Mushroom’s call to UK Businesses

Mushroom’s call to UK businesses: What can you do to help?

Across the country, caring volunteers are coming to the aid of the isolated and vulnerable members of their local communities, providing them with much needed support and engagement at a time when the consequences of loneliness, a shortage of supplies or an inability to get to a local shop for groceries or medication can be severe.

Local voluntary groups, many under the Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK banner, have gathered small armies of altruistic people with the ability and willingness to help those most in need. We have witnessed first-hand the effort and passion with which people have jumped-to, helping their neighbours with grocery deliveries, medicine runs or just being on the end of the phone to cheer them up with a chat.

It has been a concentrated movement with the power to restore any faith we might have lost in humanity.

Just as one example, a community group in Somerset received a call from a 92 year-old lady who had been without food for 2 days. Thanks to their group, groceries were bought and delivered to her immediately and they are ensuring she is provided with a hot meal every night.

We’re doing what we can, but we need your help too.

Since mid-March, Mushroom has committed time and money to help more than 70 Mutual Aid and voluntary organisations across the country setup new phone numbers with their local area code, linked through to a grouping of phone extensions that enable local volunteers to receive multiple inbound calls at once from their communities via an app on their phones, so they can be there to provide much needed support.

Our telephony provider Gradwell has pledged their backing for the initiative by providing the new phone-lines to Mushroom at heavily discounted monthly rates. If you’re part of a voluntary group or know one in need of this support, let them know that they can register here.

Mushroom is now calling on the UK business community at large to come forward and be counted during this unprecedented time of crisis.

Whether by donating time, money or specialist knowledge and skills, we want to hear what your company can do to help.

We’re compiling a directory of businesses and their available offerings to share with voluntary groups UK-wide – to play your part, sign-up here.

Helping you to help others

Mushroom is also offering dedicated business support for our UK SME clients during the Covid-19 pandemic, including the preparation of individual survival “battle plans”. Find out more here.

Our own business is far from immune from the effects of the current crisis, but with a company group that originated during the 2008 recession, we know from experience that the way we all survive is by coming together and making the very best of our new reality. 

What help is needed?

Every business will be able to bring its own value and creativity to this. As food for thought, here are some needs we have been informed of directly by leaders of some of the groups:

– Containers for doorstep deliveries/drop offs, such as cardboard boxes, crates or similar

– Mobile phones/SIM cards for volunteers to use to contact local residents the provision of lanyards for ID badges

– A way of liaising with local supermarkets to agree better arrangements for volunteers to shop on behalf of the elderly and vulnerable (such as access during the first hour of the day and the ability to buy more in bulk)

– Safe methods of transportation to/from hospital

– A simple method of determining which local shops are open/closed

– Antibacterial gels/equivalent to help sterilise deliveries and protect the isolated from infection

Join us and help us make the journey one to be proud of.

Press Release

April 2020

Covid-19 community groups use free communications software and phone lines to help them serve vulnerable residents

Business services company Mushroom is providing free phone lines and call-handling systems to over 70 Covid-19 community support groups from around the UK.

The phone systems – developed by telecoms provider, Gradwell – are playing a crucial role in helping volunteers communicate with vulnerable people to arrange local support including groceries, medication and other critical deliveries. Over 2,000 calls were made to these phone lines in the first week of April, equating to over 94 hours of talk time.

Genevieve Carnell, Tanya Salinder and Habiba Alli of Redbridge Covid-19 Mutual Aid have expressed the gratitude shared by many of the volunteers:

“It’s been a game changer and a life-saver. We are already receiving 20+ calls a day and have been able to provide a faster and more effective response to so many more people because of this. We’ve been able to take the group from covering patches of the local area through people sharing their personal numbers, to giving comprehensive support across the whole borough through a joined-up system. We recently helped get a food package to a homeless man who hadn’t eaten for days and we were able to get to him in time because he could call us directly”

Mushroom is still inviting voluntary groups to register for free telephone lines and those interested can register here.

