Wellbeing: Thriving not just surviving in lockdown

Oct 22, 2020 | Sector & policy

As many areas brace for tighter restrictions, Mike Thompson, founder of Gen Healthy Minds, reflects on the impact on wellbeing so far and how we can better support young hires.

Over the past six months we have all been through a real rollercoaster ride of emotions as everyone’s lives have been turned upside down by the arrival of Covid-19.

One group, however, have been hit particularly hard and that is young apprentices and graduates making their way in their careers.

The expected journey from education into the workplace evaporated overnight to be replaced by virtual inductions from a bedroom or living room, meeting your line manager via a Teams call and never stepping foot in an office or factory.

Dealing with change brought about by Covid-19 has been hard for all of us but for apprentices and graduates it has felt particularly hard and living in the new world is having an impact on their wellbeing and performance.

The team at Gen Healthy Minds works with groups of new apprentices day in and day out to equip them to stay well and thrive. On our workshops two common themes come through consistently:

  1. Stress levels are heightened – every group we work with are sharing with us the classic signs of increased stress ranging from problems sleeping/nightmares to reduced concentration and heightened anxiety levels
  2. Motivation levels are low – the prolonging of lockdown has hit motivation levels even amongst the most highly motivated self-starting individuals

These two challenges are often interlinked with heightened stress levels impacting on our emotional state and making it harder for us to concentrate and maintain motivation.


How can we support young people and help them to not just survive but thrive?

Gen Healthy Minds focuses on positive psychology. The essence of positive psychology is that we can all lead happier healthier lives by adopting simple positive daily behaviours.

These behaviours are all grounded in research and are shown to lift our mood. We have been working with apprentices and graduates to put in place some simple positive psychology behaviours.


Six behaviours everyone should consider as they think about their wellbeing and motivation

  1. Be self-aware – check in on yourself every day as to how you are feeling. How energised are you and how do you feel? We use a simple 1-10 scale where 1 is feeling very low and 10 is totally flourishing and wherever you are on this scale how can you take action to make small steps up the scale?
  2. Be structured and planned – having goals, be they short term or long term, is motivational and gives us purpose and satisfaction in life
  3. Be grateful – practicing gratitude helps us to be more positive individuals and offset worries and negative thoughts. Writing down three good things every day changes the shape of our brains and triggers ‘happy hormones’ such as oxytocin to offset our stress hormones
  4. Be healthy – introducing simple daily practices around diet, activity, sleep, and hydration improves our energy levels and ability to deal with challenges when we face them. Simply drinking more water or cutting down sugar levels can boost our mood and resilience
  5. Be mindful – practicing mindfulness (living in the here and now) helps boost our happiness and stimulate happy hormones and positive thinking. Adopting daily routines such as mindful breathing or body scanning makes us more aware of how we are feeling.
  6. Be connected – having strong connections with others who you can share your feeling and emotions with is very important. ‘A problem shared is a problem halved’ has never been more relevant as it is in modern society

If you are running a graduate or apprenticeship programme it is crucial to ask yourself a few simple questions:


Do you provide the environment and the tools for young people to be able to practice these behaviours each day? Do you have an environment where people can connect and share or are encouraged to check in with themselves?


Development and tools

Are you supporting apprentices with the development needed to understand their mental health and equip them with the tools to proactively manage it?



Do you have sufficient wider support in place such as mentors and mental health first aiders as well as a good occupational health provider where more specialist support is needed?

It has always important to focus on positive mental health but in the current environment it has moved up to number one priority in my opinion. As HR and early careers professionals we can no longer sit back and hope our occupational health colleagues or providers can support us. We have to take the bull by the horns and build wellbeing into the heart of the programmes we run.

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