How do you bring your whole self to work when you’re working from home? I wrote this blog post for the first My Whole Self day just over a year ago – and immediately, everything changed.
Since then, very few of us have set foot in the office, but in some ways, we’ve thought about our whole selves more than ever.
Mental health has been at the forefront of the news this year more than I can ever remember, and it’s been at the forefront of the support we’ve tried to offer our team at Pause.
In the first lockdown, it quickly became apparent that although we were all experiencing the same storm, we were not all in the same boat. Some of us were lucky enough to have a home office ready to go, but others were scrambling to find space to work in a small bedroom in a shared house. Others still converted their shed or remodelled a storage room. Pause enabled everyone to find a solution that worked for them, providing equipment, understanding and flexibility.
“Mental health has been at the forefront of the news this year more than I can ever remember, and it’s been at the forefront of the support we’ve tried to offer our team at Pause.”
Everyone continued to work against a personal backdrop of uncertainty, anxiety, illness, loss and fear. Some of us have vulnerable relatives who have needed to shield, some of us missed and worried about relatives overseas, some of us tried to juggle at-home schooling with our working life, and some of us have caught COVID-19. Throughout this period, we have been encouraged to share how things are going, and to be honest about what we need to get through this. We’ve given each other, and ourselves, permission to not be okay sometimes.
We’ve had to learn new ways of interacting (“you’re on mute”), but we’ve actually increased our interaction across the team. In the first lockdown, we had regular huddles – random groups of us getting together at lunchtime and chatting about everything or nothing. We’ve had weekly yoga sessions and quizzes* for anyone who wanted to join in. We’ve met children, housemates, pets and partners on Zoom and had a glimpse into people’s home lives. Colleagues who already worked from home, or travelled around the country, have actually reported feeling much more in touch with the rest of the national team.
So what’s next? Even as the storm hopefully calms, we need to continue to be aware of the boat everyone is in. Some people will be nervous about returning to the office. Some people will have anxieties about interacting face to face again. Some people can’t wait, and are ready to hug everyone. We have new colleagues who were recruited online, who we’re looking forward to finally meeting in person.
It looks like most of us will want a combination of working at home and interacting with people face to face, whether we work in the office or not. We’ll need to ensure that we don’t lose the best bits of working remotely – things like the ability to grab five minutes on Teams with someone in a different part of the country or to change our working hours to go for a walk in the sunshine.
Our planning has to consider everyone’s whole selves – their lives, their commitments, their uncertainties – and create a balance with the need to build collaboration and an effective culture across Pause.
Kaye Savage, HR and Governance Lead at Pause
* Quiz topics have included at-home learning (Are you smarter than a 10 year-old?), children’s TV, movie mashups, local trivia from each team member’s home town and the infamous “Birds and their turds.”
You can find out more about My Whole Self on the MHFA England website.
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