Lockdown: Looking out for ourselves and each other

It doesn’t feel like much of a happy new year, does it?

Perhaps you, like us, got slightly fixated on the concept of 2020 as an anomaly. A monster to be slain; a nightmare to forget; something to put behind us and move on. It’s a seductive way of thinking – it plays into all of our love of stories, and it chimes with New Year thoughts of resolutions and new starts.

But then, what happened? Infection rates spiralled, we were all sent back indoors, shielding returned, businesses closed and the Prime Minister told us the coming weeks will be the hardest yet. And it’s cold, and it’s dark, and the Quality Street has already run out.

Everyone’s experiencing something slightly different. Perhaps your life has been turned upside down by being sent home to work, or by your children’s school closing. Perhaps you’re alone. Perhaps your health is a worry, or someone else’s is. Perhaps you’ve lost somebody. Perhaps your job or your business feels precarious. Or perhaps none of the above applies – but “well, it could have been worse” surprisingly isn’t comforting.

But there is hope.

As you reconnect with colleagues in a world that might feel darker and more separated now than it was a month or two ago, we want to share some tips for staying well… but, more than that, we want to encourage you to share these with each other.

Recognise that your colleague’s situation and feelings are probably different from yours – but recognise, too, that there’s some truth to the cliché about different boats in the same storm. And the feeling of separateness that comes from each of us living our own personal version of the pandemic – that feeling is something we share.

Some tips for taking care during a winter lockdown

As we enter lockdown 3.0, we wanted to share some tips that have helped us take care of ourselves and each other. There’s lots of advice out there right now, which itself can feel overwhelming – but we hope these simple things can help you and your colleagues.

Check in with how you’re feeling before checking in with your colleagues.

Take careLike they say, fit your own oxygen mask first before you help others fit theirs. By looking after you, you’ll be better equipped to support your colleagues. Take some time for yourself through the day to see how you’re doing, really. Identify what you might need to take care in that moment, and carve time out in your diary for some self care. And use it!

Talking is good

Be true to yourself and ask for help if you need it. Equally, when checking in with your colleagues, ensure that you’re providing a safe space for them to talk. Simple questions like ‘How are you feeling right now?’ ‘How are things at home?’ and ‘How can I support you?’ are good places to start.

Take time

Be kind to yourself. As a manager, it’s part of your role to stay connected and support your colleague. But ensure you practice what you preach: take regular breaks from screens. Establish a little daily routine. Drink water. Make lovely food. Try your hardest to prioritise sleep. Get some natural daylight every day if you can. Plan your moments of downtime and relaxation – especially if things are busy, hectic or unpredictable, they won’t necessarily happen if you don’t prioritise them.

Find pockets of joy

Make it a practice to find joy and share it with your team. Don’t just keep your Zoom chats work related – encourage your peers to share what’s brought them joy, and to set little personal goals of finding it in their days. A nice frothy coffee? A picture of a puppy? They count!

But also – find things that give you purpose

Speak to your manager about nice development exercises or introduce them to your team. Perhaps you could make room for that task you or your colleague has been excited about. We know it can be hard sometimes to feel motivated, particularly now. Could you find an exciting project together to focus on?

Every moment matters

As tricky as it can be, try to be present. Focusing on shorter periods of time – even looking ten minutes ahead – is helpful, as we know the uncertainty at the moment can be overwhelming. Having things to look forward to is important, too. Whether it’s organising a virtual team social, an afternoon hot chocolate together, starting a film or book club at work – this year we’ve had to scale back. But that doesn’t mean we can’t get excited about the little things.

Some more ideas

Below, we’ve chosen some resources, ideas tips from across Mental Health at Work that we think you’ll find helpful.

Take care.

Resources in this toolkit:



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Staying focused on your work tasks can be hard when you're working in a new environment. This one-page PDF from Unilever explores ways of helping you to regain your focus, allowing you to give tasks your undivided attention.