We’re living in strange times – and just as we’ve all needed to adapt our lifestyles, we’ll need to adjust how we practice to fit in with the ‘new normal’.

To help, we spoke with our senior consultant Kristy Carr to get her top five predictions for how teams working in the human services sector can keep on getting the best outcomes for their clients.

  1. Being needs-based and flexible makes a world of difference

We know there will be scenarios that arise for children and families that will be almost impossible to anticipate and plan for in advance. Still, the answer to helping them move forward in these circumstances will be, as always, to keep putting their needs first. More than ever, our ability to truly listen and respond to people and the uniqueness of their experience, and keep information and resources flowing as circumstances change quickly, will be what makes a difference for them. The ability to cultivate a reflexive stance, where you proactively consider just how flexible you can be in your service provision, will be the characteristic that will elevate you and your organisation from the rest.  

  1. Being empathic and sensitive is more important than ever

Even if the current circumstances do not impact your organisation, remember that this may not be the case for the children, young people, families and carers you work with. Showing that you recognise this and demonstrating a willingness to alleviate their strain in this new and different world will help people feel seen and respected. The sense of safety this will bring for them can only help stabilise a platform for action toward the change they seek.

  1. Small actions count

We’ve all heard the “we’re all in this together” speech – and while it’s nice, it could come across as insincere if not followed up with tangible activity. If you’re going to tap into this messaging, back it up with solid examples of how you and your organisation are shifting your focus to help already vulnerable people further disadvantaged by the pandemic.  How are you repurposing your service to fit the ‘new normal’ better? In particular, stay mindful about accessibility to your service. Consider going the extra mile to keep on top of what may get in the way of this.  While the pandemic continues, we know that it exacerbates relationship issues, financial stressors, anxiety, and health issues for people already in vulnerable situations – all of which can block their capacity to connect with the services they need. What practical steps can you take to help offset this?

  1. Leveraging communication skills brings great results

As more and more people are spending greater amounts of time at home, either due to unemployment or new work arrangements, practitioners will continue shifting their focus to reach clients where they are. We’ve already seen a significant swing toward greater use of video-conferencing technology and various apps that work to virtually connect people when face-to-face work is not an option. Initially used more to facilitate communication between professionals, we are now seeing more active and widespread use of these tools to contact practitioners and the children, young people and families they serve.  This represents a game-changer for those of us committed to a relationship-based approach and is not without its challenges. However, it is also true that some surprises have emerged, where practitioners have found their ability to engage with young people and families has only been enhanced by new and different ways of connecting.

  1. Stay positive and creative

In going forward, we will likely continue to see growth in technology focused on overcoming the connection barriers created by both the pandemic and the societal restrictions needed to keep our community safe. Organisations will need to encourage and equip their staff to take advantage of the opportunities that come with this situation and devise new workarounds for the difficulties that remain – instead of allowing workgroups to stay clinging to ‘what we always do’.  One important skill-set will be to gainfully use multiple communication and connection strategies, recognising when, where and with whom each can be used to best effect.  We know, easier said than done, right? Yet we also know that how we show up to work every day makes a difference to our generativity, the climate of our workgroup and the quality of our service to children and families. It is so important that we stay tuned in to how we are travelling as professionals.  The science is in – connection with others gives safety, and it is feeling safe that allows creativity and positivity. If we focus on staying connected with our peers, if we actively maintain a learning, development and support network, the more we replenish ourselves and the more we will have to offer others. This is where we can help you.

If you need further assistance to embed a ‘new normal’ into your services, please reach out to us. Our knowledge and experience uniquely positions us to help you and your team respond well to the new and different circumstances confronting our sector today – so that you will be there for the long run with children, young people and their families. 

Kristy Carr has been a consultant, trainer and facilitator with Encompass for seven years.

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