• The recent announcement that Kent was moving into tier three after the second national lockdown was not the news that our county had wanted to hear.

    However, as we reach the end of this difficult year now is an important time to reflect on what we have learnt about how to look after our wellbeing, and how we can use these learnings going forward.

    Our team challenge

    Since lockdown was announced in March 2020, myself and the majority of my Brachers colleagues have been working at home.

    It has been a particularly busy time for the Employment team, as we have been advising clients who have been impacted by the many employment law implications that the coronavirus pandemic and the furlough scheme have brought up this year.

    The change of environment caused by lockdown has meant a lot of time spent indoors. Whilst technology has allowed us to continue to work with colleagues and support clients, we all miss being able to see people face-to-face and leave the house to go to the office or visit clients.

    One of the downsides I found to working at home almost exclusively this year (in conjunction with gyms closing and evenings getting darker) is that if I did not make a conscious effort, my step count on my Fitbit was barely worth registering. This left me feeling sluggish and unmotivated.

    Therefore, when the second national lockdown hit last month and one of my colleagues challenged our team to run, walk or cycle 100k in November, I was more than up for the challenge.

    We have now successfully completed the challenge, and this has, without a doubt, inspired our team to get outside, improve our fitness and look after our mental wellbeing.

    How exercise has contributed to my team’s wellbeing

    I asked our team why exercise has been so important to them this year and got the following comments:

    Secretary Hazel Burgess told me: “I find any worries I have disappear after the first five minutes of running and my mind switches off and focuses on running instead, which I think is so important especially in these times when we are all living in a constant state of worry and anxiety.”

    Head of Employment and HR, Catherine Daw, reflects: “it was great to bring the team together in a shared challenge and a little bit of healthy competition can be very motivating!”

    Secretary Suzanne Tewes told me: “the hardest part for me during the last few months has been the feeling of being powerless. Having a challenge like the 100k challenge or any other sort of exercise gives you back a feeling of being in control, which is great for your mental health.”

    And my favourite one of all, as my colleague Antonio Fletcher pointed out: “the more exercise you do, the more you can eat!”

    Team motivation and employee productivity

    Whatever the reason for doing the exercise, this challenge has brought my team together and found a way to positively challenge us and keep us motivated.

    Mental health charity Mind state on their website that many studies have shown that physical activity can help with better sleep, happier moods and managing stress and anxiety. In addition, there have been many articles in recent years linking exercise and good nutrition to productivity at work.

    From a personal perspective, I would definitely agree with this. Not only has the 100k challenge helped with my own wellbeing, it has been a great way to encourage and motivate each other as a team.

    Supporting your employees

    My advice to employers would be to consider how you might be able to motivate your team at this difficult time. Many employers already have benefits programmes for staff that have access to fitness resources or support for mental health. Now is a great opportunity for you to remind your staff of these.

    Further support

    Alongside my colleague Louise Brenlund, I recently presented at a webinar in partnership with Kent CIPD focussing on mental health in the workplace.

    Louise and I discussed potential legal risks that can arise from businesses not correctly addressing their employees’ wellbeing, with a focus on disability discrimination and health and safety issues. Read Louise’s follow-up article addressing the topics discussed.

    This content is correct at time of publication

    Can we help?

    Take a look at our Employment & HR page for useful information, resources, guidance, details of our team and how we may be able to help you

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