The health and wellbeing of the nation has never before been under so much scrutiny and discussion as now during the current COVID-19 pandemic. This has placed stress on our physical health, emotional wellbeing and impacted all aspects of our daily lives. Never before have we placed so much value and effort into protecting the physical and mental wellbeing of ourselves and our loved ones. 

During the 2003 SARS and 2014 Ebola virus outbreaks, generalized fear and fear-induced overreactive behaviour were common among the public. In addition, psychiatric disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder, developed in high-risk persons, especially survivors and frontline healthcare workers. In response to lessons learned from past outbreaks many countries, including the UK, have launched various digital health and wellbeing initiatives to reduce the psychosocial effects of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Despite the turmoil many are using this time to reflect and learn new ways of going about our business. COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on the positive and negative aspects of how we live, work and interact with one another. It has given us the opportunity to question aspects of our personal life, employment and finances. Some reflections will be surprising, some uncomfortable but all have made us stop and reconsider what is important to us. We have had to get our heads around new challenges such as working from home, being "furloughed", home schooling and using video conferencing to keep in touch.

Like many businesses the priority for CMS in the initial phase was working to ensure continuity of services to our clients and finding ways to adapt to an everchanging working environment. Now, as we move into an extended period of lockdown, and uncertainty about what measures will be implemented to remove restrictions, our focus has moved to considering how we can best support our employees.

We are all adapting to a variety of changes, losses and uncertainties that are hugely unsettling and even the most resilient will feel overwhelmed by the enormity of change. Some deal with this by trying to embrace the changes, create new routines or focus on the surprising benefits of this new lifestyle. However, maintaining a long term positive outlook is difficult, especially when we have no "exit" strategy, employees are working remotely (some in isolation and others with family demands) and social distancing removes many of our usual support networks. As a consequence, as well as maintaining business continuity employers are being encouraged to be mindful of supporting employees to adapt. Here is a brief overview of the current research emerging about COVID-19, how CMS have taken action to support our employees and some useful resources.

Michaela McGowan
Director, CMS
Neurological Manifestations of Hospitalized Patients with COVID-19

New research is emerging which highlights a number of neurological indicators of COVID-19. Research conducted at Huazhong University in Wuhan and the Barrow Neurological Institute in Arizona, found that in addition to the typical clinical manifestations of fever, cough, diarrhoea and fatigue, neurological symptoms were also being reported.

They found that 36% of all cases hospitalised with COVID-19 reported neurological symptoms and the effects were particularly prevalent in severe cases, affecting 45% of those with severe symptoms. These manifestations fell into 3 categories:
1. central nervous system - dizziness, headache, impaired consciousness, acute cerebrovascular disease, ataxia and seizure
2. peripheral nervous system - taste/smell/vision impairment and nerve pain
3. skeletal muscular injury manifestations

The study recommends that clinicians consider these neurological manifestations in additional to the well-documented typical symptoms to aid quicker diagnosis in suspected cases.

Going forward, neurological manifestations associated with COVID-19 are currently being explored at pace by scientists. Two main areas of interest are the relationship between COVID-19, brain infection and how this may contribute to respiratory failure and the long term neurological implications of COVID-19. Our next Briefing will review these topics and additional research as it emerges. Until then for further reading see below-

Employee Health and Wellbeing - Supporting your employees to adapt to this ever changing world

Promoting employee health, wellbeing and resilience has been a priority for CMS for sometime and in the autumn of 2019 we commenced partnership with Bear Naked Barbell, a company that specialises in strength, rehabilitation and health to provide bespoke corporate health and well-being programmes. In September 2019, when we choose to make an investment in time, funding and a commitment to employee wellbeing we had no inclination that 2020 would bring unprecedented change and challenges in this area. However, in hindsight I am thankful that we took this step and began the shift to support our team to become physically and mentally fitter and more resilient.

