Dynamo North East — June 2020 Advisory Board meeting

Sophie Mazrekaj, 18th June 2020

There was a great turnout for our third virtual Advisory Board meeting which was held last week on Zoom. Connecting remotely is the norm for now but has obvious drawbacks, the main one for us being the lack of face-to-face interaction that usually happens not just during the meeting but sometimes (just as importantly), pre and post meeting as well. In an attempt to address this, we used ‘breakout rooms’ for networking after the meeting which; whilst not being as effective as in-person conversations, is certainly an adequate substitute for now.

We welcomed Dynamo Account Manager Clare Nicholson back after almost 11 months of maternity leave. We are all delighted to have her back, get in touch if you’d like to catch up! We also welcomed a new member to the team; Emma Whitenstall will be joining Dawn Dunn, Laura Kemp and Phil Jackman as an Engagement Manager. A seasoned project manager, Emma has previously worked for Generator and brings a wealth of relevant experience and expertise to the team. We very much look forward to working with her!

Next, Phil Jackman updated us on the progress he’s making with plans for this year’s #CyberFest which is due to take place in September. The format of the event is not yet confirmed but it is expected to be a mixture of virtual and actual events. Phil is looking for support to enable him to develop the festival further. If you’re able to help, the crowd-funding page can be found here. You can find more information on the events and speakers confirmed so far here.

Dawn Dunn then talked about EdTech which is an area that appears to be gaining traction in the region with organisations such as globalbridge and Cognassist pushing the skills agenda. Globalbridge’s Future Stars event that took place this week, connected employers with top talent and students of all backgrounds. There is also a TLevel Pilot being run by Gateshead College and Digital Skills qualifications being rolled out at Newcastle College – the latter highlighting their status as an awarding body.

Since our last board meeting, the focus seems to have shifted slightly – organisations are of course still very much concerned with business resilience and how they will bounce back following the COVID-19 crisis, but there was a spotlight on employee wellbeing in the discussion this month, with most board members reporting that their organisations have told staff to expect to continue working from home for the rest of the year and perhaps beyond. The implications of this on employees’ wellbeing should not be underestimated.

Graham Jordan of the NE ICT Partnership raised the question of how companies can keep track of the ‘feel’ of an organisation when there is only a skeleton staff in the office and other employees are somewhat isolated. These intangible issues are now coming to the surface after the initial remote working problems have been ironed out. Neil Hemming reported that SAP have made some of their software platforms free to all, one of which helps to take the ‘pulse’ of an organisation.

Mark Thompson of CGI highlighted that some staff are working even harder due to the fear of job loss, so we need to ensure that this extra productivity is not at the cost of mental health. Wellbeing is a very important consideration for employers at this time and an extra management overhead is now required to handle this.

A survey of 2,000 UK consumers by London-based BioBeats (a digital health and artificial intelligence start-up that specialises in creating corporate and personal wellness solutions) found that nearly a quarter (21%) of UK employees say that their mental health will be negatively impacted by remote working measures being extended post-lockdown. Only 5% of respondents stated that their mental health will improve as a result of extended remote working but alarmingly only 3% say they would ask for help in coping with this new way of working, which presents a striking gap between employees’ needs and their ability to seek support from their employer. Read the full article here.

In order to address this, it is important (perhaps now more than ever) that companies prioritise employee’s wellbeing and have a proactive process in place to identify and help staff members who are struggling with remote working, as has been implemented at NHSBSA among others.

Needless to say, if you are struggling talk to your employer or failing that, a friend or family member – seek help and hopefully you can find a small amount of solace in the fact that you are not alone, we are all in this together.






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