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09 March 2021

Making sense of the impact of the pandemic

Making sense of the impact of the pandemic
Community Housing Cymru is part of the Live Learning Partnership, a collaboration of 10 organisations using Sensemaker to try to make sense of the impact of the pandemic on our colleagues and our organisations.

Last week we published the analysis of the stories gathered up until the end of January 2021.

The data was analysed by Janine Dube, Linc Cymru, Michael Hughes, Monmouthshire Housing, Chris Jowitt, Melin Homes, Bennett McVeigh, Newydd Housing, and Robert Needham, Family Housing along with Michael Muthukrishna from the London School of Economics.

Janine, Business Partner – Data and Business Intelligence at Linc looks at the findings for us:

What are the stories telling us?

As a sector, we’ve been piloting Sensemaker since July which has seen us through three lockdown periods. I’ve been really interested in the language people are using to tell their stories, and how this has changed throughout the course of the pandemic.

The tone across both phases* has remained relatively similar, but for phase two ‘very positive’ and ‘positive’ stories combined have fallen from 54% to 46%. ‘Very negative’ and ‘negative’ combined remain at 30%, however, ‘very negative’ stories have gained ground on the ‘negative’ stories.

Neutral stories went up from 11% to 13%. The analysts described it challenging to determine whether the stories were truly neutral, as there were a few positives and negatives within the stories, however, there was a shift more towards the negative overall in phase two with pessimism about long-term effects and struggles working from home.

Very Positive/Positive

Phase two stories focussed on changing attitudes towards work; specifically, flexibility around working patterns and the shift in emphasis from work being ‘somewhere you go’ to ‘something you do’.

“A new way to organise and run businesses without the assumption that we must all sit in the same place (an office) in order to function as a team or group effectively.

That it is possible to develop and grow interpersonal professional relationships via videoconference technology”

Improvements to mental health and wellbeing were also a recurring theme with storytellers feeling happier and/or that changes made because of the pandemic response have had a positive impact on different aspects of their lives.

“Working from home works! People are productive and happier.”

This remains in keeping with phase one but with slightly more emphasis on ‘working life’ rather than extra-curricular activities. This could be the case for a number of reasons including tighter lockdown restrictions and a change in seasons from Summer/Autumn to Autumn/Winter between phases.

“Companies to enable their employees to have the flexibility to work from home to ensure they achieve the work/life balance. By having this I am more proactive and my health has improved. I feel less stressed.”

Phase two responses are in the main shorter and more reflective with greater use of the past tense, with phrases such as ‘I have…’ or ‘we did…’ the language is also softer and less tense contrasting with the more forward-looking ‘I am...’ and ‘we will be…’ terminology used in phase one which also had a greater sense of urgency – almost firefighting type responses.

Very Negative/Negative Stories

Lack of in-person contact with colleagues and tenants, waiting for responses, and the lack of boundaries between home/work were the key themes coming through here. There is less mention of the negative impact on mental health and wellbeing, although the issues mentioned will undoubtedly have an impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing.

“It is hard now to establish when the workday starts and finishes. My workspace is also where I eat, sleep, and enjoy my downtime - so this lack of boundaries has started to take its toll.”

The number of very negative stories rose from 5% to 11%. There is a sense of pessimism with story titles such as ‘bleak new reality’, ‘loneliness’, and the lack of face-to-face contact with family, friends, and colleagues having a real impact.

Negative or very negative stories about work focus on disruption to processes, lack of or late responses, with an increased worry about long-term effect of being physically away from work colleagues leading to a breakdown in professional relationships.

“I am finding things so much more difficult with certain areas of my work because I am constantly waiting for responses from other people”

“Becoming increasingly frustrated with people not responding to issues by email, not responding to chase ups and not being able to go and speak to them in person.”

And so what…… ?

There’s lots to share and learn and the findings have been circulated via the Live Learning Partners.

I mostly deal with quantitative data in my role and it was interesting to also look at qualitative data in this exercise because the human stories added rich insights that I doubt we would have gained with just the numbers. The tool has made me rethink and ask questions about what the quantitative data I analyse on a day-to-day basis may be missing. This exercise has helped me appreciate the importance of the human stories behind the numbers.

Visit our portal to tell us your story.

*Phase one: July 2020 – October 2020

Phase two: November 2021 – January 2021 (which covers part of the Welsh Firebreak and the lockdown which came into force on 19 December which was still in place at the time of analysis.

If you missed the launch, you can catch up here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FfrK6Id0n6g

The Live Learning Partnership is made up of:
  • Institute of Welsh Affairs (IWA)

  • Wales Co-operative Centre (WCC)

  • Business In the Community (BITC)

  • Cardiff Business School (Cardiff University)

  • Care Forum Wales

  • Community Housing Cymru (CHC)

  • Cymorth Cymru

  • The Ethnic Minorities and Youth Support Team (EYST)

  • Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA)

  • Y Lab (Cardiff University/Nesta)