Staff wellbeing and youth homelessness
The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020 caused us to increase our focus on supporting colleagues as it was recognised that wellbeing, in particular for staff in our frontline services, was being adversely affected by national lockdown, quick and vast changes to ways of working and the impact of the crisis on the young people we support.
Tragically, there are 121,000 homeless young people in the UK right now. At Centrepoint, we are 617 people working to reduce this to zero by 2035. All colleagues bring us closer towards this goal through their job role. Whether that’s by working directly with a young person as a supported housing officer, organising fundraising events, managing our financial accounts, lobbying government for policy change or any one of the other many functions that are critical to making our charity benefit young people in need.
Behind each function is a real person. A human being with thoughts and feelings, a life story, unique needs, individual interests and goals. Everyone has their own lives around their work at Centrepoint. We’re proud to have a large and diverse staff and it’s our belief that every single person plays a crucial role in solving youth homelessness. It’s our responsibility then, to homeless young people everywhere, to make sure our staff are able to do their jobs as well as possible.
Centrepoint is dedicated to making sure staff are supported at work, and is focused on looking after the wellbeing of all, just as we do for the residents of our services. That’s why we’re building a resilient, caring and inclusive organisation where the way you develop your career, manage your work-life, receive recognition and get paid feels fair, consistent and transparent.
Centrepoint’s approach to wellbeing at work
We want to give staff the utensils to create their own custom toolkit, and to create a strong foundation to work form. No two have the same needs when it comes to setting themselves up to be in the best position to work. We know that good wellbeing means different things to each colleague, but we know that having it is imperative for everyone.
From an initial recognition that staff may need extra support and setting up a wellbeing group, to establishing innovative wellbeing policies, increasing staff participation, organising events and securing funding. A lot has been going on!
All of this is underpinned by our mission:
"To support Centrepoint in creating a culture where every team member feels safe and well, where there is a consistently robust and caring psychologically informed working environment for everyone."
Wellbeing Working Group
In March 2020 all office based colleagues began to work from home. This change had a profound impact on everyone at Centrepoint and concerns around staff wellbeing quickly became evident. At this point, informed by organisational listening, The Wellbeing Group was convened. The group has only existed for 12 months yet has in this time come leaps and bounds in beginning Centrepoint’s journey to becoming an organisation where wellbeing is prioritised.
The group includes a representative from each directorate, and leads on all wellbeing project work across the charity. Especially important was making sure that colleagues working from home and in services were represented in a balanced way. Work began immediately on coming up with impactful wellbeing initiatives.
Based on feedback from each directorate, every group member made suggestions on what we could do. From the beginning, we had a vast pool of wellbeing initiatives to choose from. The chief project launched right away was our fortnightly ‘Wellbeing Updates’, an internal mailer for all staff. This communications project gave us the infrastructure to communicate with everyone, share wellbeing tools, and give wellbeing a voice and place in Centrepoint that it previously lacked.
How does the group work?
The group has worked on a mix of projects, some seeking immediate improvements, and others creating long term changes that will make Centrepoint an organisation with greater emphasis on psychological wellbeing.
To define the group’s role in the charity first a charter was launched. This would inform and guide the work of the group, as well as explain how the group is structured and operates across the charity.
1. The Group’s Purpose
Firstly, work to ensure colleagues at Centrepoint understood why the Wellbeing Working Group existed, and why it was relevant to them, was a critical focus. For this, the group defined its purposes and goals:
- To influence decision making through advocacy of all staff wellbeing needs.
- To set new standards for Centrepoint to become an exemplar in our sector.
- To work in partnership with all staff and teams to achieve our mission.
- To align wellbeing practices & initiatives with a psychologically informed environment (PIE).
- To prioritise the wellbeing of all staff in order to support improved young people outcomes.
2. Membership of the group
Next, we looked at how the group itself would be shaped. After our initial six months we were already expanding from a group to an expanded network with more staff. At this point we sought to define the roles of everyone involved.
- Core – to work alongside the whole network group to help achieve our mission, which is substantially linked to the job role they do. 3 colleagues.
- Group – to collaborate with directorate network members ensuring appropriate employee voice is recognised and informs decision making. 10 colleagues.
- Network – to work alongside their directorate Group member in the delivery of wellbeing initiatives, to gather feedback and act as a critical link with wider population. 20 colleagues.
Wellbeing updates and internal engagement
As mentioned, the new wellbeing updates created a space for Centrepoint to communicate with colleagues directly, and discuss significant topics related to wellbeing that had not been considered by Centrepoint before.
Each week’s update had a new theme and provided support to staff in a broad range of topics. The updates were the first time Centrepoint had talked about issues including menopause, healthy eating, seasonal affective disorder, relationships, money matters, men’s mental health and more.
All of the themes covered were chosen carefully through staff recommendations and answered the concerns and feelings of colleagues working from home and in services. They shared a goal in providing information and support for staff that would positively impact their wellbeing.
From feedback, which we ask for in every update, the group has been commended for useful information and sharing valuable wellbeing tools.
Our wellbeing work continues
Psychological wellbeing remains a key focus because as we approach the year anniversary of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown in the UK, considering staff psychological wellbeing for both frontline staff who have been working to keep our services open throughout this period, as well as our staff working from home to support them remains extremely important. Whatever their role in our organisation, many of our staffs’ psychological wellbeing has been effected to some extent.
We have all faced our own challenges, experienced loss in a variety of ways and have had to adapt and show enormous resilience in the face of this crisis. A charity like Centrepoint that is all about helping homeless young people, is by definition a ‘people’ organisation and we cannot do what we do to help this vulnerable group without the people within it, whether that be our valued paid staff, volunteers or supporters.
Centrepoint is one year into its journey with wellbeing, and though we still have some distance to go, there is a sense of constructive change in the air with regards to staff psychological support, built on successes in organisational change making Centrepoint an organisation that better supports colleagues working from home and in our services with young people.
Centrepoint is dedicated to creating an environment where every team member feels safe, included and well. We will create a consistently robust and caring working environment for all team members underpinned by aligned policies and practices.
Wellbeing is led by staff, for staff, and is an ongoing project.