September 24, 2020

Protecting Psychological Well-being During Covid 19

Georgia Barnett
Evidence Based Practice Team

Both our personal and professional lives have changed in so many ways over the last six months. Professionally, instead of being in busy offices and in regular contact with co-workers, supervisors and friends, many of us are working remotely or at a physical distance from other people. It is unclear exactly what sort of long-term impact these new ways of working will have on us or on the people in our care, but there is research we can draw on to help us understand some of those things that could help to protect our psychological well-being during these uncertain times.

Since the start of the pandemic, the HMPPS Evidence-Based Practice Team has been working with the HMPPS COVID-19 central response team to support staff well-being by reviewing and summarising evidence about what we know supports resilience in critical situations.  We also worked closely with NPS London to support the well-being of probation staff who were adjusting to new ways of working as a result of the lockdown and subsequent restrictions.

We identified and reviewed hundreds of peer-reviewed papers.  We also read “think pieces” and summaries by experts, and looked at relevant resources, including those published by the World Health Organisation and the British Psychological Society. We prioritised papers with the strongest research designs: meta-analyses (which combine, statistically the results of many studies), and systematic reviews, (which identify and synthesise the findings of the best quality research relevant to a particular question), but also included smaller scale and qualitative research where is was highly relevant to our area of work – prisons and probation - or to the current context in which we’re working. We explicitly searched for and included studies that tell us something about how people have been impacted by working through previous outbreaks including H1N1 influenza, SARS, MERS and Ebola, as well as one study from China about responses to psychological support offered to healthcare staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, and a study of social workers living and working in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, which highlighted some interesting considerations about secondary traumatic stress/ vicarious trauma.

We’ve been adjusting to our new circumstances for a while now, so it could be tempting to think that we should all be okay and that things should start to feel more normal. However, we’re still living with a great deal of uncertainty, and that’s hard. We have put together some resources which provide sound, evidence-based ways to look after ourselves and our colleagues. We encourage you to have a read and watch the video, and hope that you find them helpful.

Protecting the Psychological Well-Being of Staff

This short video produced by HMPPS offers helpful tips and insights around how to protect and promote the well-being of staff.

How to detach from work: Protecting your psychological health

The best available evidence indicates that psychological detachment is crucial for recovery from work, helping to replenish your mental resources and protect your well-being. This one-page infographic from the Evidence-Based Practice Team provides some evidence-based tips on how to detach from work.

Protecting the psychological health of staff: Evidence-based tips for managers and supervisors

Research suggests there are a range of potential work-related stressors, which could be exaggerated as staff try to work while living with uncertainty, in new circumstances both at home and at work. Theory and evidence point to a number of possible ways in which to manage these possible stressors. This one-page document from the Evidence-Based Practice Team provides evidence-based tips on how managers, supervisors and leaders can help protect the psychological well-being of staff.

Evidence Resources: Using procedural justice in probation work

Research suggests that procedural justice – feeling that processes are fair – is really important to probation work. For service users, feeling treated in a procedurally just way is associated with less self-reported crime, fewer official arrests and greater compliance with licence conditions. For staff generally, feeling fairly treated is associated with a number of positive outcomes including less stress and burnout, and better job and life satisfaction. This one-page document from the Evidence-Based Practice Team gives some examples of how to use the principles of procedural justice in probation work, and the checklist provides a structure for integrating these principles into communications.

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