Noeleen Beedle recently returned to the frontline – and it was a reminder of how hard staff work and the importance of supporting them
“The government’s guidelines and regulations may change and vary, but the dedication of our frontline workers does not” (picture: Getty)
It is too soon to count the cost of the coronavirus pandemic, but some of the lessons are already clear. Foremost of these is that frontline workers are the backbone of our nation.
In housing especially, where sometimes we need to focus on ensuring our businesses run as efficiently as possible, we must never lose sight of our reliance on our own in-house key workers.
“It is not the job of the public to value and appreciate our frontline key workers. But as managers, it is ours”
During the first national lockdown, the level of gratitude shown towards key workers was impossible to overlook – windows, bridges and buildings were decked with rainbows, and people across the country teamed up to provide meals, transport and comfort for the key workers striving to stop the pandemic from taking its toll.
I think we all feel a little emotional as we recall those Thursdays, when whole neighbourhoods stood outside their doors to clap and bang saucepans.
But as I got ready to return to the front line last week, covering for a sheltered scheme co-ordinator who was on well-earned leave, I was conscious that the overt appreciation and gratitude is becoming less obvious as the pandemic drags on. It’s inevitable perhaps and we understand that it is not the job of the public to value and appreciate our frontline key workers. But as managers, it is ours.
“I got a real sense that, while the clapping and banging may have died down, the efforts of frontline workers did not let up”
My stint helped to remind me of just how hard our frontline staff have been working throughout the pandemic. As well as a rigorous routine of checks and assessments, talking and listening with residents along the way, my team and I worked to make crucial welfare calls to some of our most vulnerable residents. We saw how many residents, especially the elderly, found the first lockdown to be very lonely and frightening – and something as simple as a phone call really went a long way.
It was great to see how much better practised we were the second time round. Our frontline teams had seen first-hand what steps were needed and which preparations to prioritise in the event of a second or even a third wave. I got a real sense that, while the clapping and banging may have died down, the efforts of frontline workers did not let up.
At our sheltered schemes, we already had processes in place to manage social distancing. As restrictions tightened, we could adapt and reuse notices, using tape to cordon off areas to keep our residents safe.
Since many more of us now work from home, it’s not only the habits and routines of our residents that have had to change, but also those of all our teams.
In my day-to-day role as a sheltered services manager at Southern Housing Group, I am responsible for five sheltered housing schemes across Kent and East Sussex, with a combined total of around 220 residents.
“When the clapping stops and the posters come down, I must be the best manager that I can be”
I am also responsible for four frontline members of staff, whom I support with regular phone calls, checking in on their emotional and mental well-being as well as operational matters.
Our values at the group are all about working together to do the right thing and get the job done, and I could not be prouder of my frontline team. The government’s guidelines and regulations may change and vary, but the dedication of our frontline workers does not.
This year has been tough, with many lessons still to be learned. But I am reminded how, when the clapping stops and the posters come down, I must be the best manager that I can be.
My colleagues on the frontline deserve nothing less.
Noeleen Beedle, sheltered services manager, Southern Housing Group