Ed Surman, Co-founder of Mushroom said: “We are currently offering free phone lines, privacy policies and as much as we can to help the isolated and vulnerable during this difficult time. We’ve had an amazing response so far and the stories coming back from the groups we have helped are demonstrating that the efforts of the volunteers putting their lives on the line to help others are nothing short of heroic.”

Paul Ceaser, Gradwell’s Chief Technology Officer, said: “We’re delighted to be able to support this initiative. It’s so important that these groups have access to the tools they need to provide essential services to vulnerable individuals, and hopefully our phone systems can play a small part in their vital work.

More success stories

Another community group in Somerset shared the case of a 102 year-old World War 2 veteran who had contacted them to express his enormous gratitude for the help they had given his recently-deceased partner, listening to her fears with kindness, helping her by delivering shopping and prescriptions – and leading to her last conversation with him being bubbly and full of happiness at the way she had been looked after.

Covid-19: Taking care of your staff as you get back to work

Mental Health Awareness week: Kindness

There’s no doubt that Covid-19 is affecting us all.  Whether it’s business related, having children at home, not being able to see family and friends or anxiety about the virus itself.

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week this week, the theme being kindness.  So, we caught up with Mushroom’s HR Lead Charlotte Szeptycki about why it’s important for business owners and managers to be kind to their employees and how they can do this.  This is what she had to say:

You want to take care of your company – of course – but a company is only as good as the people working for it.  How do you ensure your people are as good as they can be?  Treat them well!  Not only will it help employee loyalty and retention, it’ll also help with productivity and performance.

Taking care of your staff means you’ll gain the reputation of being a good employer and a desirable place to work.  People will be eager to work for you, allowing you to attract higher quality candidates.  Sales Force has recently won the Best WorkPlace Award for 2020.  Paul Smith, VP and General Manager in the UK says “Making an impact in our industry and the communities we serve starts with building a great place to work.  People want real insights from real employees when looking to join a company.  What we do well, how we improve on the things we are not so good at and the opportunities on offer to actively engage and make a contribution to the culture”.

It‘s important to understand employees’ needs.  They may, for example:

  • have childcare issues
  • be home schooling
  • be shielding because they are vulnerable
  • be concerned about a family member who currently has Covid-19

Flexible working is so important, especially right now.  A colleague may wish to:

  • start or finish a little earlier
  • do fewer hours during the day, but make these hours up in the evening or over the weekend
  • do longer hours over fewer days

Listen to your employees’ concerns and be approachable.  You and your employee have a relationship, and you’re both working together to achieve the company’s goals.  Some flexibility and communication will not only motivate your staff but is also likely to be remembered and rewarded with higher performance and productivity.

Ensure you’re regularly checking in with your employees who are working from home. – not from a trust point of view but to ask them how they’re doing and if there are any difficulties (and not just with their work).  I think for most, the idea of working from home sounded good initially, but as humans we crave connection with others, we enjoy being in the office with its laughter and engagement, and we can thrive on routine and normality.  The opportunity to talk through a piece of work has more barriers now, so encourage your staff to reach out if they need support.  Daily team meetings could be offered as well as regular one to ones to help with this.  Maybe even a Friday evening virtual team catch up with drinks!

It may have taken a while to adapt to working from home, so for any staff returning to work, they might have some anxieties.  Take some time to listen to their concerns and help address them, so the change feels much easier.  Staff may wish to wear a face mask, move their desk or workstation away from others, not have anyone else make them a cup of tea.  People want to feel safe at work, not wasting time worrying, so help them achieve this.

On an ongoing basis, regular performance management activities should be conducted and not just when there’s a staff issue. Regular appraisals are the perfect opportunity for employee and employer to have a beneficial conversation, to discuss how each feels about their past, present and future at the company.  It allows positive feedback and reward to be given; constructive feedback, advice and support where needed; and to identify future training and progression within the business.

