The Covid-19 pandemic has brought the community of Travel Counsellors agents and head office staff closer together, a special Travel Weekly webcast on mental health in business heard.

Karen Morris, operations director at the Manchester-based company, said the firm was better prepared for lockdown than many others because of its experience of homeworking.

But she admitted that she personally struggled with the shift to homeworking after the agency’s head office was closed, adding that it had given her a greater appreciation of the working lives of its agents.

“When I first went home, I’ve got to be honest, I struggled for two or three weeks because I couldn’t get my head around the fact that I couldn’t just turn to somebody and have a conversation,” she said.

“If we were working on a project and we had to move things along, you had to have a meeting and a Zoom call and so I found it really difficult.

“But what it has done is it has given me a better appreciation of what it’s like for one of our travel counsellors working from home.

“I just think it’s brought us together as a community, both from a support aspect but also from a travel counsellor aspect as well.

“I know how frustrated our travel counsellors must be when they send an email and nobody responds for hours because they have no idea what that person is involved in.

“That was my biggest frustration working from home. We’ve definitely come together more as a stronger community because we’ve got more of an understanding of what it’s like working from home.”

Morris praised the firm’s agents for their response. While Travel Counsellors has increased the support it offers through a dedicated wellbeing hub, agents have also taken the initiative, she said.

“Our travel counsellors have come together as a community, and the level of support that they have created among their community is just unbelievable.

“I guess, for us, it was probably a bit easier because we already had a community of remote workers and communication has always been key for us.

“We’ve just upped our level of communication to ensure everybody’s still engaged. We look out for red flags to make sure that we are looking out for those people who all of a sudden have gone quiet. We’ve got lots and lots of things going on.”

Morris said agents working as travel counsellors have created new Facebook groups around certain themes from rating each other’s cooking to offering financial advice.

And the company has started working more closely with an organisation called Able Futures to enhance the level of support it offers from head office.

Initiatives included a series of online events leading up to Saturday’s World Mental Health Day focusing on different aspects including physical fitness and financial wellbeing.

It has also featured talks by its own in-house personal counsellor to get her perspective on the Covid-19 crisis and the potential impact on mental health.