Reimagining the workplace through wellbeing
Well, that was unexpected.
We certainly weren’t anticipating a global pandemic, but the Atomix team huddled and came out winning. While we were met with certain challenges, building on our success mindset created a wonderful environment for flexibility.
Atomix has a strong culture of caring which became even more apparent through recent enforced isolation. As a practice, isolation has adverse effects on human nature. Even those of us who think we prefer our own company came to realise that we are, in fact, quite social beings. What does a caring culture have to do with being social? Quite a lot actually.
“There’s a real link between playfulness at work and wellbeing [although] it kind of gets drummed out of us after we’re kids,” says Aaron Jarden, associate professor in the Centre For Positive Psychology at the University Of Melbourne. “The extroverts will try and bring those practices back to work.”
Team morale is at the forefront at Atomix. We lead with flexibility and understanding, which gives us scope for freedom of action and thought. Having this outlook creates an inclusive team environment.
Prior to isolation, our team would hold a daily morning catch up which we have maintained, albeit in a virtual space. But what about the moments of banter in the kitchen following these morning collaboration sessions, or the laughter shared during retrospectives after a project launch – and how do we share our home-baked treats?! This social connection naturally waned, so it was important that we became even more mindful of one another’s wellbeing.
Dhruv Khullar, a physician and researcher at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York states: “…We have evolved to be social creatures. For all the history of humanity, people have been in family structures, people have been in groups, we’re evolved to kind of crave and rely on that interaction with other human beings, […]
“So when we don’t have that it’s a huge void in the way that we go about being human. This is something that has been kind of hard-wired into who we are as beings.”
Atomix not only adapted to a totally virtual office, we championed it.
Our morning Stand-Ups weren’t just about goal-oriented tasks, they were happy socks and interactive backgrounds; social pups and loud shirts. Our Friday retrospectives may have included a social drink, but they also included Pictionary drawings so bad that they were spectacular. (All mermaids are orange, right?)
We shared new workspace playlists, set each other reminders to get up and stretch, and created a Slack space to share “One-Good-Thing” each day. Moments of reflection and gratitude are key at Atomix, so it was important that our focus went beyond what was happening globally. Sharing “One-Good-Thing” created a new perspective and highlighted what was relevant to each of us as individuals. This helped to reshape the way we function as a team while endorsing a sense of wellbeing.
Celebrations have been a little more difficult to navigate. Recently, we held a fundraiser for Cancer Council SA’s Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea, but how do you host a team morning tea over Zoom? We put our innovative brains to task and refocused and we held a junk-drawer raffle, complete with home-baked goods and cups of tea: many drool-worthy photos were shared over Slack. Who says you can’t raffle a Christmas cracker prize #regift? It was fun, charitable and really lifted the team morale.
We did a survey and it wasn’t even boring!
Creating and sending out a team survey gave us great insight into how each one of us works as individuals and what additional support mechanisms could be integrated into our day-to-day. An interest in global cuisine stood out as the great unifier, and our random fact feedback gave us a greater appreciation for the diversity within our group. And do we all enjoy yoga? Funny you should ask.
Wellbeing doesn’t come naturally; you have to work on it – and for some, it’s not a priority.
Alongside this energetic and fresh approach to WFH, Atomix gifted each of our team members a Wellness Box: a generously crafted box of carefully procured items that not only endorsed wellbeing, but also greater connection. And yoga.
A fabulous new mat made its presence known in each and every one of our homes and we broke these beauties in with a whole team yoga Zoom session. Even the most unconvinced participants loved the exercise with a few of us even nodding off towards the end.
It was equally invigorating and calming and united the team holistically. We now participate in a weekly yoga session and aim to integrate this as a group wellness exercise upon our return to our studio.
Mindfulness as a treatment for burnout
Meditation [is essentially] a way of training awareness to find a state of clarity and calm. On a neurological level, meditation has been proven to improve attention span, emotional stability, and self-awareness. The anterior cingulate cortex (the part of your brain that manages your attention span) lights up during meditation, training your brain to tap into higher levels of focus.
Tang, Y., Hölzel, B. & Posner, M. The neuroscience of mindfulness meditation. Nat Rev Neurosci 16, 213–225 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrn3916
But what does that actually mean? Well, if you were thinking of how long it’s been since you last ate a donut instead of finishing a sales proposal, some meditation may assist your focus so that your attention span is functioning at a higher level. And you get the proposal done.
Meditation and yoga are interrelated. Yoga is a holistic and mindful practice that includes physical movements (asana), breathing (pranayama), meditation (dhyana) and relaxation (savasana).
Consistent yoga practice will in turn naturally boost serotonin and in doing so, assist in combating depression, lowering stress levels and fighting anxiety.
“When you’re taking care of yourself and making yourself the primary focus, all parts of your life are more successful,” Orenstein said. “There have been a slew of studies that have shown that when you’re well in your mind and your body, you’re more productive. There are lower absentee rates at work.” (co-founder of Primary NY, Danny Orenstein) ref: https://www.thecut.com/swellness/2016/08/wellness-workspaces-bring-meditation-to-the-office.html
To avoid burnout while working remotely we learned to be more mindful of ourselves as “workers” as well as being mindful of our spaces. Even the most fluid of us learned that we do, in fact, have some sort of a routine, that boundaries are a very real thing, and that they are sometimes hard to define. Not all of our homes were ready for a virtual office, so we needed to integrate the Atomix office space into our homes to help define the work environment from the home environment.
How we integrated?
An inclusion in our Wellness Boxes was a propagation station. These hand-crafted stands, made from reclaimed Australian hardwood, were allocated to our team along with cuttings from “Mother Plants” at our Tynte Street studio. The cultivation of these cuttings will lead to the growth of more plants to grow and share with friends, family, clients, school – the list is endless. It’s our take on circular planting.
Care and altruism really does have its place in a workplace.
Looking past ourselves, we supported each other in this transition from a central work zone to a virtual, fluid and united team.