During the initial 6 months of the programme the team not only gained health benefits from losing weight and getting fitter but also experienced unexpected improvements within staff moral, communication, confidence and the general office culture improved. For example, employees who previously struggled to work productively found common bonds by working together on a non-work project and became more confident expressing ideas and taking on board feedback. At the end of the first 6-month block there was improved communication, quicker completion of projects and notable reduction in feelings of negativity . Employees were observed to be more appreciative and patient of other team members strengths and weaknesses. This has ultimately helped make the transitions over the last few months as a result of COVID-19 less challenging.

We had just commenced a second phase of the wellbeing programme when COVID-19 disruptions and lockdown caused us to pause and reconsider. Could the company afford to continue with this service? Could it be delivered during lockdown? Would furloughed staff engage? In short, the answer to all was a simple yes. In fact, it is during this unprecedented time that employers and employees require the support and commitment of each other to ensure, according to the government, that we do “bounce” back. As a result, CMS have taken the decision to continue prioritising the health and wellbeing of the team and worked with Bear Naked Barbell to redesign the programme. The team has been provided with a "Surviving Lockdown" handbook and participating in 1-1 sessions and peer support groups.

CMS choose to work with Bear Naked Barbell because they offered a different approach and provided 1-1 coaching with each employee. It was a shift from the tick group training on generic subjects, which are interesting at the time but quickly forgotten. Instead a coach from the company came into the office once a month, designed bespoke health and wellbeing programmes and worked 1-1 with the team members. Having 1-1 contact with a coach and programmes specifically designed to meet individual needs over a sustained period of time was the key to success.

If you are interested in finding out more see the links below and enter the competition to win a free 1-2-1 consultation with a coach from Bear Naked Barbell.

What did we find out from the programme?
From completing and developing a well-being programme over a 6 month period with CMS it was established that to increase productivity of employees (and gain a financial benefit from the outlay of money) that there must be a major change to the office culture. Normal best practice protocols or tick box “training days” simply do not work as well as they may at first appear and staff will quickly revert back to old ways and the same issues will continue to reoccur.

So how did we change the office culture?
The culture cannot be changed by force nor with a blanket statement or a single meeting from which no one understands what they are individually meant to do. Each person must first improve themselves and deal with their own issues in order to be on board with the collective aim of the office. Personal issues are always carried into the work place and tend to spill over into difficult discussions with other colleagues. Once these issues have been dealt with - whether it be a body image issue, not getting adequate sleep, poor daily routines at home or having conflict with a partner, the attitude of each person individually improves and allows for implementation of the best practice protocols. All of this was achieved on a 1-2-1 basis with each member of staff where their own problems were identified and corrected over the course of the programme whilst pre-determined information was repeated to each person to establish a base level of joint understanding across the whole team.

This required the full support and understanding of CMS Director Michaela McGowan to ensure all tasks were implemented properly and the excuse of not being allowed to do certain things was removed from the employees path. As part of the process, a support group was formed with all participating staff members, a team coordinator was appointment to organise and run the group, so that ideas could be shared, problems solved and to build team morale as they discovered common goals. Michaela sitting in on some of the meeting helped to control the meeting, maintain a positive outlook and also as a manager gain an understanding of what her employees really wanted or needed.

How did we solve the problems?
BNB is first and foremost a coaching company based within the health and fitness industry, our main role is to help people achieve there body image or performance goals within strength sports or daily life. This is our bread and butter and all of our coaches are very experienced in this area, helping the staff to achieve a weight loss goal or improve strength, reduce lower back pain or be more functional is a process that is very achievable and guaranteed to improve office culture. Dealing with clients problems, outside the realm of the fitness industry, is a daily occurrence for our coaches. Problem solving and helping our clients to put in place effective protocols for managing daily life in regards to nutrition, sleeping patterns, task completions, understanding psychological processes that inhibit your ability to effectively achieve a productive day.

All original goals and projected outcomes were achieved and some were succeeded. There is now a much happier office culture with lots more (positive) communication between staff members and management, this in turn has had a positive impact on productivity and quality of work. Individually all of the staff have made great improvements in their own physical and mental health and well being. Some results equate to 2 stones in weight lost, taking part in activities that had long since been given up and never thought would be achieved again.

