Healthy habits for healthy teams: Loaves in the time of Corona

Healthy habits for healthy teams:

Healthy Habits for Healthy Teams


A new year dawned… Cue anticlimax.  

We woke up on the first day of January, peeked out of our windows, skimmed the headlines and checked our feeds, and then collectively realised that not much had changed. Well, not much externally.
It’s us. We’ve changed.

My last foray into lessons learned from working with creatives was a (relatively) public reflection on resilience as a key component to CAPRI’s 2020 survival toolkit. As the realities of 2021 sink-in, I’m continuing this line of thinking.
So, here goes…

For us, the old adage “business isn’t personal” has always been total bull, and recent history has confirmed it. Business isn’t an isolated activity. It doesn’t exist in a vacuum, at the moment business is happening in my home, all over my dining room table, and even, gasp, on the couch… Not exactly the picture of work/life balance, but how could there be?

For those of us who pride themselves on healthy boundaries, the last 10 months have been challenging, but there is something to be said for the ability to close tabs, quit Excel and neatly stack the papers out-of-the-way and set the table for dinner.
But what if your work wasn’t just inside your house?
What if it was inside your head?

“That work/life balance goal we’d all been striving for became obsolete, we had to learn a new language of self-care…”

A few weeks ago I shared a few anecdotes and lessons learned while working with our creative team, our idea machines. It begs the question: How can I facilitate my team in developing healthier relationships with work when I’m struggling to do the same?
I toyed with the idea, and decided to look to those around me, and they had a few insightful points to share.

Lesson 1: Use your powers for good

A few years ago, we interviewed a designer to work with us. She described herself as a maker of things, which I found peculiar, but upon further interrogation on the matter she offered this insight: “I make things, but it has nothing to do with me”.
In other words, the need to make stuff was more than a habit or a skill, it was a reflex action to surroundings; a problem was presented, which resulted in a desire, which was then followed by an action.

“We used our strength of culture to offer
support to those who needed it.”

I like to think of this as a superpower – one that can and should be utilised when the time calls for it – and it can manifest through any area of expertise.  Each of us has something entirely unique to offer… we just need to know how and when to respond with it.

I thought of this as the world pushed us towards the pandemic rollercoaster, using my own powers for good, and it was strangely empowering. Our “people first” professional ethos meant that Josh and I were better equipped than a lot of businesses off-the-bat. 

Utilising empathy, we took time to check-in with our people – and I include our clients here – in an authentic way. It was grim; we saw the cracks of financial and emotional distress forming. We used our strength of culture to offer support to those who needed it. For those who needed us to deliver, we problem-solved together. We embraced our creative mindset, we stepped-out of the obvious-box. 

In a sea of emails (with pithy subject lines) we didn’t want to remain silent, but we also didn’t want to be another yawn-voice, lost in a barrage of whitewashed and whitelabled corporates telling us how they were “partnering with us through the pandemic” (whatever that actually means!?). 

I knew that what our people needed was action, a call to arms (length) if you will, a call to get off the couch (and into a comfortable seated position). So, I used my own superpower, the Mindfulness tools available to me, and tried to make a small difference in my own way. I sat down in front of the camera with my friends from men’s wellness brand Maapilim and taught a short breathing meditation (check it out).

Lesson 2: Work/No-Life Balance – How to press pause (and find joy)

In March, the transition to WFH was chaotic. We were geared for the shift, and yet I don’t know a single person that didn’t reach a point of being ‘zoomed out’, completely unable to switch off.

That work/life balance goal we had all been striving for became obsolete and we had to learn a new language of self-care, asking ourselves what we could do to institute healthier relationships with work when a social life stopped being possible and we couldn’t leave our home – a home that was also our office.

The years of managing a horde of creatives taught me a valuable lesson in this respect: the need to press pause. This particular one came from Josh, who in his years of experience as a Creative Director has grown adept at identifying the moment that the mind needs a break.

He is incredibly good at enforcing this with others, and often exclaims in the studio (or on Zoom) when he knows he should give the idea a rest. He even takes his own advice, occasionally.
The purpose here is to walk away and come back with fresh eyes (or a bit of sleep).

Now, this doesn’t mean ceasing all creative thought. This is impossible for a creative. A well trained maker knows the benefits of diversion while still flexing creative muscle. In the real-world, this had some surprising results: Quarantine didn’t mean less work, yet we started cooking more, baking, fermenting and pickling.
Downtime is a boundary we all embraced, something I soon realised I needed all along.  A pinch of joy.

Here’s a tried and tested, pandemic approved, ragu recipe, for you to try yourself.

Lesson 3: Doing it for the work – Enforcing down-time

WFH has meant that we’re always online. Constant availability and limited opportunity for the reasonable (and appropriate) excuses of other, simpler times has left many in danger of exhaustion. Overwork doesn’t just mean burnt-out staff. It means sub-par work. Creating structure in our days, knowing when to tell the team to walk away and try again tomorrow means that we are better equipped to deliver.

This is something Josh and I have built into CAPRI’s culture since its inception by instituting a few shutdowns throughout the year. We close our office every few months: take a break, a holiday, a refresh. I suppose, to use terminology we’ve become all too familiar with this year, these are like professional-lockdowns to flatten our own burnout. 

After seeing the benefits of downtime within the creative process, I have become mindful of the pauses required to simply function. A purpose that goes beyond productivity. Allowing oneself time to breath and take stock during the day allows us to decompress, evaluate and feel gratitude.


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