Out of all the terms we’ve added to our lexicon over the course of 2020, ‘frontline workers’ is our favorite.
At Blink, we build software that improves the experience of thousands of frontline workers all over the world. We know how hard they work. The hours they put in. The pride they take in keeping their communities healthy, fed and well looked-after.
There’s a lot about this year we’d all like to move on from. The word ‘unprecedented’ being one of them. But there’s one thing that we need to take forward, and that’s our appreciation of brave frontline teams.
We’re forever indebted to you. Thank you for looking after us during the most unprecedented (sorry) of times.
We can’t possibly mention you all, and we’re sorry. But we hope you know how much we appreciate everything you do for us.
Long live society’s newfound appreciation; long may it continue!
Frontline Employee Engagement in 2023
After working with hundreds of frontline organizations, Blink has created this guide to help leaders prepare for a year that promises both challenge and opportunity.
Download to learn: The top 8 frontline engagement trends to watch out for and the 6 key strategies for success
The frontline workers we need to thank
NHS medical teams
This Christmas, many will be raising glasses to the medical staff who threw themselves behind global efforts to contain the pandemic and minimize its impact.
We’ll certainly be joining them.
So, here’s to the doctors, nurses, paramedics, healthcare assistants, physios, occupational therapists and pharmacists.
Whether directly or indirectly involved in treating Coronavirus patients, the world owes you one.
While we extend our gratitude to healthcare workers globally, we can’t help but be extremely grateful for our native NHS. Providing stellar, free-at-the-point-of-access care during a global pandemic isn’t easy – but somehow you’ve managed, and managed spectacularly.
It’s stories like that of Dr Sarbjit Clare, Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospital NHS Trust’s deputy medical director, that demonstrate what a gargantuan effort healthcare workers put in.
Central to operational and clinical decision-making surrounding COVID-19 treatment, Dr Clare cared for over 700 patients. Oh, and she single-handedly kept her department open when all her colleagues were sick or self-isolating.
If treating and caring for patients wasn’t enough, some healthcare workers took on even more responsibility in their spare time. Ashleigh Linsdell founded and coordinated a national effort to make scrubs during the UK shortage.
Alison Williams raised funds for COVID-19 patient essentials, including iPads to help them contact their families during isolation.
NHS support teams
We need to thank the often-overlooked support teams that keep wheels turning behind the scenes.
Without them, it would be practically impossible for healthcare workers to do what they do. They’re the backbone keeping the NHS – and healthcare organisations the world over – together and functional.
Caterers for keeping staff and patients fed.
Laundry and housekeeping staff for keeping hospitals clean, whilst navigating intense and often-changing safety regulations.
Hospital porters, for providing an ever friendly, welcoming service. Veteran porter Terry Allen worked tirelessly for patients, transferring them between departments, facilitating their treatment and helping them feel comfortable.
The NHS’s medical teams provide first-class care, but they couldn’t do it without Terry and thousands of others like him.
Care home workers
Residential care home staff – working with elderly people or those with disabilities – look after those most vulnerable to COVID-19.
It’s a tough, underappreciated (and often underpaid) job. So, it’s all the more remarkable that care workers have gone above and beyond for their patients and their families.
Care staff have made it an absolute priority to keep their residents safe. Sometimes, they have done so at great personal sacrifice to them and their own families.
Countless others moved away temporarily, when the support of loved ones has never been more important.
We haven’t even mentioned all the work they put in keeping spirits up amongst those who couldn’t go outside.
From fiddling about with FaceTime to organizing activities, care home residents would have struggled without them.
A huge shoutout to supermarket and food supply chain workers for putting food on our tables.
Whether you’ve been working on the supermarket floor or manning the warehouse, we wouldn’t have survived the pandemic without you. We mean that literally –– access to food is generally important for long-term survival, after all.
Here are a few of the ways food supermarket and food supply chain workers made a difference:
- Eased shortages by introducing limits on certain items (toilet roll, anyone?) and enforcing them effectively at checkouts
- Remapped warehouses and supermarkets and implemented queueing systems so they could operate with social distancing
- Kept up with frequently changing regulations with regard to masks and PPE
- Stepped up to a massive increase in demand for online orders/home delivery
Julie Cook, who works at Asda in Aberdare, South Wales, spent her time off shopping for care homes to ensure they received key supplies.
It’s thanks to supermarket workers like Julie that we’ve all been able to eat and shop safely this year. So, wherever you shop, make sure to thank their in-store team for their efforts when you pop in next.
As schools shut and lessons launched online, anyone with a child found themselves more appreciative of how hard teachers work.
If you thought homeschooling your school-aged child was hard, imagine trying to teach a class of 30. Then imagine trying to teach a class of 30 online, with the myriad distractions and potential for disruption that offers.
Teachers have kept classrooms open for children of key workers. Dealt with whole year groups being sent home for isolation. And increased their risk of exposure to the virus to minimise disruption to education.
Headteacher Jane Davenport and the staff at Reynalds Cross School kept classrooms open for children of key workers. They also made sure the school’s most vulnerable children – with complex educational, healthcare and behavioural needs – could attend classes safely. Jane put so much work that she was recognised with an OBE for services to young people with special educational needs and disabilities.
They’ve certainly earned those Christmas chocolate boxes, bottles of wine and ‘best teacher ever’ mugs. If you can’t offer these, a nice note thanking them will be equally as treasured!
