Flexidesk Online: the path to a new hybrid normal for the post-pandemic world

Published by Scott Challinor on July 29th 2021, 8:08am

As the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbates the need for a new approach in the social care sector, a new solution to help provide outstanding care is being developed through the Flexidesk Online Partnership which is based on bringing care, wellbeing and hybrid working together.

The Covid-19 pandemic has thrust a new normal upon all of us. In the social care sector in particular, the pandemic has brought immense challenges which have had emotional, social, physical, and financial consequences.

With the world much changed by Covid, now is the time for a radical new approach to social care. That is the view of Jeanette Phillips [pictured, brainstorming], founder and CEO of Flexicare UK and The Centre for Practical Innovation in Care [CPIC].

For roughly a decade before the pandemic, Jeanette had been attempting to drive innovation within the care industry in her local area of Gloucester and Stroud through the CPIC, a project launched in tandem with Ian Briggs. The duo devised an initial concept of physical hubs and hublets, a regional and local approach to social care. However, countless hours of work and vocal calls for change in the wider healthcare system were failing to bear fruit and it seemed that the CPIC had reached the end of the road in pushing for sector innovation.

Yet, what the pandemic has now demonstrated is that the need for change in social care remains dire. In partnership with Kevin M. Thomson, founder of The WoWW! Business and renowned author, Jeanette has now built on the CPIC physical hubs and hublets concept through a new partnership to bring about an innovative solution for the change that the sector so desperately needs. That new strategy lies in a new hybrid normal which is fit for the norms of a world so greatly altered by the health crisis.

Jeanette explains it well: “Even more so, we now desperately need to change our whole approach to social care. We are in a pandemic where the ‘new normal’ for the millions of us at work becomes hybrid working.

“But this has led to hybrid ‘ill-being’ - not wellbeing, as the stresses of the pandemic, and what I call ‘home-alone working’ have taken over our lives. And we all need to look to new levels of social care, especially where Long Covid takes hold of ourselves or our loved ones, and as we look to cope with the personal, financial, emotional strains of the crisis.”

Indeed, the social care sector is in a precarious position. Many people must work or be cared for at home or must assume the role of being carers at home. A great many people are also awaiting medical attention and coupled with the challenges of the pandemic it only equates to greater strain on the NHS. The UK population is ageing and looking after parents and grandparents in need only brings greater financial and emotional strife, especially so in a year where visits to our vulnerable relatives in care homes were suspended.

“We are living in a world where we know that visiting people who are vulnerable especially in care homes or being cared for at home is dangerous. All this puts massive strains on those we care for and those of us trying to be caring”, Jeanette explains.

The care sector inspectorate, the Care Quality Commission [CQC], is actively pursuing ‘outstanding care’. However, the CPIC believes that outstanding care must also encompass wellbeing in times of such radical change.

“Very few in care homes or care at home succeed in delivering outstanding care. We need an ‘outstanding care’ service for the whole community, more so in these radically changing and challenging times. The belief we have at CPIC after years of research and innovation, is that we need to now deliver new ways to reach that level of ‘outstanding care’.

“We propose that a significant part of the answer lies not within the word ‘care’, but in ‘wellbeing’. ‘Care’ implies a reactive response to a health need, whereas ‘wellbeing’ implies a more proactive mind, body and soul driven strategy. Wellbeing needs a tactical execution based on personal responsibility and daily habit-forming actions that create the best levels of health and happiness possible whatever levels of ‘care’ through age or ill-health are needed.”

It is in devising a new ‘care’ and ‘wellbeing’ strategy that Jeanette’s partnership with Kevin has blossomed since the two met at an NEC Care Show a decade ago. Kevin has his own personal experiences of ‘ill-being’, and with his wife Sally, a qualified barrister, he has formulated a plan to use communication and connecting to create a new focus, formula and Well-Tech set of tools fit to shake-up care and wellbeing in the new world. This concept was dubbed the ‘WoWWays of Work and Wellbeing’.

As Kevin puts it: “Myself, my wife Sally and my business partner and co-founder Chris Master FPFS, and our team at The WoWW! Business have been working the last seven years around a set of tools, research in partnership with YouGov and programmes based around the globally evidenced research ‘The Five Ways to Wellbeing’. This research was commissioned in 2008 by the UK Government Foresight Project with the New Economics Foundation. It was called the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’ to mirror the ‘Five-a-Day’ foods to eat.

“This summer, we got together to form a new team and partnership alongside another WoWW! Business partner, an Irish start-up called Yonderdesk, who specialise in hybrid working virtual real estate.”

