For many, the greatest danger of the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t the virus itself. It’s the mental strain of prolonged isolation. Many people are still working remotely, grappling with a complete shift in life as they know it.
They can no longer speak to others face to face. They must navigate telecommuting, grappling with a level of loneliness and stress they’ve never before experienced. And in the case of frontline workers, they must exist in a state of constant vigilance against both the virus and the civil unrest it has created.
This represents an unprecedented mental health challenge, and one that businesses need to address with their employees.
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) used BlackBerry® AtHoc® to do exactly that for its 11,000 personnel. A powerful two-way communication platform capable of sending alerts across multiple channels, AtHoc is trusted by governments and other high-security agencies worldwide to keep their people safe. Originally intended as a tool to help GMP to more efficiently manage its response to major incidents such as terror attacks and major weather events, it quickly saw use within the force as a tool for health and wellness.
After reaching out to BlackBerry and purchasing 11,000 licenses, GMP completed its deployment of the platform in just 48 hours. The force’s wellness team began immediately using AtHoc to engage with staff. It distributed an alert via text message and email that asked everyone how COVID had impacted their well-being and allowed one of several predefined responses:
- Very Little
- Somewhat, but I am able to cope
- Somewhat, but I would like ideas on how to improve my wellbeing
- Significantly, and I would like to speak to someone
“The alerts were sent to all officers and staff,” explains Spurgeon. “For those who needed advice on how to cope, we provided them with a few resources and the opportunity to follow up with our wellness team. For those who needed immediate help, our wellness team reached out directly to coordinate.”
“We wanted our personnel to know that we were listening to them, and that we cared about their health,” he continues. “It’s something I see a lot of frontline organizations struggle with. We also wanted to ensure that, if anyone was showing symptoms of COVID, we could get them the medical care they required.”
In addition to using BlackBerry AtHoc as a tool for health and wellness, GMP leveraged the platform to coordinate its overall COVID-19 response with both internal staff and officers.
During the initial stages of the pandemic, GMP created a daily summary that it distributed to its staff via an internal email system. With the deployment of BlackBerry AtHoc, it shifted away from solely relying upon email, instead of keeping staff apprised through multiple communication channels. This not only allowed for more effective targeting and delivery of news around the pandemic, but also helped ensure everyone had access to the information they needed on a day-to-day basis.
“We’d originally intended for AtHoc to be used exclusively for internal communication and coordination during major incidents,” says Spurgeon. “The fact that it’s proved so invaluable in helping us ensure the safety and well-being of our people during the coronavirus pandemic is immensely beneficial. It’s allowed us to not only direct our efforts where they’ll do the most good, but to help our personnel cope with what has been an extremely challenging time for both GMP and the communities of Greater Manchester.”