Lloyd Stevenson (Coach, Bear Naked Barbell)

Check in frequently - maintaining contact is key. Set up systems to ensure regular contact between colleagues. Consider regular update meetings, check-in calls and updates on work progression and updated on the financial health of the company.

Don't sweat the small stuff- how we work has changed. So timescales, task priorities might require review. Encourage the team to share problems, big and small. We are all adjusting.

Keep it casual - take time during the working day to encourage non-work chat. Consider virtual coffee breaks or virtual pub quizzes. The CMS team meet for a virtual coffee break once a week, including furloughed staff. This is helping to keep the team connected. Here is the team meeting up for a virtual quiz night! Virtual escape room is planned for next month.

Promote Well-bein g - take time to initiate discussions on well-being, provide staff with guidance and promote a culture which supports health and well-being initiatives.

Furloughed Team Members - Don't forget furloughed staff - it is very easy to forget about team members who are furloughed. However, they are still employees and whilst not playing an active part in day to day work activities, it is important to ensure they are kept informed of what is going on and have the opportunity to participate in health and well-being initiatives. Being furloughed brings its own stressors and doubts so maintaining contact will help to bring the team back together and ensure all staff feel valued.
Employee Wellbeing Programme:
A Personal Reflection

The introduction of the Staff Wellbeing Programme at CMS last year made a massive difference to me both in my work and home life. As a single mum with two young children under the age of 5, juggling work and family was challenging, especially when my 2 year old decided to give up her cot, resulting in many disturbed sleeps for almost a year.

The knock-on effect for me was a constant feeling of not ever being fully recharged and having coffee after coffee was becoming my method for getting through the day. I started to notice my performance in work being affected, with silly admin errors I wouldn’t normally make, forgetting something someone had told me or struggling to hold my attention. I also just didn’t feel quite myself and had started withdrawing from busy social situations.

When our Director Michaela announced the launch of the Staff Wellbeing Programme I signed up immediately. My first meeting with Lloyd from Bear Naked Barbell was like a mental dump of all the current difficulties I was experiencing and the impact it was having on my physical and mental health. Lloyd asked me about my goals, things for my own personal wellbeing that I wanted to improve. I explained that I was struggling to lose weight gained whilst pregnant and unhealthy eating habits were creeping back in. I also wanted to increase my activity levels and begin exercising regularly but fatigue was a barrier to this. By the time I finished work and got the kids down to bed the last thing on my mind was doing some exercise.

Lloyd set me a simple challenge for my first month of going for three 10-minute walks a day, one in the morning, afternoon and evening. There was no excuses for not trying this out, it was not a huge time commitment, it did not require loads of energy, I could do it with my kids and on my workdays CMS encourage staff to take walking or exercise breaks throughout the day. Within 2 days I began to feel the difference. The short daily walks gave me a ‘feel good’ boost which in turn made it easier to choose healthy meals and snacks, rather than reaching for something sugary. Lloyd also provided me with nutritional information which fitted well with the Slimming World food plan I was already following and he recommended avoiding caffeine after 1pm to help me get a better sleep. I had been relying on my coffees to try and keep me alert, but going for my walks works much better and so I’ve massively cut down on my caffeine intake.

I clearly noticed my productivity at work increasing as I was much more alert and able to focus more. Whenever I felt that dip in attention or noticed I’d been sitting too long I would go for a short walk, come back and achieve more in the next hour than I would have had I continued to carry on working whilst feeling tired. Within a week I felt like I had come out of the fog and have never looked back. The work we do with clients gets them to focus on their rehabilitation goals and work towards achieving them in order to give them the best possible outcome. The Staff Wellbeing Programme has provided me the opportunity to put my own wellbeing first, it’s given me time to think of what is important to me and helped me plan out what I need to do to progress forward. With Lloyd’s support and guidance, I’ve created monthly goals to work towards and all designed to fit neatly around my work and family life. It made me aware of the need to look after myself better and through doing so I am able to cope and perform better in other areas of my life.My new focus for 2020 is on increasing my exercise, I’ve joined a fitness class for mums where I can take my kids along and Lloyd has created a strength building programme that I can do at home. I think it’s an incredible programme that CMS have introduced for their staff.