In a pandemic, it’s vital to keep key supply lines open. That’s exactly what lorry drivers do, alongside the logistics teams that support them.
The logistics sector made sure food, essential medicines, PPE and medical equipment were delivered to organizations in need, whilst working under significant pressure and increased demand.
To all the frontline workers across the logistics and supply chain sector, whether working for an in-house operation or a third-party logistics specialist –– thank you.
You can’t eat food that doesn’t arrive on supermarket shelves before expiring. Pharmacists can’t fill prescriptions if they don’t have the right medication on hand. Doctors and nurses can’t protect themselves with PPE if it doesn’t arrive on time.
Logistics teams make this all happen.
Public transport workers
Car ownership is by no means a given amongst many groups of frontline workers. Without the efforts of public transport personnel worldwide, lots of urgently-needed staff would have been stranded.
Drivers, ticket sellers, platform guards and many others in every transport system across the globe need to be thanked here.
We were in awe of how professionally our own transit clients’ workforces carried out their duties under lockdown regulations.
Drivers from Go Ahead, Metroline and Stagecoach provide essential services whilst operating in uncertain and unfamiliar circumstances. Not to mention dealing with significantly reduced capacity to ensure social distancing. Kudos to you.
Police, fire and social workers
While it’s great we recognize the contribution ambulance drivers and paramedics made, it’s easy to forget other essential services.
For police and fire crews, this involved keeping essential services running, whilst adding new responsibilities to their workloads.
For example, UK police have been tasked with enforcing both national and local lockdown laws. These have often changed quickly, and guidance for policing them has been somewhat vague at times.
Enforcing them whilst strengthening links to local communities has been a difficult, often thankless task. We’d like to thank them for their part in containing the spread of the virus.
Meanwhile social services workers have continued to do an emotionally demanding job in extremely difficult conditions.
The Queen’s Birthday Honours List reflected this, with both senior and on-the-ground practitioners recognised for the work they do.
Social workers Manvir Hothi (Hammersmith and Fulham), Danny Levine (North Yorkshire) and Louise Peart (Vale of Glamorgan) were all recognised for supporting service users throughout the pandemic – but that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Thousands more helped vulnerable people and families navigate a particularly confusing time, provided community-based support and eased the loneliness of those self-isolating.
Postal workers and parcel couriers
There’s a lot to be said for delivering ‘everyday’ post as well.
Ask yourself: how much more difficult would those initial stages of lockdown have been without that new hobby you took up?
How much more lonely would elderly relatives or those living alone have felt without cards, letters and gifts delivered?
Postal workers kept it together in tough working conditions. In doing so, they kept countless others together by keeping them connected and keeping them occupied.
Lockdown would have been a lonelier, more boring place without them.
Containing and treating the Coronavirus pandemic has required a Herculean effort from so many key workers across different industries.
Not everyone involved in the COVID effort needed to work directly on the frontline. So much organization has gone on behind the scenes, from so many people – many of whom weren’t involved as professionals.
We’d like to give an honourable mention to the groups below for stepping up!
Operations who repurposed their facilities
The most impressive thing about society’s collective response to the Coronavirus was how everyone came together.
Companies repurposing their manufacturing operations to provide essential items and supplies was just one example of this phenomenon.
It takes entrepreneurship, ingenuity and a lot of hard work to turn around a new, unfamiliar product at short notice. We think it’s important to recognise just how much effort this took, for both strategic decision-makers and on-the-ground workforces.
There are countless examples across the globe here. Close to home, we saw international craft beer brewery BrewDog produce batches of hand sanitizer to help meet skyrocketing demand.
Luxury fashion brand Barbour’s manufacturing workforce turn their sewing machines away from wax jackets to making seriously high-quality medical gowns.
Further north, design teachers from James Calvert Spence College and Duchess’s Community High School in Northumberland teamed up to make PPE.
James Calvert Spence science teacher Dan Davison, who previously worked in an NHS lab, helped develop a test protocol whilst still teaching online classes. Miss Scrimgeour, Mr Donnison and Ms Whitelock from the two schools’ DT departments laser cut visors for use across local hospitals and care homes.
This ‘all hands on deck’ attitude helped significantly in easing shortages – particularly at a local level.
Last but not least… let’s hear it for the volunteers
Alongside frontline workers and key workers paid to do their jobs, an army of volunteers rose to the challenge.
They transformed old bedsheets into useful medical scrubs, started essential goods collections for struggling families, dedicated their time to befriending isolated people over the phone and so much more.
We can’t list everyone who helped out, so to finish off, we’ll share Cambridgeshire resident Geoff Norris’ story.
Already a frontline worker, Geoff worried elderly and vulnerable residents would struggle to get their groceries amidst food shortages. Noticing that all the delivery slots were booked up too, he set up a weekly food delivery service.
On the days he wasn’t working at Asda in Wisbech, he picked up orders, put them through the tills and delivered them at his expense, using his own vehicle. Soon, he had recruited colleagues to help, and was taking orders via phone and email.
We all know a Geoff – or several – who has selflessly given up their time to help others during the pandemic. In our eyes, they’re just as much key workers as anyone else.
So we’ll end by saying “thank you, volunteers, for donating time when you didn’t have to, and making a real difference to so many.”
Your contribution has been absolutely unprecedented (oh no!), and we appreciate it.
While 2020 was a rotten year for many, many reasons, the sense of togetherness fostered is inspiring and moving.