restrictions, a “circuit-break”.

Recently I took part in a quiet day on Zoom with a number of volunteers in chaplaincy. At one point what do we do now came up.  A number of suggestions were made.

  1. Find some open space that can be used to meet, like a nearby garden. In a hospital context this may well work for relatives unable to spend much time with patients.  Other contexts might be able to find some space too.  A poster on a notice board about the “space” might help.
  2. Use modern technology might help with things like “Facetime” and various video calling apps. Where the work is within a factory or office, the managers could be given a phone number and asked to circulate it carefully to those needing time with a chaplain.  There could be privacy issues here, but they might be ameliorated. There is always the CWC Listening Line too!
  3. Maybe this is a time to develop some of our own skills. CWC is looking at accessing appropriate webinars about mental health etc which could help this.
  4. There is always prayer, and not as a last resort! Chaplains work is not just about face to face contacts (although we all want more of them!).  Holding people and situations in the peace of God in prayer may be one of our main callings at present.  In a world where there is so much uncertainty and anxiety, finding quiet, calm, restful places, whether external or internal, would seem to be essential. Can chaplains find ways to help this happen?  And, this work of prayer is no soft option when there is so much pain around.  But it certainly needs to be done.

These are some things that arose out of one conversation.  So, what do you think?  What have you tried?  Perhaps the other thing we can do at the moment is share ideas.  This newsletter can be a forum for that or there may be other ways to be explored.

What do we do now?

What do you think?

Revd. Paul Hills, Vice Chair, CWC

Thanks to the pandemic women are being adversely affected in many areas of their lives

Jane Thompson looks at the different evidence emerging and how it affects the workforce and asks is the essential nature of caregiving now being realised?

You may have read various articles recently documenting how women are being hit hardest during Covid-19. Being female, a working Mother and one who has been juggling homeschooling since February this is a topic close to my heart as I see the fallout affecting myself and friends.

Due to the complex mix of lower paid work, being more exposed to the risk of infection, reduced working hours due to homeschooling; and even an increased risk of furlough or redundancy enforced by their employer (Mothers 47% more likely to lose their job compared to Fathers) women are indeed shouldering the brunt of a rapidly changing work and caregiving environment and frequently these collide.

The Guardian led with how the pandemic is destroying women’s rights citing how women are bearing the brunt of the economic fallout and taking on a greater share of domestic work and childcare – while visits to the Refuge website are up 950%…they state – Is this the biggest ever leap backward for women?

Clearly there are many issues going on, and no two situations are the same; but when you think of the caregiving in our country the vast majority of care is carried out by women – be that paid carers roles in our hospitals and care systems, or ‘invisible’ care not recognised by the economy in the form of caring for children, elderly or sick relatives. The unpaid care offered by many week in week out is a huge benefit that keeps the wheels of the economy working – so are we now seeing the result of this situation with claims from the Government that we ‘all need to get back to work’ whilst parents (especially Mothers) around the country cry back ‘we will once the Children go back to school!’.

In the journal Nature they reflected that previous pandemics had the same results commenting that Governments need to ‘gather data and target policy to keep all citizens equally safe, sheltered and secure’. So what has the current pandemic taught us? I think it has shown families how they need to work differently to be as productive and supportive of each other as much as possible – women in particular need support to close the gap on work they can achieve whilst homeschooling or from other caring responsibilities.

I think it has shown that more value needs to be placed at the heart of caregiving in the UK – all types of care is essential to our families, friends and communities and it protects the NHS and wider services from becoming overburdened. Unpaid care is the unseen pillar of many communities and indeed organisations (through volunteering).

I also hope support for all Mothers in particular will be seen as a greater priority; by their own partners and families but also in the wider community. I speak from personal experience when I say the mental health of many of my female friends is at breaking point right now thanks to complex balance of looking after children and working.

Let’s hope these lessons will be learnt.

Survey results from Workplace Chaplains and Supporters

Thank you to all our workplace chaplains, supporters and religious leaders who gave up two minutes of their time to give us feedback on our service.

