Supporting each other through lockdown

As we have started another England wide lockdown, I have been thinking – again – about the inequalities that occur from blanket policies, where the same rules are applied to everyone, and what role employers play in reducing these inequalities? Whether you agree or disagree with the Governments' approach, I believe it’s important not to get wrapped up in the politics, but to think about who is being affected by this and what can I do?

Different groups of people will be affected by lockdown in many and various ways. One thing that is different this time, compared to March-July, is the daylight hours and weather. We know that getting fresh air, exercise and physical and psychological space from work is good for your mental and physical health, but most of us will start and finish work in the dark during this lockdown. Of course, people can still go for a post-work walk in the dark, but there are safety issues to contend with. Women, and other groups such as Trans people, are disproportionally likely to be attacked (physically or sexually) if walking at night alone. So, although the short daylight hours of lockdown two are the same for everyone, they don’t impact everyone equally!  

Exercise is not the only disproportionate impact, there is of course:

  • Domestic abuse – more likely to impact women and trans and non-binary people;
  • Job loss – more likely to effect low paid workers;
  • Isolation – more likely to impact those with existing mental illnesses;
  • Covid-19 infection rates – more likely to effect front line workers who as a group are disproportionally Black, Asian or Ethnic Minority people.

And the list goes on… But having said all of this, I think, we – as businesses and citizens – can play a really important role in reducing some of the adverse impacts. We can:

  1. Encourage taking longer breaks at lunchtime to eat and exercise, through role modelling, not just comms. You can work the hours back later.
  2. Be flexible with working hours by asking your colleagues, what time works for you?
  3. Check in on all team members regularly, even the ones that always seen fine and upbeat.
  4. If you are concerned about someone, talk to them.
  5. Have a safety process in place where you let each other know if you will be going out in the dark, and message when you are back home.
  6. Signpost support to everyone, not just those who you are worried about, especially to domestic abuse helplines and financial support.

Although we are all in this together, we don’t all have the same privilege, and therefore it will not affect us equally. I encourage you to think about what you, and your organisation, can do to support each other.