Branded the Flexidesk Online Team, at an opening meeting with Jeanette and Ian of the CPIC it became clear that the radical new strategy the care sector needed had to bring the dynamic trio of care, wellbeing and hybrid working together. To make this strategy work, however, a new leadership approach to wellbeing and care is required which brings together ‘wellbeing’ strategies and tactics with ‘care’ strategies and tactics. This will then help to create a joint approach which Jeanette and Kevin gave called ‘Outstanding Wellbeing + Care’.

Discussing how this could be strategically applied, Kevin outlines: “From the top, what is needed is a core set of values and beliefs around the need for wellbeing in the new hybrid environment. We need to add ‘hybrid’ to ways of working, plus wellbeing. By adding hybrid wellbeing to hybrid-working, we can deliver new ways to allow people to build and grow their own wellbeing. ‘Hybrid Working + Wellbeing’ will allow employees, their families and loved ones to live and breathe in a culture and climate defined under the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’.”

The pitfall is that it is likely to take a great amount of concerted effort for the wider care sector to catch on. Within the CQC’s latest strategy document, titled ‘The World of Health & Social Care is Changing. So Are We’, the word ‘care’ is used over 100 times. On the other hand, the word ‘wellbeing’ appears just once.

Addressing this, Jeanette highlights: “This is a big part of the problem. After years of focusing just on ‘care’, I know that action by leaders is needed to create a new culture and climate of ‘Wellbeing + Care’. We need to put the two together and create a new world of proactive wellbeing backed by reactive care when it is needed.”

In Jeanette’s view, social care technology therefore has a major part to play in the CQC’s future strategy if it is to deliver the outstanding care it is striving for.

Going back to the CPIC’s initial concept of regional and local ‘hubs and hublets’, the idea was that these would provide care at home through Flexicare’s 200 staff, with a core focus on delivering local service to local people. However, given that the pandemic has had a lasting impact on people’s ability and willingness to meet in person, ways of operating have had to change, which has also commanded a modernisation of the hubs and hublets plan. This can be done by going virtual and taking it online, meaning the concept can form part of the solution.

Jeanette continues: “We believe that we need the amazing power of what we call ‘social wellbeing technology’ to become part and parcel of not just the CQC strategy, but all wellbeing strategies such as Employee Assistance Programmes [EAP]. This Social Care Well-Tech needs to be created using the means of hybrid working and wellbeing added to real world care solutions.

“Only by ‘going local’ and giving people their own personal responsibility for proactive wellbeing can we as a community keep up with ever increasing needs for reactive care in the community, as well as in care homes, and our own approach to social and palliative care in the home.

“To this end, we believe a wider solution for the whole community needs to be created. We call it, and the people in it ‘The Five Stars of Outstanding Care’. These are the real ‘C Suite’ of any organisation - including your colleagues, customers, clients, community, and those you care for. The pandemic, our ageing population and local communities need new wellbeing strategies and leadership that go beyond mere healthcare strategies. Every age group and their communities need to put wellbeing first. Social health and care needs, then come when they are needed by a population that is geared toward sustaining its own wellbeing first.”

The problem when ‘The Five Ways to Wellbeing’ first emerged in 2008 was that it was allowed to become a passive solution. It was driven mainly within the NHS and by mental health charities such as Mind but had no backing from any disruptive forces. Now, with the new Flexidesk Online Wellbeing Strategy and Well-Tech Solutions formed through the partnership, and a further concept dubbed the Leaders Care Compass, that disruptive influence is here.

The solutions are delivered around the new WoWWellbeing Planner, Portal, Platform, Programmes and Hybrid Workplaces powered by Yonderdesk. The Beta version of Flexidesk featuring the Hybrid Hubs and Hublets which offer a new way of connecting online have now been launched, and Jeanette believes that as the product continues to be refined, it can be used to help develop and deliver on a new ‘Wellbeing + Leadership Care Strategy’ for all.

Jeanette says: “Our personal drive for the future is to promote our newly formed Flexidesk Online Partnership. We are looking to develop a new ‘Wellbeing + Leadership Care Strategy’ for everyone. This integrates what I like to call a ‘Triple H Strategy’ which includes ‘Hybrid Hubs + Hublets’, with the Leaders Care Compass acting as the guide to the future for the wellbeing and care of us all.”

Listen to Jeanette Phillips, Kevin M Thomson and Sally Thomson discuss Flexidesk Online on The Leaders Council podcast below.


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Authored By

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
July 29th 2021, 8:08am

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