Introducing the to don’t list: how we are creating sacred time to support each other’s mental health

Oh, for goodness sake, not another company blogging about the pressures of WFH right now. To be honest, we’re kind of sick of it too. It has become quite apparent, though, that for those fortunate enough to be able to work from home, this isn’t some kind of sourdough-baking-banana-bread-musing fad. Our office-based business operates in a shared working space and so we are unclear when we will all be in the same room again. Whereas several weeks ago we were seeing the distance between us as some sort of short-term cultural challenge that could be fixed by Friday-night Houseparty quizzes served with quarantinis, we are now facing the real - and personal - mental health challenges of working through isolation. We have stopped planning for how we survive this period away from the office and started focusing on how we work towards thriving at home.

Establishing boundaries

Home for many is a sacred space where personal lives ought to be lived out without the pressures or presence of work encroaching too much. In just a matter of weeks this has completely changed - a professional issue that must not go unspoken.

Every relationship needs healthy and respectful boundaries, including our relationships with both work and colleagues. In order to establish boundaries, we need to be clear about who we are, what we want and need, and our limits. Our homes may have become our offices, but that mustn’t mean that we are deemed to be at work 24/7.

Introducing sacred time to our days

Last week, we came together as a team to open up about our needs and limits. As you might expect from such a diverse bunch of people with different lifestyles, we all function quite differently. There was a common thread, though: we all needed the ability to switch off from work every day. We are, after all, not just working from home, we are also living through a global crisis. With this we introduced ‘sacred time’ to our days, where we committed to avoiding sending and setting up meetings, so we could each focus on doing what we need to do to support our own mental wellbeing.

Sharing our to don’t list

To mark Mental Health Awareness Week, we wanted to share the teams ‘to don’t list’ - some ideas for how to switch off from the ongoing presence of work in the home to switch on to better mental fitness.


ASAD’S TOP TIP: LEAVE YOUR PHONE AT HOME

“SCREENS ARE EVERYWHERE. Staring at a laptop all day, on my phone in the evening - heavens, there’s even a screen on my wrist! I’m really missing all of the ‘downtime’ that came from the mundaneness of a working day - walking to get lunch, actually having lunch with a colleague, cycling to and from the office - those were all the times when ideas came up and where I felt happiest.

“To try and create some of that I’m actively leaving my screens behind during sacred hour. Whether that’s turning the camera off on video calls so I can stare out of the window or leaving my Apple Watch at home when I go for a walk. The activity monitor may think I’m dead, but at least the ideas are still alive.”


SIMONE’S TOP TIP: CREATE AN INDOOR GARDEN

“My MHAW tip for lockdown is to connect with nature and bring the outside in. I live in a flat, so I’ve created an ‘indoor garden’ (term used very loosely but I’m proud of my creations).

“Nurturing something to life and seeing some of the outdoors inside has been a calming and captivating ritual - from giving my existing plant some love, planting new seeds and checking in on changes each day, to making crucial decisions on when to re-pot. Watching a spray of green spring up beside a small corner of the window has been surprisingly uplifting.

“As a previously non-green-fingered urban dweller, I’ve realised now how much I was missing out. Nature is a known mental health tonic - and with the restrictions of lockdown we need it more than ever. I understand why garden centres were amongst the first to open their doors.”


LAIQA’S TOP TIP: GET ROOTED IN NATURE

“As sunny days start to outnumber rainy ones, I am taking full advantage of going outside this springtime. Although my garden has been taken over by building work and is unusable, I have managed to find a green spot tucked away on my doorstep.

“The previous obstacle of living so far away from central London is now a privilege, as it means I am a little bit closer to nature. Hidden under our nearest motorway is a little bit of lush land, with a narrow canal passing through it. I’ve never appreciated this space more, as a chance to get away from the busyness of trying to work in between the drilling and hammering as our home get’s repaired.

“Taking a trip down to the canal during a longer lunch break, or spending the weekend walking with family, thanks to ‘unlimited exercise,’ has really helped to clear my head and get back in touch with nature.”


BEN’S TOP TIP: AVOID INERTIA

“As a sole parent to a young child, I’ve had to work from home quite a lot over the years both in agency and as a freelancer. One thing I’ve never been able to shed is the guilt of taking breaks. Until last week in lockdown, I don’t think I’d ever allowed myself to take advantage of any of the benefits working from home can bring. It was then that I decided we ought to speak to the others and discuss how we wish to work as individuals in order to thrive as a team.

“Two things came out of this conversation for me: I need to be able to work early in the morning in order to get any absolute peace from my son, and I need to be able to physically workout to separate myself mentally from all the noise of work, life and home-schooling.

“For the first time in my career, I’ve allowed myself to feel no guilt from ‘indulging’ in a 20-minute HIIT session during the day, or going for a walk without returning with a Pret sandwich. And, for once, the three hours worth of work that I do before the rest of the world wakes is accounted for. It’s noticed and appreciated rather than taken for granted.”

So there you have it - four tips to make this week a little bit nicer. What are you doing to look after your emotional wellbeing? Let us know over at Twitter or Instagram, and make sure to sign up below to get the latest updates.