By Kate Morris-Bates, MSc, PGDip, BA (Joint Hons), PGCert, PCC, MBAcC – Wellness Consultant, Coach & Integrative Medicine Specialist
Novelty to Normality
Barely occupied office buildings up and down the country are a feature of the post-lockdown work landscape. Whilst in theory we can return to the office, many have chosen to remain firmly in the work-from-home camp, and others may have had this a contractual change as organisations seek to downsize their real estate portfolio. Either way the novelty of working from home has long worn off as what were “work around” home office solutions have morphed into more permanent arrangements. For the individual employee, there are obvious upsides to working from home; not least the cost savings associated with commutes, lunches, coffees, and office attire. And in theory, the time saved on travel can be spent exercising or on other forms of self-care. But there are also downsides. Feelings of isolation, loneliness can creep in as days have become months of limited face to face social interaction with work colleagues outside of email, what’s app and zoom.
Human Need for Community
Workplaces are communities like any other. Some are better than others. But they are all communities of people working together for a common purpose – whether it is profit driven, not-for-profit driven, in the private or public sector. And community is one of the things which keeps a business alive and prospering. It is why solo entrepreneurs commonly seek social media groups to hang out in or attend networking meetings. And why the water cooler chat is so important to organisational culture; it’s where strong connections between employees are formed. People have informal water cooler chats at close quarters about topics other than work – sports, kids, hobbies, holidays and this matters. Because a relationship based on shared interests, deeper insights into personalities, enables a better understanding of the people we work with. And with better understanding comes a deeper sense of belonging and contentment, both of which promote the production of stress reducing hormones such as serotonin, endorphins and dopamine.
The Maslow Hierarchy of Needs
This notion of Community brings me onto The 5 Levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is one of the best-known theories of motivation. According to human psychologist Abraham Maslow, our actions are motivated in order to achieve certain needs. Picture a pyramid with the following headers in ascending order:
🕐 Physiological (e.g. food, shelter, sleep)
🕐 Safety (e.g. job, resources, personal security)
🕐 Social Needs (friendship, family, social groups, community).
🕐 Esteem (e.g. status, recognition)
🕐 Self-actualisation (desire to be the most one can be)
So as we can see, Community is slap bang in the middle of this pyramid.
Why does it matter? Simply put, Maslow argued that the failure to have needs met at various stages of the hierarchy could lead to illness, particularly psychiatric illness or mental health issues. I hear the sentence “I feel stressed” a lot in my coaching and consultancy practice, particularly since the pandemic became part of our lives. It has affected people from all walks of life, of all professional levels. Stress is an umbrella term used by people to describe physical and mental symptoms of disquiet, unrest, anxiety, lack of control and confusion amongst other emotions.
To live as fulfilling life as possible we need to be fit and healthy, with stress under control to minimise the amount of potentially damaging stress hormones in our bodies (e.g.cortisol, adrenaline, norepinephrine), whether we are working from our own homes, or from another location. So, to help you, I’ve put together this list of Wellbeing Tips during that you can do from your home/work base.
- SET A MORNING RITUAL
Instead of instantly reaching for your phone or laptop to check social media or your emails, set out a bit of time for yourself. Take a relaxing shower, listen to some music, meditate, or just take time to enjoy a healthy breakfast. The “morning miracle” is one example of a routine which combines stretching, drinking a glass of water and meditating for 15 minutes before you start your day. This will help to separate your time between sleep and work and also set you up for a productive day.
- YOGA AND MEDITATION
Just 5 minutes of Yoga and meditation during a break will quieten your mind, stretch your body and release toxins. Focussing on your breath will help you feel centred and reconnected with yourself. This is especially important during stressful times. Yoga Journal’s Medical Editor Timothy McCall warns against overly ambitious yoga when
you’re in a state of anxiety. “When you’re fearful, Restorative Yoga is not going to work,” he says. “You first need to burn off anxiety with more energetic practices and then you can get to the restorative.” If you feel riled up, he suggests doing a strong practice for 20-30 minutes, then transitioning to more calming practices.
- EAT A NOURISHING LUNCH
It is way too easy to grab a fat-laden, empty calorie and sugary snack to keep you going through the day. Or indulge in all-day grazing when working from home. Taking time to make a nutritious lunch, full of fresh foods high in vitamins will help you feel nourished and healthy. Avoiding serotonin-suppressing drinks containing caffeine is another
top tip, replace with water or herbal teas for ultimate hydration.
However hard we try, getting 10,000 steps in around the house is a tall order. So get out and about of your home environment and walk, run, cycle, meditate, forest bathe, bootcamp or gym; anything which feels aligned with your physical needs to alleviate the feeling of stress and connect with the outside world and other people to get your mood-boosting endorphins.
- SET A SLEEP SCHEDULE
Human beings thrive on routine, especially a set sleep schedule. Good sleep hygiene is essential for a fit and healthy body, clear and calm and balanced emotions. Try to stick to the same time going to bed and waking up to keep your energy levels steady. It might be tempting to have lie-ins, take afternoon naps or even stay up late watching movies, but you will be much more productive, good humoured and able to cope with the challenges of working at home.