One lunchtime in July I find myself sat in a circle of podiatrists in a clinic in West Sussex doing yoga stretches. This is part of my job. I work in the Circus team at Here. Our team’s purpose is to help realise our organisation’s capacity for purpose, leadership and wholeness. Basically that means helping all of our staff learn how to work more meaningfully, to take responsibility to show up with everything we’ve got to make the difference we seek for the people we serve.
The people I work with work hard and they care, they really care -about the person on the phone line using a service we deliver, and about the colleague sat next to them in the office. They -we- work in a healthcare sector under the strain of finite resources, and show up to make care work as best as possible. They, and the culture they create, have made a huge difference to me.
I spent eighteen years in the mind-set that ‘work is rubbish, suck it up and get through it’. I have lived with the belief that to be valuable I have to be continually productive and doing things, even if that is detrimental to myself. Calamity in my life outside work has caused me to fall down at work -hard. These bumps in life’s road have exposed the limitations of how I think about my work and life. I, like many, have operated with the idea that there is a boundary between my work and life outside. But really I am the same person wherever I go. And to feel compelled to act in a way that is removed from how I am is exhausting. And it’s a waste of energy –which isn’t a responsible use of my resources for me or those I work with.
The compassion of those I work with challenged me to think differently about how I show up to live and work and about how I care. ‘Bring your whole self to work’ is a buzz phrase that gets thrown around, but you take your work self home with you too. How we care matters and it is something worth actively paying attention to. One of the ways we do this at Here is through In Balance, our in house programme for clarity, insight and purpose. We are not chasing organisational happiness, or seeking to ‘boost morale and improve productivity’. We do this because it is the right thing to do. How we care matters.
This year, In Balance’s third, we are focused on inspiring self-care and compassion (if this is too wishy-washy for you, read: ‘how well do I look after myself and others?’ -aka the concern of anyone who realises they are worthy of compassion and accepts a fundamental responsibility of being human). Our intention is to create opportunities for people to step out of the busyness of constant doing and see more possibilities for self-care and compassion. We are running activities in nature, reflective spaces, creativity, improving sleep habits, and physical practices like yoga and mindfulness.
Over the summer, and inspired by the interest of colleagues in the Sussex MSK Partnership (a service in which Here is a partner) we brought people at sites across Sussex together to practice desk yoga, with our wonderful teacher Jackie Coulson. Using workplace yoga to manage and improve posture and sitting at a desk can be scoffed at -including by some of those who now sit in the circle having asked for the sessions.
- As we go on this learning journey of inspiring self-care and compassion, here is what I noticed over a summer of stretchy circles:
Being together matters – gathered together to do and experience something new, being beginners together (and without the pressure of ? (the practice needing to be anything than what it is) makes being in each other’s company enjoyable, funny and human. There was a lot of laughter in the sessions and an opportunity to put our roles aside.
- We take it home – it was unexpected to hear in people’s feedback how they had shared the practices they had learned at home with partners and housemates and even signed up to classes outside of work. People take their whole selves home too.
- Face to face is best – we have committed to inviting and seeking feedback on In Balance activities by speaking to people face to face. Our intention is to inspire self care and compassion so we use that to lead how we understand the impact of the work. (And not only are the conversations richer, but taking the time to speak to people shows you value them, the work and what they get form it.)
Our dominant culture of ‘work’ exerts a tremendous force and it feels so tempting, so inevitable, that we must always just carry on and get more efficient at the busyness of doing ‘one more thing’. It is wise, responsible and even brave or radical to choose to step through a door towards better care for yourself and for others. Compassion is in our nature, and who can spare the precious time and energy to resist that?
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