There is no doubt that living and working through a pandemic has changed the landscape of rehabilitation and vocational support, but when is the right time to stop reflecting and start using the way we adapted for a time, to improve the future of people requiring vocational rehabilitation?
In our May webinar Bush & Co shared their perspective on this and we had some great discussion following on from that at our May Irish Network meeting. Bush & Co feel the time is now and they showcased a birds-eye view of how they feel vocational rehabilitation clients of the future will be the ones to benefit from our learnings and new perspectives. Following the webinar, we caught up with Stuart Berry, Operations Manager who oversees Bush & Co’s associate vocational case managers. He highlighted a few of his key points further.
A changing landscape
Over the past 18 months, many of the pandemic contingencies and ways of working may have felt like temporary solutions but, where these worked well for people working through vocational rehabilitation, it would be short sighted to overlook these temporary measures and cast them off; instead we should be reviewing what has benefitted people more than the somewhat traditional routes for rehabilitation and maximising potential in the future.
Let’s take a look at a few areas that Bush & Co vocational case managers are now taking into future rehabilitation.
Screen fatigue became an issue for many whilst working from home and assessments, in particular, had to be structured differently, into bite-sized chunks to reduce the risk of the client being mentally tired.
What Bush & Co learnt is that one assessment split over a series of meetings still worked and in fact, can be just as effective in the future when needed. Not all clients can sit for long periods of time in the same place and concentration and memory may be affected, so breaking down the assessment could be seen as even more effective dependant on the client and the circumstances.
Working from home
For many people, returning to work in a pandemic wasn’t an option. However, where people could work from home this was actively encouraged and supported. As businesses up and down the country now look at ‘hybrid working’ models, with a blend of at home and in the office working, returning to work in a remote world seems far from temporary.
Supporting someone to return to work in a remote world can be done. What Bush & Co learnt from the pandemic is that making people feel part of something with access to support from colleagues was paramount. Open sessions on Microsoft Teams where people at home are connected visually with those in the office gives that sense of belonging and the ability to join in with conversations as well as make relationships. The chat function also helps people stay connected and provides a quick way to ask questions.
Working from home or returning to the workplace wasn’t an option at all for many at certain points in 2020/21. Industries such as construction and sports and leisure closed completely and so supporting a client to return to work could, by some, have been put on hold.
Bush & Co vocational case managers used this time working with clients to improve their general work skills, looked at self-directed learning and focused on skills such as resilience and working capacity. This gave clients more purpose and helped them to feel like they were moving forward. As the world begins to open back up, for those following an accident or injury, there may still be times where their return to work will be delayed longer than they’d like and so Bush & Co will continue to look at ways to move the client forward and strengthen them mentally and physically for the long-term benefit of the client.
Feeling isolated will often be something that people, post-injury, experience. Isolation from the workplace, their colleagues, their social groups and the lifestyle they once had. When the pandemic is over, isolation will remain for many. At Bush & Co, tools were developed during lockdown to help offer clients some structure to their day and week; focusing on the small wins was vital as multiple rehabilitation appointments turned into no appointments at all.
Journals will continue to be used as a tool with clients to set small tasks, create a greater feeling of achievement and help clients to not dwell on the larger concerns.
Flexible working patterns will remain. Employers have over a year’s worth of evidence showing that flexible working and working from home work can work. The myths surrounding home working are dissolving and people have demonstrated that productivity, innovation and general employee engagement can still happen in a remote world. Clients with long-term conditions will benefit from this new perspective, meaning employers can be more inclusive too.
Technology will also continue to play a role in vocational rehabilitation, whether that be to keep in touch, learn new skills or return to the workplace.
Whilst at times the pace of change may have felt unmanageable, it’s been at a pace that has enabled many clients to come out of lockdown much better off than the position they were in, back in March 2020. That development and the many vocational rehabilitation professionals supporting clients during the pandemic should be commended and celebrated.
To find out more about the work of Bush & Co and their learning throughout the pandemic, you can get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org