Lisa Valentine, Communications Officer at The Calico Group
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 and the theme this year is kindness. I’ve been reflecting on what this means to me and how kindness in the workplace can have an incredibly powerful impact.
Kindness is a value that’s been ingrained in my personal life for as long as I can remember; one that my dad taught me the importance of early on and it’s a trait that I value above most others. When I joined The Calico Group as a communications officer, one of the first things I noticed is that, as a values-led organisation, the people here not only talk the talk but actually walk the walk.
Of course, the work that we do as a Group to support some of the most vulnerable people in society through our community, care, homelessness, domestic abuse and rehabilitation services naturally reflects that. However, I also get to see how this characteristic is embedded throughout the people who provide these vital services daily.
I often log onto our company intranet and see posts in the staff area that show this – some (post-lockdown) examples include someone who was planning on running the London Marathon to raise money for SafeNet, colleagues who are readily donating goods and time to those who need it, a campaign to bring a street cat to England from Cyprus and bake sales galore to support charities, both inside and outside of the Group, close to people’s hearts.
The COVID-19 outbreak meant that most of our working lives would inevitably be impacted and that we would all have to adapt fast. For me, it initially meant working from home and quickly switching from my planned and strategic work to crisis communications.
This involved being constantly aware of updated Government guidance for each industry we support and relaying this to both our colleagues and customers on time. In the beginning, guidance would often change on an hourly basis, so it was crucial that I had one eye firmly on the news channels and Government website at all times.
Understandably, a global pandemic tends to bring along a hefty dose of additional stress, worry and uncertainly about a plethora of things. The seemingly-constant stream of harrowing bad news and tragic death tolls soon became overwhelming.
I feel so fortunate, now more than ever before, that the Group has created a culture where it’s ok not to be ok, that there is no expectation to simply put on a brave face until you can no longer keep up the pretence. In fact, it’s positively encouraged to talk openly about issues that may be seen as ‘taboo’ in other places. Issues such as poor mental health, domestic abuse and financial concerns (to name just a few) can be raised freely, safe in the knowledge that support is readily available and that people are willing to listen.
Some of the things I began to miss while working from home during the outbreak were so small that I’d overlooked the significance of them before. Things like a colleague leaving a hot coffee on my desk, ready for when I arrive at work that morning or chatting about how everyone’s weekend has been or what they’re having for tea that night (a common and very important theme in our team), asking someone how their family are or what projects they’re working on and if we can help in any way.
Then I realised that all these things were little acts of kindness and that my colleagues have a big impact on my wellbeing and morale every single day. We help keep each other motivated, positive and engaged in the tasks ahead of us.
We learnt to adapt during the lockdown and now, our team dedicates time together every week to catch up, stay connected and check-in via group video chats to make sure we’re all doing ok and staying safe.
I’ve seen pictures of gratefully received bouquets of flowers from team leaders to their colleagues to show just much their work is valued, messages of encouragement and gratitude circulating on social media, emails sincerely thanking someone for supporting them on a difficult project and I always look forward to reading our weekly Group newsletter to stay up to date with colleagues working in different services.
I find that thoughtful displays of kindness show great strength and sincerity and that the impact of these actions can create a ripple effect that reaches far and wide. They really can make a big difference to people’s lives, more so when they’re already dealing with challenging situations.