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Barnardo’s are finding multiple ways to provide support to their staff and youth colleagues in light of the current COVID-19 situation. To learn more about how Barnardo’s are working alongside young people to help them deliver peer-to-peer support within the Care Journeys Programme, check out this recipe.

Before the COVID-19 lockdown, support for staff typically happened face-to-face. However, Barnardo’s have had to change the way they are supporting their colleagues.

In order to draw a line between home and work, Barnardo’s have suggested that online groups supporting young people, such as WhatsApp, are to be muted between certain hours. With high levels of emotional labour, debriefing sessions for staff have also been introduced with an increased focus on play. Team leaders are encouraged to also lead by example in promoting well-being, such as scheduling in screen-breaks into their work calendars.

Young people are clear that help from Barnardo’s workers is available during working hours, so there is no expectation that staff will be responding to messages via communication channels outside of their working hours. Staff have clearly provided alternative signposting options to young people, such as emergency contacts and out-of-hours support options.

Image showing a team catch up taking place through a video call and a selection of funny socks and gardening pictures that the group members have shared with each other. Names have been removed for privacy.

Recipe status

This recipe has been in use since March 2020.

We are not sharing this recipe as the perfect solution to a problem, but we believe Barnardo's’s learnings could be very useful to other organisations.

Users and needs served

  • As a worker / member of staff, I need to be supported by my organisation especially as the COVID-19 emergency can lead to feelings of extra difficulty and stress.
  • As a manager / member of staff, I need to find ways of supporting my staff that are not face-to-face. I also need to be looking after their well-being so that they don’t burn out.

Software and tools used

Facebook Workplace

Facebook Workplace is a virtual workplace platform for organisations to connect, communicate and collaborate. Barnardo’s are using it for internal communications – people across the organisation can post and read updates from others. Useful links and resources are shared in a peer-to-peer manner.They are also using it for daily debriefs. The Barnardo’s workers who are part of the Care Journeys programme regularly debrief on what went well, what was tricky and what may need to change going forward. These debriefs are also important for workers to express their own feelings and get support when needed.


Free to use for education, non-profit and emergency service organisations.


Barnardo’s have found that it’s more dynamic and interactive than the intranet they used before which people could only post blog posts on. This tool accommodates much more multimedia content – it’s a Facebook product so very similar to timelines.

Workplace chat facilitates a lot of text-messaging style communication as well as group video calls. This is much quicker than emails. It also does not rely on a VPN to get access – this is simply secured through a login (with staff using their own Barnardo’s email) and therefore can be accessed remotely by anyone without the need for an additional step to connect via VPN which can sometimes be unreliable.

There are two Workplace apps available for phones; one is the Workplace general app, much like the Facebook app, the other is the Workplace chat app, much like Facebook messenger. This is useful as sometimes we have noticed that staff have issues with wifi dropping/bandwidth being low in their homes. The phone provides an alternative using cellular data, which is great to have as a backup.


Communication tool for free calls, videos and chat


Free 'basic' account plan allows unlimited 1-1 meetings but has a 40 minute time limit on group sessions. Paid plans include Pro (£11.99/month/host), Business (£15.99/month/host) and Enterprise (£15.99/month/host). These contain all the basic features as well as increased participant quantities and removal of time restrictions.


  • Allows for recording of sessions - sharing privacy settings available.
  • Allows for group video conferencing
  • Allows for video calls and restrictions e.g. only the host has their video camera on with participants’ videos off.
  • Includes a chat functionality should the participant not be able to/ wish to speak verbally
  • The meeting owner can manage participants; e.g. muting video functionality
  • You can create private meetings which require a password upon entry to sessions.

Google Hangouts

Communication tool for free calls, videos and chat. Large calls with innovation team e.g 20 - 30 people (update calls).


This is free to use for anyone with a google account, which is also free to create.


It is a free to use platform and can hold up to 250 people. However, unlike zoom you can’t see all participants at once.

Recipe steps

1. Set up Random Coffee Meet Ups

Barnardo’s have set up random coffee meet ups within their Care Journeys/Children’s Services teams to help staff connect with people they haven’t worked with recently. This is particularly nice when teams are having to work remotely and thus may not see everyone as often.

  • Publicise the coffee meet up on the various platforms that staff are using. Invite staff to sign up to the scheme.
  • Once there are enough participants, randomly schedule pairs together.
  • Connect the pair together, using facebook workplace or work emails. The pair should then agree on a time to meet via video call, within a week of paring. The coffee meet-ups don’t have to be long: 20-30 minutes is long enough for a good chat.
  • Continue shuffling around pairs so that staff get to meet other people in their team. There is no compulsion to take part and staff can opt out if they prefer.

2. Creating Boundaries on Messaging Platforms

To help staff draw a line between work and home, Barnardo’s suggests taking the following steps in any messaging support groups that youth colleagues are responsible for. Please note that this way of use is only for the context of Care Journeys and not Barnardo’s Children’s Services.

Creating the group

Ensure that the staff member is the only admin in the group and that any security settings have been applied. Ensure that group members give their consent to being part of the group. Make sure they understand what it means to be part of the group, and that you have a record of them saying they are happy to be in. Explain that this means others in the group will be able to see their details (phone number if WhatsApp, facebook profile if Messenger) Explain that they can leave the group at any time. Explain the ground rules for engagement before adding someone to the group.

