It is evident that the current moment of history we find ourselves in presents a number of challenges for all staff across a range of sectors and industries. Although many of us have adapted as much as possible to this new way of working and restrictions are gradually lifting, it is still of the utmost importance that we actively look after the mental health of ourselves and support our teams wherever possible.
The UK Department of Health defines self-care as “the care taken by individuals towards their own health and well-being, and includes the care extended to their children, family, friends and others in the neighbourhoods and local communities. Self-Care includes the actions individuals and carers take for themselves, their children, their families and others to stay fit and maintain good physical and mental health.”
In this post, we are going to explore some of the ways senior leaders can practice self-care both professionally and personally, as well as within their teams.
Share resources and encourage conversation
Many teams have been sharing resources and implementing measures internally with their employees about how they can protect their mental health at this time. These can be explicit such as links to Mindfulness Zoom sessions, or implicit such as instigating a daily or weekly challenge to add some laughter and a sense of connectedness to our days. The CMI has produced the Better Managers Manual – a guide for navigating the impacts of Covid-19 for managers and leaders as well as a number of other resources.
Here at Inclusive Boards, we have implemented both of these measures, and have continued our Friday afternoon reflections sessions virtually. We also use the time to engage socially and share what we have been watching/reading/listening to that week and have a general catch up.
Set clear work and home boundaries.
As many companies have transitioned to working remotely people have found the boundaries between work time and personal time becoming increasingly blurred and it’s important that we draw a clear distinction between the two wherever possible. Some ways in which you could do this include:
Schedule a daily end of day debrief with your team – this gives your team the opportunity to check in with each other, update colleagues about projects and signals the wrapping up process for the day. If this isn’t practical for your company, consider setting an alarm for 15 minutes prior to the time you should be finishing to remind yourself to start winding down and preparing for the next day.
If possible, consider turning off notifications from any methods of work communication such as email and Slack in the evenings and weekends. Many phones now have built-in focus modes which allow you to restrict access to certain applications at set times of the day.
Schedule a phone call with a friend or loved one for 30 minutes after you are due to finish work for the day.
Whilst working from home some people prefer to wear more casual or comfortable clothing, whilst others find it helps them to stay focused if they are dressed for work. If you fall into the latter group, consider changing your outfit at the end of your working day.
Reframe your commute/lunchtime
While it can be tempting to log off for the day and launch straight into domestic life try to use the time you would usually spend commuting doing something you enjoy. For example, if it usually takes you 45 minutes to get home, spend the time between 5.30 and 6.15 reading, catching up on your guilty pleasure TV or using that time to prepare a more elaborate meal than usual. Make the most out of being at home by using your lunch break to engage in a hobby activity, journalling or trying a new recipe.
When communicating with your team try to identify stress triggers – have members of your team mentioned commitments outside of work such as caring for relatives and neighbours, or issues such as feeling nervous to leave the house? Ask people how they are coping with these external pressures and if there is any support you can give.
It’s important not just to check in with your colleagues but with yourself. Some of the questions we might want to ask ourselves are:
Am I getting good quality sleep?
Am I getting enough exercise?
Am I eating in a way that nourishes my body and gives me energy?
Consider setting some time aside in the morning or at the end of each day to reflect on what you are grateful for, what you are excited about and how you can build positive momentum. Taking time to reflect is a good opportunity to assess our energy levels and recognise if we are beginning to feel burnt out. Kings Fund has put together this resource on how you can manage your energy during this time.
Be mindful of Zoom fatigue
Much has been written about Zoom fatigue, and the fact that multiple video calls a day can be draining for all involved. This article from BBC Worklife which interviews two academics in sustainable learning and workplace wellbeing suggests limiting video calls to those that are only necessary and using alternatives where possible such as group files and telephone calls.
Taking the time to practice self-care will improve not just your mental and physical well-being but will likely enable you to concentrate better and perform more efficiently. We should all be taking steps to look after not just our families, friends and colleagues but ourselves.