I am one of the team members who has had to be furloughed and I'll admit that although it came as a relief in terms of managing childcare, it also brought on some anxiety for the future. However, CMS have taken time to discuss all anxieties the team have in relation to Covid-19 and all the changes to our company. This has prevented me feeling isolated from my team and the fact CMS are also continuing to include me in the Wellbeing programme with Bear Naked Barbell has helped to reassure me that I'm still a valued member of the team and that my own wellbeing during this time is being considered.

I've had my first virtual meeting with Lloyd and discussed goals to work on during this time in lockdown and also considering how to build in routines that will carry forward when the lockdown is lifted. There is so much research coming out in the news over the last few years about the benefits to both employers and employees from taking part in wellbeing initiatives and it’s not hard to see why looking after your staff in this manner can only reap rewards. As an employee on the receiving end it has improved my performance in work as well as made me feel truly valued and supported.

Gemma Scullion
Rehabilitation Assistant, CMS

Surviving Homeworking during Lockdown

CMS has utilised the flexibility of homeworking for many years and have gradually introduced this for the entire team. It was therefore less complicated for us to move on mass to homeworking than other business. For those new to the concept here are our top tips to survive home working during lockdown.

  1. "Have a ‘to do’ list and plan for your day. Schedule in some breaks. Get up often from your desk, to have a stretch/walk" Nicky Foster, Occupational Therapist, Case Manager
  2. "Make a to do list for the day/week – helps to keep you on track and feel accomplished. Drink plenty of water – keep rehydrated as friendly colleagues aren’t around to make the tea!" Julie Marshall, Office Manager
  3. "Get up and get dressed ready to start work at normal time – no sitting in jammies, need to be in the correct mindset for working" Lynn Hodge, Senior Case Manager/Director
  4. "Set work/family boundaries, create a work space away from family and a pattern for work and family time. Also, don't sweat the small stuff. Be patient with yourself, family and others. If you relax they will follow your lead". Michaela McGowan. Senior Case Manager, Director
  5. “Make sure you set up an office-at-home workspace and don’t forget your personalised music playlist to help boost productivity, mood and cognitive performance!” Andrew Harrison, Neuropsychologist, Director
  6. "Have a proper timetable of when to get up, sit at work, take breaks. These things happen naturally in the office but when working from home you need to consciously follow a pattern and make an effort to communicate with colleagues to stop feeling isolation" Shikha Zalpuri Kapila, Physiotherapist / Case Manager
  7. If you and your partner are both working from home and homeschooling children, coordinate your diaries as far ahead as possible so that both of you get long chunks of time to focus on work without distractions. Sarah Gillanders, Consultant Clinical Neuropsychologist
  8. Wearing work clothes, doing my hair and make up helps me get into the work mindset.I change from ‘home me’ into ‘work me’. Rachel Cromack, Occupational Therapist, Case Manager
  9. "I've moved my fruit bowl onto my desk to make sure that if I do want a snack it's an apple and not the biscuit tin I reach for. If you do find yourself wandering into the kitchen, challenge yourself to drink water first and give yourself 20 minutes before seeing if you still want something to eat" Gemma Scullion, Rehabilitation Assistant
  10. Have a routine, having a clear system for sharing childcare during the day, and getting out for exercise every day. Mari O'Neill, Clinical Psychologist
Useful Health and Wellbeing Resources to support you during COVID-19
What is the largest muscle in the body?
A-Gluteus Maximus
B- Tongue
C- Deltoids

1-2-1 online session with a coach from Bear Naked Barbell. Send answer to
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