Making space for self-care and wellbeing at work 

Caring workplaces and the challenges of 2020

We’ve been thinking a lot about workplace wellbeing this year!

We adapted quickly when the Covid-19 pandemic began, and there have been unavoidable changes to how we work. But it’s also important to think about how we can make employment better for our wellbeing as employees.

We’ve all been working from home, so we have new challenges – and new opportunities – in terms of wellbeing and self-care. While schools and nurseries were closed, several of my co-workers were balancing taking care of young children with work. It was lovely seeing peoples’ children and cats in the background of Zoom calls, and it highlighted the need to support each other through pandemic changes and stresses.

This year our ‘Mums Returning to Work’ project has developed new training materials for supporting other workplaces build Mum-friendly workplace cultures. Inclusive and equal workplaces and communities are more important than ever, as research shows the unequal impacts of Covid-19. Women and mums have been disproportionately affected around work, so we’re holding an event on Supporting Women’s Wellbeing and Rights at Work to create more space for sharing solutions.

Event poster with the text: Supporting women's rights and wellbeing in the workplace 25th November 1-3pm Outside the Box are hosting a free online event for everyone interested in how to support equalities practice in the workplace. We're losing the skills and experience of women in the workplace. We need to get it right for women, their families and employers - now more than ever. Talks will include: Living Wage Scotland, How to become a Mum Friendly employer, Supporting diversity in the workplace, Meet the employer and more. We want to hear your views and experiences so there will be space to chat and share learning throughout.

Workplace self-care ideas

Policies and decisions which support workers – like flexible working, and becoming being a Living Wage employer – play a big role. Depending on the workplace, people might have different options for self-care during work. And what works and what counts as self-care is different for every person as well!

I think self-care is about finding space to take care of our whole selves; our mental health, our physical health, our need for nourishing social spaces, how we connect to art and music and the outdoors, and what we do each day.

Our co-worker Rhiannon put together a video on wellbeing while home-working sharing ideas for self-care. Here are more ways we make space for self-care in Outside the Box:

  • Having a quick call with someone we don’t usually work with, for a bit of unstructured social interaction – like how we used to bump into people in the corridor, or have a spontaneous conversation on the bus in the morning
  • Talking about our mental wellbeing and mental health with our co-workers. It’s good to have space to say what’s on your mind and benefit from peer-support.
  • Getting into the workplace habit of taking a break in the middle of the day to spend some time outdoors – we have a flexible working policy, which makes it possible to get more sunlight. This feels really helpful for mental wellbeing as it gets closer to winter.
  • Some of us can get too focused on exciting work projects to remember to plan time off – so we remind and encourage each other to take our days off and relax!

Self-care ideas from our friends

To get more perspectives, we asked a few of the wonderful organisations we know what they think about self-care and work.

“Self care is a phrase we are hearing more in our everyday language. Whether it’s self care Sunday or Wellbeing Wednesday, there is no denying the power of self care.

Self care is something we do deliberately to take care of our mental and physical health and wellbeing and it’s as individual as we are. For some, it’s a quiet time in the bath away from the hustle and bustle of family life and for others is a detailed Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) outlining things that must be done every day in order to maintain a sense of wellbeing and equilibrium. Life feels tough just now so please take time to explore and find out what self care looks like for you, whether it’s a walk round the block or up a Munro, getting active or having a rest. Try it and feel the difference it can make!” Wendy Bates, Chief Executive at Health In Mind.

Take a look at Health In Mind’s Twitter to see a brilliant thread of Self-Care tips they’ve posted! They also have a lovely short resource on 5 Ways to Wellbeing at Work.

“Surely the ultimate act of self-care is taking time out to prioritise our mental health and wellbeing. Whether it’s stepping away from a stressful situation or giving yourself credit for the things you’ve achieved, find out what works for you and do it. Above all, remember to be kind to yourself during these weird times.” Fiona Milne, Comms Officer, Penumbra.

'Talking about mental health and different challenges we face can help make workplaces more supportive. #SelfCareWeek #GoSelfCare''What does your workplace do to help support self-care? #GoSelfCare #SelfCareWeek'

“Self-care, self-management or to put it simply looking after our mental health and wellbeing is more important than ever right now. Our lives may have changed but it is possible to adapt, draw on and share our wide range of skills and abilities to retain a positive sense of self as we navigate these challenging times together. Many of us have been able to identify new strengths and abilities as well as build on others to support ourselves, family, friends, and the wider community.” Christine Muir, Senior Communications Officer, Scottish Recovery Network.

It was Christine’s idea for us to all get together and share self-care ideas this week. See Scottish Recovery Net’s Twitter for more Self-Care Week ideas!

“Peoples mental health will be changing all the time right now, but because of the stigma around mental health problems, many of us won’t want anyone to know we’re struggling. So it’s important that employers are proactive  in creating open cultures around mental health, and encourage staff to practise self-care and talk about how they are feeling. Creating safe spaces to have conversations, encouraging staff to take regular breaks and considering reasonable adjustments can make a big difference.” See Me

These resources from the Health and Social Care ALLIANCE on managing our wellbeing while working at home are also helpful! Lastly, here’s what Rachel from Making Recovery Real in Dundee thinks:

“Self-care is an activity we do to take care of our own mental wellbeing, but it’s often overlooked. Everyone has their own preferred self-care activity whether this is purposely sitting down to do meditation, setting boundaries or taking a social media detox, but activities like going for a walk or reading totally count too! With the current Covid-19 situation we feel taking time out to do self-care is now more important than ever. During our work time, our staff team have benefitted from virtual coffee catch-ups with each other and collective Wellbeing Wednesday activities (including quizzes) to give us some head space.” Rachel Jackson, Communications Worker, Making Recovery Real

To join us in celebrating everything self-care, you can use the #GoSelfCare hashtag and share your self-care selfies and ideas!