Lay down any ground rules in an early message

  • The staff member/ admin should write down any ground rules for the group’s participants, including expected and unaccepted behaviours, time restrictions, support available.
  • Ground Rules work best when they are set in collaboration with young people. Barnardo’s like to ask young people to lead on this. For example, the young people will tell Barnardo’s the ground rules that they would like to see respected in the group. Staff can always suggest their own ones too if they don’t get covered off by the group.
  • It is possible to write these in the description of the group so that users do not need to scroll back and forth
  • Remind participants that they are welcome to turn off their notifications by ‘muting’ the group if it feels overwhelming.
  • Emergency and out-of-hours support should be discussed with participants beforehand.

3. Incorporating Play

Barnardo’s’ play activities consist of small interactions that would happen day-to-day in an office, but are typically lost in remote working.

Starting out

  • Consider the things that would be done daily e.g. coffee breaks, chats, etc
  • Bring them into a digital / online setting by booking in time in staff calendars. Consider having spaces that are always open for people to chat in that are not restricted - imagine an online ‘watercooler hangout’ spot.

Getting feedback

  • Get feedback from your staff as to how they’re finding the activities and adjust accordingly. Think about adding in additional activities which may not have happened in your work life before (e.g. pub quiz with your team, daily 10 minute tea breaks that anyone is free to drop in and out of as their schedule permits).
  • Using channels such as Workplace allows staff to share gifs and images to help them communicate in a more informal way with others. Barnardo’s use the reaction buttons to quickly yet quietly respond to other people’s messages in the group chats (e.g. a thumbs up ‘like’ to acknowledge they have received the message).

Setting time aside

  • Set aside time for team socials – where you can park work for an hour and play games together such as charades, have a Friday afternoon drink or cup of tea or celebrate someone's birthday


  • Be mindful that staff are dealing with personal issues as well as their work.

  • Think about how you can replace physical interactions in an office space with digital versions. For example, both having a hot cup of tea at the same time can help people feel connected.

  • Barnardo’s have found that play is important for workers too. By doing this, it helps workers release stress. It also helps to build and maintain a sense of connection within the team. Think about incorporating play within different teams and client groups, considering any activities that help build healthy relationships within the teams.

  • Limit overwhelming people with lots of video calls and meetings. They may also be doing a lot of this in their own time, to keep in touch with friends and family.

  • Encourage people to take regular breaks and get some time away from screens. Working in crisis mode continually can be very draining and lead to burnout. Sharing videos of exercises to do during the day – for example for neck/shoulders, but also giving your eyes a break.

  • Encourage staff to ‘set the example’. In other words, to be the change. For example, senior staff in Barnardos set the example of taking time out from their working days by blocking out break periods in their calendars. In doing this, it set the precedence for other staff to follow suit. If each staff member shows by doing, that it is okay to take breaks, then culture change is possible.


Body Language

It can be more difficult to read body language or interpret social cues over any video conferencing platforms. Try to make these digital spaces open and inviting for staff to feel comfortable to use. Some people are not comfortable switching their cameras on during calls, please respect everyone’s privacy and decisions to do what they need to do to feel comfortable.

Gauging Feelings

It may be harder to gauge how staff members are truly feeling as the removed physical contact can result in lower quality interactions.

  • This may be countered in one way by checking in and out before and after meetings to make sure you gauge the emotional responses of colleagues.

  • Make time for 1-2-1 calls with your team or your manager so that issues can be properly discussed on the phone and worked through together

  • The lack of physical interactions may cause an invisible barrier, where people may not share as much information with you as they would if you were face to face.

Assisted Digital Users

Colleagues may not have all the technology and/ or skills to be able to use some online digital platforms.

  • This is particularly true for colleagues who are not used to, or have never had to work remotely. Having how-to guidance readily available can be helpful to resolve common problems.

  • Be patient in allowing people to learn at their own pace, in their own way.

  • Early adopters, and colleagues who are comfortable with working from home, can offer informal support for example by talking someone through the steps of setting up a zoom meeting, or sharing their screen so others can see how they do that.

Remote things are slower, be patient

The speed of supporting colleagues remotely is different to face-to-face. This sometimes results in some things taking longer than before, but other things will be noticeably faster and more efficient.

  • Be patient with colleagues and yourself - the new working setups are different and people are dealing with higher levels of stress and potentially, vicarious stress from the children, young people and families who access support from our services.

  • Children, young people and families have said that when their Barnardo’s worker is stressed, they can feel it too, and it makes them uneasy. Supporting colleagues emotionally can help them help others better: you can’t pour from an empty cup!

Throwing out digital after the emergency

When lockdown lifts, the temptation may be to under-fund face-to-face support or to discontinue many digital services – throwing the digital baby out with the bathwater.

  • We must think in terms of ‘blended services’, what digital services should become ‘BAU’ moving forward

Points of contact

For further information about this recipe, you can contact:

Irit Pollak

Sohila Sawhney


Many thanks to Barnardo's for contributing this recipe.


This recipe is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.

That means you are free to copy, redistribute, and build on the text of this recipe, but only for non-commercial purposes (if you want to use it for commercial purposes, get in touch with us at [email protected]). You must give credit to both Catalyst and Barnardo's and link back to this page. If you build on this recipe then you must share your version under this same licence.

Recipe published on May 21st, 2020. Last updated August 3rd, 2021