To celebrate Equality, Diversity and Human Rights Week 2021 (10-14 May) we are highlighting different Inspirational Leadership Stories to inspire colleagues across the Northamptonshire health and care system. Each day we will meet a different inspirational leader to find out a bit more about them and how their stories connect with the daily themes of #EQW2021.

Anushka Karmali

Monday 10 May – Being a Team
Anushka Karmali, 360 Degrees Healthcare

Anushka Karmali, Development Officer from 360 Degrees Healthcare, shares how they’ve created ‘staff bubbles’ to provide peer-to-peer support across their domiciliary service.

Can you tell us about your experiences of developing peer-to-peer support? 

Wellbeing is important in our organisation and we promote a wellbeing culture. We want staff to be happy and supported in the workplace and see wellbeing in a wider context of recruitment and retention, our employer reputation and how staff feel supported and comfortable at work.

At the start of the pandemic, we were all thrown in, nobody knew what lay ahead and what the outcome would be.  We spoke openly and honestly with staff about how  they were feeling and shared our own fears and anxieties with them. It’s important to me not to be hierarchical and to be human and provide that one to one support.

How did you get started?

We sat down as a senior team, talked about how were feeling, our fears about taking the virus home and passing it to others.  We looked at what the government was doing as they established bubbles and we thought how can we bring this into our organisation?  As a domiciliary care agency that’s spread across a wide geographical area, we were concerned that staff were at risk of becoming isolated.

We’d completed risk assessments, so we’d learnt about staff and their individual needs.  We connected staff up into small support bubbles.  We knew some staff who would work well together, we linked up across geographies, linking up staff from BAME backgrounds, some knew each other well and were friends outside of work so already felt comfortable being together.

We have 60 staff and not all joined bubbles, it was a choice, we said to them that these are your bubbles and use it as you wish and they developed into very different things. One was purely worked based, focusing on improving their own mental health hand wellbeing which subsequently helped them support the people they’re providing care for with their wellbeing. Staff linked up who had young children and supported each other, some talked about their personal lives, as well as work.

The bubbles also changed as time went on, people joined and left, people connected with other bubbles and it really helped staff get to know each other better.  They connected on Zoom or by phone and when we were able to, within restrictions and guidelines, we gave staff the opportunity to book rooms to spend time in the office, have a chat and a cuppa.

What difference have you seen as a result of the bubbles?  

Without us having the face-to-face support that we’re used to, Zoom is helping staff to feel more part of a team. We’ve seen that team structures have become stronger and it’s been good for team building and to build friendships.  Some staff are seeing each more out of work, some bubbles set up their own whatsapp groups and supporting each other more. The peer to peer support has really made a difference.

How did you manage confidentiality and any risk issues?

We explained to them that what they talk about is confidential between each other and if they had a concern, then to talk to a manager.  We’ve always said that staff don’t have to always go directly to their line manager, they can speak to whoever they feel comfortable with.  We also have an outsourced service so staff can speak to an external person, they can email them directly and staff do use this service.  We are a close-knit organisation and depending on particular issues arising, staff may feel more comfortable talking to an external person and we encourage this.

What are the 3 key messages for others to take away?

  1. Keep talking, we’re open and honest with our staff and in turn they’re open and honest with us.
  2. Be human. It’s ok to feel vulnerable and share how you’re feeling.
  3. Encouraging peer-to-peer connections and conversations builds better relationships and stronger teams. Ultimately these impacts on positively and the people we support.