Lifting the Lid on COVID-19 and workforce resilience – with APSE
Many APSE member councils, during the course of the on-going health pandemic, expressed concerns about the impact on the local government workforce well-being and the overall impact on resilience, both in terms of managers facing new challenges and increased demands, alongside the overall workforce, including frontline staff and ‘back-office’ unseen roles, as well as on managerial and political leadership teams and elected members dealing with new demands at a constituency level.
APSE conducted a short survey during late November / early December in an attempt to identify the reality for both frontline and support staff on their mental health and wellbeing as they have supported their local communities throughout the pandemic.
312 responses were received and the results show a somewhat bleak emerging picture of the impact on the local government workforce as the relentless challenge of dealing with this crisis and delivering core services to our most vulnerable members of our communities continues without respite.
Lifting the Lid on COVID-19 and workforce resilience – with APSE
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@APSE - Association for
Public Service Excellence
@PPMA - Public Services
People Managers Association
Joint online workshop on Workforce
Resilience in Local Government Frontline
Friday 15 January 12.00 – 1.00 PM
APSE and PPMA
• Opening Remarks: - Leatham Green,
Executive Director, PPMA
• Findings of the APSE COVID-19 workforce
• Discussion forum – have your say!
Head of Communication and
Findings of the APSE
• Why did we undertake the research?
About the research
• 312 ( now 317 )
• Of which 6.5% described themselves as
Head of Service / Senior Manager, 30.3%
Managers 38.2% Supervisors / Frontline
• We also received 19% of respondents from
workforce members and 6% of responses
from council leaders / cabinet members /
local councillors (6%).
Working arrangements during COVID-19
• Near to 45% stated that they were home
• 35.6% said that they continued to work in
an office / depot either all of the time
(over 20.7%) or most of the time (14.8%)
• 17.8% worked some of the time from
their office or depot.
• 53.4% of all respondents had presented
during the pandemic at their office or
depot or other allocated workplace to
support ongoing service delivery
There is no ‘new normal’ for many
Two-tier experience? Those who can work
from home and those who cannot?
Working hours impact?
• 69.8% reported that they had worked
increased hours during the pandemic
• 1 in 4 of all respondents reporting
excessive working hours.
• Less than 1% reported working less
This reflects increases in new work, to
deal with the health pandemic, alongside
the existing ‘day job’
Services continuing in the vast majority
of areas, albeit with adaptations as to
how the services are delivered.
• 30.8% had taken on additional duties acting as part
of the emergency response team
• 25% had also taken on additional duties or
responsibilities who were not considered to be
formally part of the emergency response.
Collectively 55.5% of respondents had seen an
increase in workload.
• 13.6% stated they had taken on different job roles to
help with the pandemic
• 10% reported that they had taken on new duties but
this had abated
• Just 18.8% reported no impact.
What does this tell us? Almost a universal impact
on job roles - very few services or workers left
entirely untouched by the pandemic.
How did respondents describe their own well-being? (Respondents
were able to tick more than one option on this question)
52.43%, reported that whilst on some days they
felt okay they also had bad days thinking about
the stresses and strains of the pandemic on their
36.89% reported they were feeling mentally
exhausted by the impact of the pandemic on their
22% also reported feeling physically exhausted
by the pandemic.
Less than 10% reported that they were working
better (more focussed work for example).
What this tells us? We have a problem! A
range of comments here:
➢ Isolation from work colleagues
➢ Balancing home working with home
➢ Lack of support from managers
➢ Lack of public appreciation
When asked about the health and well-being of
colleagues or their staff?
84.8% reported concerns about the mental
well-being of their directly managed
workforce or colleagues
56.6% reporting that mental wellbeing
amongst the workforce was at an all-time low
28.16% stated mental wellbeing was at a low
28.16% reported concerns about physical
wellbeing as well.
Conversely 37.2% described physical well-
being as generally okay
What does this tell us? The comments suggest :-
➢ The impact is greater the longer the pandemic
➢ Constant change is impacting ( regulations,
new ways of working, adapting service
Which best describes the current feelings or emotions
of the workforce?
• 62% of responses that there was a
‘general acceptance that the current
ways of working are here to stay for
the foreseeable future’
• 44.8% stating that ‘everyone is fed
up and wants to move to a post-
• Just 12.9% reported they were still in
‘crisis response mode’
What the comments tell us – people
are not desperate for a new normal
but the old ‘normal’!
Sentiments expressed were about
‘light at the end of the tunnel’ or
‘none of us expected it to last this
Sickness absence and COVID-19
• 51.1% reported that they had had a small
number of Covid-related absences (at the
start of the pandemic in March / April)
• 10.49% reporting a large volume of self-
• 11.80% reported a surge in Covid-related
absences with 5.57% reported a surge in
The general sentiments were ‘not as bad
as it could have been’ and clarity on
guidance helped them manage absences
better. ‘Good weather in the summer may
But… will we see a surge during lockdown
Positives from this ? Public sector
managers in local government have better
managed the situation than other sectors.
What has the pandemic made you think about?
• Near to 50% of all respondents reported
that they do not feel the public understand
the importance of the services
• 34.1% feel undervalued
• 37.7% said they felt proud to work in local
government and (the pandemic response
made them want to stay in public
• But…a quarter of all respondents however
said they would be minded to take early
retirement or redundancy
• 12.9% were rethinking their career choice,
considering a move away from local
‘Reminded me of the importance of local government in a crisis in
supporting and keeping local people safe!’
‘I feel that the government do not appreciate the efforts that my colleagues
and I have sustained to continue to deliver key services throughout the
pandemic. #public sector pay freeze’
‘A significant amount of attention is given to NHS and the Care Sector and
those in Local Government providing essential frontline services are not
recognised in the same way.’
• The #PublicSectorPayFreeze featured in numerous responses
What about morale?
• 43% reported that morale was
• 47.3% reported that morale was
• 9.8% of those respondents
stating morale was extremely
These figures correlate to the
earlier questions when
respondents were asked about
mental wellbeing. They are also
consistent with the sentiments
coming through in responses
when asked about feeling valued
in the work and service provided.
• Are we doing enough as a sector to support the
• Are we walking into a one tier solution for a multiple tier
problem (blue collar / white collar/ age / home
• Do we ‘defend’ our staff enough or ‘celebrate’ them
• What could or should we do differently?
• How do we turnaround the mental health and morale
issues filtering through the workforce?
Back to Leatham!
Mo Baines, Head of Communication and
Association for Public Service Excellence
3rd floor, Trafford House, Chester Road,
Old Trafford, Manchester M32 0RS.
telephone: 0161 772 1810