Since our launch event in early 2018 we were reassured to see Chaplains in particular still wanted the range of support we are offering (or planning to offer) including regular chances to meet and support each other, access to training and CPD and financial assistance to attend events and training. Since the survey was circulated we have launched our bursary scheme and we are delighted that chaplains are already making use of this offer.

We will now look to see what training and courses we can offer online; and give chaplains more opportunities to discuss their experiences with each other.

Supporters and Chaplains alike felt promoting the concept of workplace chaplaincy to be very important and this is an area we’re striving to build on constantly. We’ve recently moved our social media emphasis to our Facebook page (to reach Chaplains and the general public) and now to LinkedIn to build relations with organisations and HR professionals.

Summary of results showed:

Demographics:

  • 36% respondents were workplace chaplains
  • 33% respondents were supporters
  • 15% respondents were religious leaders or institutions
  • Most workplace chaplains were from Cambridge area (43%) followed by Peterborough area (33%) and Huntingdon (19%) with others scattered around the county
  • 43% or respondents are supported by a religious institution with 14% supported by an employer. 24% do not have support.
  • Half of workplace chaplains in our county are working at full capacity (50%), with 45% having some capacity for further work

What Chaplains want

  • Key issues workplace chaplains want to see CWC actively doing and offering were promoting workplace chaplaincy, support and training opportunities, networking with other chaplains and CPD and non-managerial supervision

Communications

  • Supporters and chaplains alike want to see the value of workplace chaplaincy to be promoted by CWC
  • 100% of respondents were happy in the way CWC communicated with them
  • Preferences for the future were communications by email, newsletter and Facebook

CWC Listening service for those needing support

 

Listening service – email support@cambsworkplacechaplaincy.org.uk

Cambridgeshire Workplace Chaplaincy has recognised a need for a listening service – to offer comfort and support for those who are finding life difficult at the moment during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The day to day adjustments that many are having to make at the moment due to a stressful job or juggling working from home; coupled with responsibilities at home are very stressful for many of us.

Maintaining and enhancing the emotional and mental health of everyone is critical during these turbulent times. We urge all to not be too proud or self-reliant and to seek support and help whenever you need it. It’s not an admission of weakness.

  • The Listening service is a way to get support from our team of volunteers
  • Email your details to support@cambsworkplacechaplaincy.org.uk
  • Your details are passed to one of our volunteers who are either multifaith chaplains or trained counsellors and they will get in touch (phone or email – up to you)
  • Our multifaith chaplains are a diverse group who are happy to provide emotional support regardless of whether you have any spiritual or religious beliefs – their aim is to listen and comfort

CWC holds Celebration of Chaplaincy service at Ely Cathedral

Workplace chaplains and supporters of chaplaincy from across Cambridgeshire gathered at Ely Cathedral recently for a special service celebrating the role of workplace chaplains, which included a special attendance by Mrs Sue Freestone DL.

The Bishop of Huntingdon (Bishop Dagmar Winter) led the service which included prayers, thanksgiving and hymns chosen to reflect the diverse work chaplains offer via a listening ear in the workplace.

Revd Dr Jenny Gage, a Trustee of CWC and Minister for Social Justice at Ely Cathedral, gave Prayers of Praise:

Almighty God,

sustainer of daily life and work, and provider of all our needs:

open our hearts to your creative power

so that we might know your will,

praise your name,

and share your vision for the creation of your kingdom.

In the name of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen

Following hymns and prayers; Professor Clive Morton Vice Chair of CWC gave a short report on the variety of workplace chaplains operating across the County. The service was then concluded with a sermon and blessing from the Bishop of Huntingdon, focusing on the power of community within the workplace.

After the service all guests were invited to join together for refreshments within the Cathedral where they had chance to speak to the Bishop and Trustees of CWC. A Story book of Chaplaincy experiences across Cambridgeshire was shared with all: Download a copy here: Chaplaincy_story_book_visual_only