This week is National Work Life Week and we’re reflecting on what we’ve learnt about workplace wellbeing this year. Being a tech company, we have computer/desk-based roles and work roughly Monday to Friday daytime hours. We have hybrid and flexible working here too, with everyone currently working from home at least a few days a week. It’s important to note that we’re not mental health professionals, we’re simply sharing what we’ve found helpful. If you have a similar work setup, whether in the intellectual property industry or not, our workplace wellbeing lessons may well resonate with you.
1. Having a bit of fun in your morning meeting sets you up for a good day
“I think for me one of the best things we did as a team during the past year was doing a riddle/asking random question/talking about a random fact in the morning. I think that made morning meetings more engaging — it was nice to have that bit of variety. It came about because there wasn’t much variety in everyone’s life during lockdown, and I felt we needed something a little better than “how was your evening?” every morning! The team decided on the different days (we settled on Monday = how was your weekend, Tuesday = a random question, Wednesday = riddle/brain teaser, Thursday = random/happy facts, Friday = what have you got planned for the weekend) then I led the ‘asking’ bits.”
— Wilf, Software Development Manager
2. The power of positive emojis
Most of our communication still happens virtually and the first thing we’ve learnt here is to pick your communication method to suit the situation. Generally we’ve found video best for in depth discussions and group decision making, old school phone calls are particularly great if you’ve already worked together, email works for more formal, slower paced communication, and messaging for quicker, day-to-day conversations. If you’re messaging someone internally, use positive emojis. It’s hard to pick up on tone or how someone’s day is going when messaging — a 😊 can go a long way!
Some other good ones:
3. Having a supportive team helps — even if what you’re going through has nothing to do with work
“I think the most recent thing that stood out to me is how caring and supportive my team is! To be specific, recently there was a situation affecting my family, which meant I wasn’t doing so well mentally. Although it was something going on outside of work, I was made to feel very comfortable talking about it to my team which has genuinely helped. They were very understanding and caring and continue to show that support.”
— Faria, Migration Engineer
4. Get out at lunchtime to break up the day
A simple but powerful one, and one to include in your work routine. We’ve found going out somewhere during lunch helps, whether that’s the garden, a park, go for a little stroll, stroke next doors cat for a bit, or head to a coffee shop. Even nipping to the shop for some milk will do — the important thing is that your focus is on something other than work.
5. Establish your work-life balance — it really does help
Even if you love your job and it usually contributes to your wellbeing through feeling proud, confident, and motivated, letting it become your focus 24/7 isn’t constructive. There have been times where we’ve spotted people online or sending emails way outside their normal work hours. It’s been easier than ever to fall into this habit, particularly in lockdown with so little going on during evenings and weekends.
If you don’t establish a clear boundary between work and the rest of your life, it can lead to you struggling to switch off which can affect your sleep, as well as reducing your ability to enjoy your leisure time. Over time, you can begin feeling overwhelmed and become burnt out. We’ve seen the early signs of this process setting in, and trust us — step in early and give employees the support and tools they need to re-balance their work-life balance.
Things we’ve found help:
- Set a work routine with a clear start and end time and, no matter how tempting it is to just reply to that email… stick to it. Agree your working hours with your manager/team.
- When working from home, set up a dedicated workspace. If you don’t have a separate room to do this in, find a way to clearly mark the end of the day — put your laptop out of site in a drawer perhaps.
- Get up and away from your desk regularly. Pop the kettle on, water a plant…
- Leave your desk and devices behind when you take your lunch break.
- Agree (with yourself) when your dedicated free time is, so you can do other activities you enjoy, guilt-free. This is surprisingly effective.
- If you’re struggling to switch off, or notice someone who is, speak about it. At work, we have a wellbeing team and HR manager ready to help, plus friends, family or mental health professionals can make a difference too.
6. Get a puppy! Or at least find an activity to do before work
The ‘lockdown puppy’ came about for a reason. While it’s not practical or possible for everyone to get a puppy, James has explained how Ruby gives him a reason to get up a little earlier and go for a walk before work. Pre-Ruby, it was too easy to rock out of bed and straight into work, making it the first thing your brain has to think about each day. Now, he gets to ease into the day on his morning stroll and is finding he feels much better for it.
Without getting a puppy, you can still find a reason to do something before work — perhaps read a chapter of your book, meet a friend for coffee or book into a short class a few mornings a week. If you have kids, you probably have your reason sorted! Not everyone is a morning person so try to pick something that doesn’t feel too much like a chore, something that’s very achievable for you but still has a bit of commitment to it to increase your chances of doing it.
We’re still learning when it comes to workplace wellbeing
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, so we’re exploring ways of growing the types of support we offer. It’s important that employees feel able to seek support when they need it. We understand that not all things can be resolved by our managers, wellbeing team or HR, so we’ve looked to external services and set up an employee assistance counselling package to make sure we can give the best wellbeing support to all our employees.