Luella Dixon, interim director of HR and organisational development at Saint Francis Hospice, on what the pandemic has meant for her team.

I’ve had many challenges in my HR career but last year and the continuing pandemic is definitely at the top.

In many ways, it brought us together as an HR team and as a hospice as we all had to muck in and support each other.

We all had a “we can do this attitude”, we will sort it out and then get on with the day job.

However, the workload grew and grew and the day job got lost.

We rarely had a let-up and at a time when we should all have been taking annual leave and recharging our batteries, there was nowhere to go at home or abroad and we had limited access to see family and friends.

Leave was being cancelled as we thought things might change or the workload was so high you didn’t want to leave your colleagues to manage.

Barking and Dagenham Post: Luella Dixon and the team faced challenges in 2021Luella Dixon and the team faced challenges in 2021 (Image: Saint Francis Hospice)

We had to make quick decisions based on limited information and hoping that it was the right decision, only to have to amend it a week later as guidance changed again.

Our working safely and our sickness absence policies have been amended so many times over the last year and furlough created divisions, as did working from home.

All these had to be aired and worked through. As meetings and leaders have been off-site and working online, we were constantly having to correct incorrect assumptions and second guess how things will be read or interpreted.

Staff’s lives were being impacted by sickness, mental health problems and deaths of loved ones. While we had implemented mental health first aiders and staff had access to counselling and other support, the impact of having to keep resilient for so long has led to pent up stress and anxiety.

However, we are attracting staff who want to work with a local, small, friendly organisation which is committed to offering flexible working.

Despite the many challenges, when I look back on what the HR team delivered and achieved, I’m really proud of them and also of the staff and volunteers at the hospice.

Whilst 2021 continues with its challenges, I know that the staff and volunteers at the hospice will continue to be committed to supporting and providing a first-class service to the local community.