As you can see, kindness works both ways and as an employer, you’re often rewarded with more motivated, committed, productive and loyal staff that will go the extra mile for you willingly.  This kind of company culture is actively sought by high quality candidates.  Employees need to feel valued and respected.  Remember it’s not just the salary size that matters! 😉

Mushroom has supported many clients over the past couple of months with Furlough agreements, contract variations, Staff handbooks and much more besides. 

If you’re in need of advice and support, simply book a free 20-minute HR consultation by emailing theteam@mushroombiz.co.uk.

Preparing your COVID-19 Risk Assessment

INTRODUCTION:

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus. Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment.  Some, including older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.

 

As a business ourselves, we have obligations and a duty of care to protect our workforce during this uncertain time. The UK Government has released guidance on how to work safely during the Coronavirus pandemic. This necessitates an administrative, but entirely necessary and proportionate response from UK businesses, in the form of carrying out COVID-19 risk assessments, in consultation with workers and (if applicable) trade unions.

      • The guidance operates within current health and safety laws and equality legislation. Employers must carry out Covid-19 risk assessments in consultation with their workers or trade unions, to establish what guidelines to put in place.
      • If possible, employers should also publish the results of the risk assessments on their website and it is expected that all businesses with more than 50 employees should do so.

At Mushroombiz, we have done some of the legwork for you by creating this DIY Risk Assessment template, along with a series of self-reflective questions (below) for you to apply to your organisation. This sets out the kind of things you should be focusing on to ensure you remain compliant with your duty of care to protect the health and safety of your business and its workforce.

 

Take care though: this is a generic, template Risk Assessment for dealing with the current COVID-19 situation in the workplace. It is not likely to cover all scenarios in your organisation, and each employer should consider their own unique circumstances.

 

Preparing my risk assessment:

The obvious question: where to start? How do I create a risk assessment? What form should it take? How do I analyse the risks and control measures required?

All these are important starting points. You will need to get granular and fully map, manage, and wherever possible mitigate potential risk factors and hazards.

Save time and supercharge the return to work with more help from Mushroom

✓ Full 37-point COVID-19 Risk Assessment

✓ Get a full Risk Treatment Plan, H&S Policy and workplace-reorientation pack with our COVID-19 Compliance Bundle

Plus a free consultation call with a Mushroom specialist

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:

The following list is not exhaustive, and organisations are well advised to conduct their own independent reviews.

When completing your risk assessment, consider:

      • How will the spread of the Coronavirus affect your organisation?
      • Who might be harmed?
      • Is each risk low, medium or high? How do you intend to calculate that risk?
      • What can you do / what controls are appropriate to manage the risk identified?
      • In terms of hygiene? What are your handwashing policies? Washing our hands is taken as a given by most (hopefully all) of us, so proper hygiene etiquette is crucial to contain the spread.
      • Are alcohol / gel sanitizers readily available for the workforce?
      • How are the premises cleaned?
      • Are you requiring your workers to social distance in line with government guidance?
      • What is the policy if people in your organisation develop symptoms? What processes are in place to identify / alert managers?
      • Does your company rely on delivery drivers? How do you ensure they remain safe? i.e. not allowing workers to share vehicles.
      • What about mental health of your staff? IS WFH (Working From Home) affecting them? Do you keep in regular contact with the staff members? Are team building exercises or even a virtual Friday night drinks event planned – we all need things to look forward to during these times and the importance of building a strong team ethic not only boosts morale but helps staff stay motivated.

Once you’ve identified the risks, you’ll need to decide what risk mitigation actions you need to take to minimise their likelihood and impact. Read more about the 4Ts of Risk Management in this handy article.

 

EVIDENCE YOUR FINDINGS:

It is important you document your decision-making process and keep it under review. You will in most circumstances be required to display a certificate in your workplace, stating you are COVID-19 SECURE.

 

CONCLUSION:

We hope you have found this a guidance useful to help inform your decision-making. If you need more help or have any questions, take a look at the other options Mushroombiz has available here, give us a call on 0345 862 4123 or email contact@mushroombiz.co.uk.

 

 

Stay safe out there folks…