The worst of the pandemic is over… but trust and mental health has been badly damaged amongst public sector comms people.
That’s the verdict of almost 300 NHS, police, fire, local and central government PR, marketing and communications people.
The results are in the 5th quarterly tracker survey as we emerge from the omicron variant into the bright new future of 2022. Key trends emerge.
Key survey findings
Are we there, yet?
It’s over, is it? 45 per cent agree or strongly agree that the worst of the pandemic is behind us.
So, does that mean a return to the old ways? Not at all.
Mental health isn’t bouncing back. 56 per cent say this is worse – five times as many as those recovering.
Partygate HAS damaged the message. 82 per cent of communicators found that evidence of Ministers and civil servants staging parties during lockdown had made it harder to deliver public health messages.
We need to live with COVID-19. This has support without it being a majority. 41 per cent agreed with the idea – twice as much as didn’t.
Hours have increased after the pandemic receeds. 77 per cent of comms people are working longer hours than they are contracted. There has been a leap from 42 to 51 per cent working between one and five hours extra. in just three months.
Staff remain isolated. After two years of working from home, more people are feeling isolated now than at the start of the pandemic. The figure is 44 per cent to 34 per cent in June 2020.
Staff are more not less stressed. Staff are more stressed now than the first three months of the pandemic. 67 per cent say the problem has increased compared to 65 per cent in June 2020.
Through it all, they felt as though they worked for the common good. In an optimistic note, 73 per cent agreed with this statement after two years of lockdown against 74 per cent in June 2020. A remarkably robust figure.
Teamworking has not been so strong. While people see the big picture, a feeling of working as a team 48 per cent has slipped six points from June 2020.
Working from home is here to stay. 82 per cent are still at home either full or some of the time.
All of these figures are striking but in their own words they are particularly memorable.
After hours parties and the protracted cover-up have made an impression on people.
“Their behaviour undermines the basics of trust.”
“Definite strong change in the public mood, hostility on social media.”
“I don’t think that people link the PM to the NHS in Scotland. It would have been far more difficult if it was our First Minister.”
“Shameful and shameless. Having endured the past two years seeing the things I have in the NHS first hand it boils my blood.”
“This is a complete breakdown of trust in what the Government are saying.”
“I think the Government and Boris have lost public trust.”
“I don’t see a link between partygate and public health.”
“We’ve lost he goodwill of the people entirely in my borough.”
THE WORST OF THE PANDEMIC IS OVER
There is broad support for this position but while people hope as much there’s sometimes doubt and a hedging of bets.
“It is still not over… still impacting on services and people. We do need to learn to live with it but this will take timeand behaviour change. Living with it isn’t the same as doing what we did before.”
“The impact on mental health and the economy will be felt for years.”
“Agree today, but who knows if it’ll change again tomorrow with another variant.”
“This phase is still very much here, it’s rife in schools and large numbers of people are still losing their lives.”
WORKING FRM HOME HAS HAD AN IMPACT
What was once an adventure has become the norm.
“There’s a weird guilt I feel. Feel the need to work more hours and sacrifuice lunch and breaks to prove that my role is still worth the money.”
“There’s enough work for me to do more hours but I’ve made the conscious decision since the Christmas break to focus on keeping my work life balance in a better place.”
“Horrendously understaffed and working at home has made hours ‘electric.’”
“Been in the office and home since March 2020. Feels like living at work.”
“Exhausted, on my knees and with no end in sight.”
“I have put boundaries in place and I stick to them for the sake of myself and my family.”
ABUSE REMAINS A FACTOR
“The public seem frustrated and angry and this can come across in their communication with the council.”
“We have seen levels of abuse increase. The vibe at the start of the pandemic when we were all in this together has long been forgotten.”
“A lot of abuse aimed at the organisation is due to other issues not the pandemic.”