I still vividly remember my first morning at the centre. Daily pre-brief and de-brief are the beating hearts our work at the centre. Pre-Brief has marked the start of the day at New Horizon for decades.
For those that are new to the centre, and me on my first day a year and a half ago, hearing the content of the morning de-brief can initially be quite shocking. It isn’t unusual to see new volunteers mouths’ agape as the issues facing the young homeless people amongst our community are discussed. Clearly these issues will never be as hard to face for our team as they are for the young people experiencing them. But just as very physical work can take its toll, so too can emotional focussed support.
We are all becoming more conscious of the need for proactive mental health, and it seems to be, quite helpfully, becoming part of funding decisions and an area that grant givers realise they have a role to play in facilitating. It has got me thinking again about how to provide the best platform for staff and teams to help young people thrive. The following three areas are paramount, and unique, to our work at New Horizon.
1. Knowing when to call it a day
Everybody at New Horizon works a 35 hour week, as per their contract. There is no boasting about how busy we are, no late night emailing and no presenteeism. Staff come to work at 9:30am and leave at 5:00pm (although flexible working is also available). For the odd time they’ll have to stay and support a young person in crisis, they’ll take the time back. When staff are at work, they are 100% committed, and when they are not there is no expectation for them to take their work home with them. The break is important, the batteries need charging. Nobody can crack homelessness in a day. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
2. Knowing when to get into it
The staff at New Horizon will never get used to hearing the traumatic tales that have led to young people walking through our doors. Just because it’s a story they’ve heard before, it doesn’t make it easier to hear. Occasionally even the most seasoned of staff can get caught out by something they hear. When that happens, they need a space to talk. Our pre and de-briefs help, as does fortnightly reflective practice and clinical supervisions that are available to all staff via trained psychologists.
3. Knowing when to ask for help
If you ask the team what makes the difference to them, they’ll tell you it’s their colleagues. I’m always amazed at the diverse community of young people we support (we had young people from 67 different countries of the world last year) and the staff are almost as diverse. What unites them, whether it is Rhona after 18 years or Kai after 18 weeks, is their belief in the mission and their support for each other. The culture is often described as a family. Perhaps this is why in our latest staff survey every single staff member said they were proud of the work we do and would recommend working here to a friend.
How do you support your staff to thrive in challenging circumstances? I would be keen to hear what works for you and your team.
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