Mind the gap!

25 August 2020 – Tomorrow will be the first well-being session I will be in charge of! The Health and Well-being Forum was an idea I discussed with the organisation’s CEO back in February and he challenged me to run with it! So invites were sent out to all staff and we had our first […]

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25 August 2020 – Tomorrow will be the first well-being session I will be in charge of! The Health and Well-being Forum was an idea I discussed with the organisation’s CEO back in February and he challenged me to run with it! So invites were sent out to all staff and we had our first in March 2020. Then the whole world stopped due to COVID-19 and the Forum meetings were paused…. To help the ‘fill the gap’, I organised a weekly Virtual Afternoon Tea/Lunch break for my team with a quiz and check in, so we could just connect, laugh and talk about anything but work for 30 minutes (usually more). These have been a lot of fun and appreciated by the team in a way that I did not expect.

Thankfully with support from another HR colleague (and the support of the CEO), in June the Health and Well-being Forum started up again. Last month, I had the bright idea to organise four 30 minute Virtual Well-being Webinars, during August and September using Microsoft Teams. Each session had catchy titles (I thought) and the aim was to help staff take time out to listen, learn and share. Everyone agreed that it was a good idea which was exciting.

The first session, #walkonthewildside was a lot of fun and I learnt that simply going for a walk, for the love of it, can really lift your spirits, connect you to your surroundings and those you live with. However, my colleague was in charge and she was fantastic. Tomorrow is my #addressyourstress session and I am worried about how it will go. What if I am too nervous to speak? Will anyone log in ? What if lots of people turn up? What if people log in but then leave? What if I forget the point of all of this? Why am I doing this any way? I am not a health and well-being expert, what do I know?

As I was talking to a friend today, I came up with the title for this post as I realised that stress can be like the gap in between the train station platform. If you know what to look out for, you can jump over the ‘gap’. If you walk distractedly from the platform onto the train or vice versa, you will only know about the gap once you have fallen through it (ouch). I wanted to hold these webinars because we have been working at home for much longer than any of us anticipated and the strain is affecting us. I know that I have been stressed by the constant COVID-19 news (confusing, frightening but sometimes informative), the lack of physical real-time connection to my sources of support (people and places) and surviving a global pandemic! And if I feel like this, may be others feel the same way too.

My plan is simple, I will start by talking about why I feel taking the time out is important, using the last photo I took before lockdown, as a good place to describe what the last 5 months like, follow on with the facts provided by Mental Health First Aid England, then close out with what I do to ‘refill my cup’ when I slip through the gap find myself on the track’ and need to get back on the the ‘platform’. So despite my fears about not being a stress management guru, I can just focus on creating the space with the people that join in tomorrow to stop, listen, learn and share…………………………..

26 August 2020 – Well the session took place and it was a SUCCESS!! 57 participants from 4 organisations logged in and stayed! I was very nervous at the start but I kept to my plan and it flowed really well. It was strange to be looking at round circles with initials instead of faces, however when I asked everyone to take 60 seconds to focus on breathing or being grateful….everyone did! After the break, I invited people to share in the chat what they did to #addressthestress, which generated 28 entries including gardening, yelling/screaming out loud, roller skating, walking the dog cleaning or working out. Participants also gave advice such as hosting virtual coffee breaks, accessing the Mental Health First Aiders and finding something to smile about every day. One of the participants asked me what advice I had as some staff felt guilty about leaving their computers even to go to the loo. It was a good point to remind us all that we are entitled to breaks even when working at home. The need to be ‘seen’ working by staying ‘on’ is not healthy, and so say all of us, but not always do. I learned that this issue is known as ‘Presenteeism‘ and it is not helping us thrive at work. I spoke to the CEO afterwards and he will mention the importance of all staff taking their breaks in tomorrow’s briefing (yeah!)

I am glad that I was nervous yesterday as it made me more eager to do my best. I sought advice from my peers beforehand and invited everyone I could, this really meant a lot to me. I was really moved by all of the thank you messages sent during and after the session. I feel so grateful that somehow together we managed to create a safe space which allowed people to take a break from the norm and realise that each of us can, ‘mind the gap.’

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