by Jen Gordon, Senior Business Support - Adult Complex Needs/Specialised Supported Housing, Safe As Houses
Since starting working at Safe As Houses 18 months ago as PA to Head of Care Development, we have had a very busy time; relocating from a large office to home based working (which is still the case), developing and expanding the business and its teams across the UK, dealing with a changing housing market, and then together with all our partners, bringing projects to completion, it has been an exciting and challenging time for all of us.
Like most businesses in these recent circumstances, we kept the bigger picture in mind and continued to do what we do to the best of our abilities - to provide housing solutions for those most in need.
However, if there was one lesson I’ve learnt from these unprecedented times is the importance of community, both within our culture, and at SAH. We have all seen on our media the impact of community has in pulling together to solve problems caused by this worldwide pandemic and the difference it makes when we do this. This has made an enormous impact on me, as I believe it has with others too.
The country showed our national support in numerous ways: delivering shopping and medication for the vulnerable, assisting with dog walking, changing shop opening hours to create shopping sessions for those most at risk, we clapped for the NHS every Thursday night outside out homes and supported local businesses so they could keep going.
People extended kindness and thoughtfulness to each other, and these positive emotions seemed to enable a more creative atmosphere that helped pull everyone together more strongly.
Even within the SAH workplace the connectedness of what we were doing during the Pandemic showed. We went from working in a large office with a myriad of daily social interactions to working in isolation, however we surprised ourselves and a sense of community developed through our screens. People extended kindness and thoughtfulness to each other, and these positive emotions seemed to enable a more creative atmosphere that helped pull everyone together more strongly.
It certainly seems we are social beings who seek to belong to something greater than ourselves and this unusual time created a connectedness I have not often seen in my life. Maslow’s Hierarchy of wants put belongingness/community just above physiological and safety requirements because he believed it was so important and so this is true.
Another example of community and belonging that has remained with me was when, as a young adult on my world travels, I worked on a kibbutz - an Israeli collective community - for 6 months. The kibbutz model of community and its utopian ideology is based on a system where everyone worked for the collective.
Even though this system was so different from UK culture, over the 6 months I worked there I saw the advantages of living in this communal environment. It helped everyone at all phases of life, resulting in less stress in the end. Why a variant of this concept has not been embraced by other countries has always baffled me. 30 years later I still remember the sense of connection and belonging this community created for each another but had little experience in my own culture.
Unfortunately, as we emerge tentatively into normal life and re-engage with the world it would appear the post pandemic connected spirit may now be diluting. With the reported growing issue of loneliness across all age groups it would seem important to build on the sense of community we made over the last 20 months.
“Loneliness and weak social connections are associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day”
The health consequences of loneliness are well documented. Dr. Vivek Murthy, former Surgeon General of the United States, recently wrote: “Loneliness and weak social connections are associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day”, and the antidote to this - community and positive relationships.
The Harvard Study of Adult Development is one of the longest running research programmes in social science. Ted Talk by Robert Waldinger (see below), current director of the study summarised in what is the findings from decades of data showing that those who kept warm relationships not only showed increased productivity and innovation at work, but also lived longer and happier than those who did not.
So on the back of the last 20 months here are some tips that have become important to me to continue community within my environment, and to hopefully help me live longer:
Use people’s names.
Become friends with and spend time with people different from you.
Listen with empathy to other people’s experiences and struggles.
Greet people as they enter for any type of gathering.
Allow everyone the opportunity to participate.
Be aware of the cues we are sending to others.
Develop a shared goal.
Continue to develop collaboration skills.
For further information on Safe As Houses please contact contact our Care Team at: [email protected]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KkKuTCFvzI (12.46 min.)