By Andrew Monk, Executive Director of Development and Alumni Relations (DARO)
For me personally, one of the most positive aspects of work is the wonderful team and colleagues I work with. It’s not just that they’re great at what they do, it’s that they’re caring, compassionate, funny and entertaining company.
The social aspect of daily life in the office helps to keep me motivated and connected. Tracking the highs and lows of who’s moving house; how somebody’s children are settling into school; the merits of different creations on The Great British Bake Off; the post-Six Nations teasing, following yet another disappointing performance by England. These are just some of the conversations I would normally be having around the office.
Of course, this past year has been different. Conversations typically are more deliberate than spontaneous and making a cup of tea involves conversations with my plants rather than colleagues! I have found this really hard, and continually crave the connection which I’ve always found so important for my own mental health and wellbeing.
In DARO we have taken a proactive approach, championed by various colleagues across the team, especially our Staff Experience Group, to try to make space and time for those conversations. From informal ‘drop-in’ coffee mornings and monthly ‘elevenses’ which give us the chance to catch up with colleagues informally in break-out rooms on Zoom, to a comprehensive online Christmas party with goody boxes for each team member – we’ve tried to create space and actively encourage that personal connection.
I think it is important for all of us to remember that it’s okay to take a breather within our working day to connect with colleagues. On a personal note, I’ve taken various approaches over the past year. I am aware that I often see the same people in meetings, and so have made a conscious effort to connect with all my colleagues across DARO.
One year on, I’m making time for one or two coffees every week, and catching up with individual members of the team. It is easy to think “I haven’t got time for this, there’s too much going on”, however, what I’ve found is that it’s during these conversations that we’ve often touched on things which are helpful for work, as well as for feeling that sense of personal connection. This is motivating and inspiring for me – these connections help to foster my sense of wellbeing.
In the interests of always learning, this week we in DARO are trialing a new platform – www.wonder.me – which allows you to move around a virtual environment and ‘bump’ into people for conversations. This has been championed by our Staff Experience Group and is just one example of their commitment to helping to find ways to help the team stay connected.
So just remember, it is always okay to catch up over a coffee, although I would strongly advocate for it involving tea and biscuits too!