Updated: Oct 8, 2021
When things aren’t going great, people love to say all sorts of things including “don’t forget to go outside and smell the roses”. These sorts of phrases can feel dismissive of people's thoughts and feelings. If we stand back, however, we realise there is a lot of truth in what is being said – being outside in nature, exercise, and doing things that bring us joy can promote wellbeing and improve mental health.
Many of us are not living our normal lives at the moment as we go through this collective experience and trauma. Everyone is experiencing this collective trauma and change in different ways depending on our own current and past experiences and circumstances, and everyone is reacting and responding differently too. We realised that as a business and individuals that there is a lot of uncertainty and grief at the moment. We can, however, try to make life easier for ourselves by changing how we work and live in our bubbles – we can try to smell the roses, when we can. And we acknowledge that we are privileged to do so.
Jules and I decided we needed to make some changes in how we work in this changing world. Whilst we aren’t psychologists, we do need to look after each other, and we discussed and identified the need rethink our wellbeing. Our outcome was to refocus on what gives us energy and creativity in order to run the marathon of working to protect the environment. Changing how we work is critically important for the wellbeing of anyone when there is uncertainty, large change, or crisis. The idea is that if we look after ourselves and each other, then we have more energy and focus to look after our clients, community, friends and family, and ultimately our environment.
We have come up with three primary themes to change how we work in this changing world:
Connect with others
Connect with nature
The idea is that adding these three themes to our flexible workplace will give us more resilience and positivity in our daily lives – that they are a surrogate for smelling the roses. At the same time, we know it is important to acknowledge the feelings and thoughts we are all having right now, and that we are all collectively experiencing grief, change and uncertainty in our lives.
Being spontaneous does not come naturally to me. Nope. Not at all. I am a planner from way back! Like many people, I have had to ditch the mid- and long-term planning in favour of shorter-term planning or flexible planning (i.e. plans that can be easily changed) in order to manage both life and the altered life we find ourselves within. When Jules suggested we have spontaneous hours every week, I didn’t crumple into a ball of goo. I was ready to give it a go.
The idea is that we will spend 2-3 hours a week doing something completely spontaneous that gives a sense of joy, value, pride, love, accomplishment or whatever positive feedback you are craving. There is a link between identifying and using strengths, creating flow, and developing gratitude with the development of resilience and good mental-health.
Knowing seeking spontaneity is allowed at any time allows us to truly immerse ourselves in something we enjoy when we need too.
Connecting with others is about making sure we continue to have social contact, even if we are socially distant. There is a lot of research on the importance of social connection and community in maintaining good mental health.
Jules and I have agreed that this theme can be linked to spontaneity. If someone gets in touch to go for a walk (as is currently allowed under our restrictions), you are allowed to drop everything and go! Or you can use your pro-bono hours however you like to help your community. Do whatever you need to do to feel connected with others, in a way that works for you.
Part of connecting with others is also about looking after your own well-being so you can be there for others too. We promote a workplace where we can talk about how we are feeling or what we need if we want too, but also respect that some of us may not want to talk or would prefer to be in their own space too.
Nature is part of our soul. Being people who have entered environmental science as a career, we genuinely really do care about it. We also love being in it as much as possible, including through exercise, gardening or just simply sitting within it. Being connected with nature and exercising is linked to good mental health.
Part of being spontaneous can be connecting with nature. If the weather is just right, go outside for a walk or do some gardening. Or perhaps take meetings outside, walk and talk at the same time, read in the sunshine or in a shady hammock, have a plant on your desk. Funnily enough, all of us already check the weather during the week to work out what afternoon we may take off early so we can get into the garden or go for a run.
For many people, access to nature right now is limited. If it is, try getting to your local park, looking up fun activities on Remember the Wild, or The Conversation, or connect to nature via media, such as the Victorian Nature Festival, the new series Back to Nature or webcams (e.g. Zoos Victoria webcams, sea eagles, falcons).
We are hoping that by adding these three themes to how we work, we will still be running that marathon for the environment and our clients for many years to come.
We won’t forget that things can be bad, and we certainly don’t want this to be a band-aid to a problem. We hope that this supports everyone in our workplace, whilst we are still open about what we are all feeling and needing as individuals and as a team. We will let you know how it goes, and when we add it to our Statement of Performance.
What brings you joy? What else do you think we could add to this?
If this blog has raised any concerns or if you need help, please find some resources here.
1 For example, this week I was supposed to write a blog about chemicals, regulation and Earth-centered approaches. I just couldn’t bring myself to write about such a heavy topic right now! I promise I will write it.