One year on from the start of lockdown which saw us transform to a culture of home working overnight. We reflect on the lessons learned and the importance of the health and wellbeing of our Grimshaw community.
Going into the office provided many of us with a physical boundary between our vocation and ‘life’ and gave our working day structure and routine. The commute, a dedicated space for work, colleagues… maybe they don’t sound like the most obvious salve for our mental health but it’s part of how many of us tried to achieve that gold standard: a ‘work-life balance’
Grimshaw has fostered a collaborative and inclusive culture from the start; prioritising staff health and wellbeing has always been a matter of great importance. It’s why we have a dedicated wellbeing team who’ve driven a raft of initiatives across the practice. Our poet-in-residence, LionHeart, who produced 60 poems with staff across the practice, and the publication of a series of honest, moving journeys from colleagues who have battled with mental unwellness called ‘Mindblown’ are just two examples.
So why is it so important? To start, it’s well-established that better staff wellbeing makes great business sense. According to research from Warwick University it can improve productivity by as much as 12% and result in fewer sick days taken. And with all that comes better commercial performance.
But crucially, and regardless of the above, we prioritise this because we know it’s the right thing to do. It’s a symptom of caring. And that means a concerted effort to go high above and beyond what’s simply required; consciously embracing opportunities to evolve.
In this unprecedented period, we’re all needing to focus more on our mental wellbeing. At Grimshaw we have framed the past year as an opportunity to grow and acclimate to new demands. Our wellbeing team have continued ‘business as usual’ with activities cherished by staff before the pandemic. yoga, bookclubs, mediation…but also expanded to include bingo, auctions, cooking classes, quizzes and lots more.
How do we know we have a happy workforce? A good litmus test was a fantastic studio culture and a vibrant social scene. A chance to be one part of a bigger whole. In a way, it was a microcosm of the feeling of being a part of society in general, of connectedness.
We might all be missing that aspect of normality, but we do all have something that still ties us together – our working lives. Perhaps one of the most visible, new modes of outreach is our efforts to stay connected and ensure people that out of sight is not out of mind. Recognising that each of us will be going through a completely different experience our weekly team meetings have been augmented by smaller one to ones, buddy schemes and group catch ups where the focus is not on work but simply checking in. This year during our annual wellbeing week all employees were individually video called and were asked “are you OK?”. Hand-written postcards were received through front doors reminding us help is at hand if we need it. At Christmas, all staff received a bespoke card by post to remind us we are part of a whole at Grimshaw. Each employee’s unique graphic illustration, when collaged together, form one giant interconnected constellation. The note reminded us that we might be able to do that in person, soon.
Taking away lessons from the year, the answers are still evasive. We carry on recognising that, whatever the case, it’s still okay not to be okay. Support networks and mechanisms are still changing. The point is, rather, that we consolidate everything that’s happened and stay willing to adapt to circumstance – we stay open, continually, to learning and improving.