While it’s essential to take care of your own mental and physical health during lockdown, it’s also incredibly important to also take care of your colleagues. With our early years settings becoming our support bubbles, we need to make sure the relationships within that setting are strong and built on mutual support to ensure the most positive work environment possible.
Depending on your work environment and relationships, you may already be very close with your colleagues or not close at all. However, during current times, it can be so helpful to invest in those relationships – you never know when you, or someone else, will need it!
Checking in with your teammates is the first step; ask people how they are (and mean it). Without regular access to family and friends, even the happiest-seeming person could be feeling lonely. It might not need to be anything deep – your colleague might just be yearning for a normal, face-to-face conversation that’s not about work!
Putting time aside for fun is a great way to distract everyone from the stresses of the role, while building those team bonds. Ignore the cheesy trust-fall exercises, typical of team-building sessions, and instead focus on something simple and lighthearted like a fun playlist for everyone to enjoy while setting up in the morning or, if working from home, a lunchtime chat over Zoom. It doesn’t have to be anything high-maintenance; the objective is to get people talking.
Once everyone’s talking, remember to be honest about your own experience. Opening up to colleagues can be daunting, but you may find that others are feeling the same as you, allowing you to support each other. Don’t force these conversations, but be prepared to be honest if the subject comes up naturally. The more you open up, the more your colleagues will, bringing you closer together as workmates.
With all this in mind, however, make sure the support is mutual. If you’re bending over backwards for a colleague who isn’t showing you the same consideration, gently reduce your time with them. If a colleague is struggling and needs more help than you can give, suggest they speak to your manager or a doctor to find out what extra support they can get. There is no stigma; we are all struggling in the pandemic, but it’s important to set personal boundaries to make sure this isn’t at the expense of your own happiness or mental health.
Showing care for your colleagues is an investment in both your working relationship and your mental health. The more you’re there for them when they need you, the more likely they will be there when you need them.