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Jun 4, 2019
Posted Under: President's letter

Rebecca and Laurie can’t resist a playground when they see one. Thanks, Sitka, for making our work days so fun in so many ways.

One of the many gems at our Leadership Summit was Vu Le sharing the idea of practicing “we-care” in addition to “self-care.” Our team at Foraker heard the idea of “we-care” and immediately adopted it – not surprising, perhaps, because it is all about giving and receiving support, which is a staple in our work. Support in this case can take many forms from gentle reminders, motivational support, planning, coordinating, or even jumping in and doing something together. Your team can define what “we-care” means for your workplace culture. And your choice should have the flavor of not just expecting someone to figure out self-care on their own, but rather of creating an environment where care in general is a high priority and a celebrated choice.

In that spirit and because it is summer, I offer the challenge and opportunity for us to support each other to get outside, find ways to relax, and practice some “we-care” and some “self-care” at work. True, it is an added bonus if you practice these things during your off-hours, but I am going to guess it is a touch easier to do that than taking steps during the work day.

I know working is about checking things off our lists and moving missions forward. Still, we can do those things better when we also remember that taking mini-breaks during the day makes us more productive, not less. It also has the added bonus of helping with other goals we might have like being happier or healthier than we are today.

Far too much evidence and data exist showing that our sector is notoriously unhealthy. We are hard to insure at any price that looks affordable, and our stress levels are through the roof. We often don’t think of ourselves as any less healthy than others. However, what we consider normal may only look that way because we are staring at our peers in the workplace and thinking they are just like us. The fact is there are likely few of us that couldn’t benefit from a little more “we-care” and “self-care” in our lives. I am certainly no poster child for low stress, but I do so love being outside. And I know the true difference that sunshine on my face, or a brisk walk or run, can do to shift my whole day for the better.

So, let’s give it a try. Here are ten ideas to kick-start our summer of “we-care” at work. Most are low or no cost, so no matter your budget size, staff size, or location, there should be something here for everyone. Feel free to comment on Facebook with your own ideas.

  1. Schedule walking meetings – or the appropriate mobility for each team member – down the street, around the building, etc. Build in five minutes when you get back to your desk to jot down commitments from the meeting.
  2. Buy some affordable folding or camp chairs and bring them outside your office – sides of parking lots still get sun – and get a quiet moment to think or catch up on email.
  3. Set up a monthly staff meeting or outing to celebrate mission progress, or understand the issue better, or just to take a break together.
  4. Find the garage sale guru on your team. Pool a few funds and send them to pick up exercise equipment people bought in the dark of winter that in the light of summer aren’t being used. Create a little space in the office – there is an empty cabinet somewhere – to set up your mini-gym. Hand weights, an exercise ball, or even a small stair-step machine can fit under a desk. Why not? (Added bonus, as we found in our shop, if one person has the equipment in their space, everyone else comes for a quiet visit).
  5. Pick a late summer day and hold a potluck featuring garden grown vegetables. No green thumbs on your team? Take a trip to the local farmers market together and get inspired. All you need is a crock pot or a salad spinner.
  6. Create friendly and voluntary monthly or weekly challenges for those interested. For example, who walks the greatest number of steps, drinks the most glasses of water, gets the most hours of sleep, engages in the most hours of laughter, or reads the most pages of a novel, etc. You get the idea.
  7. Create a book club or TED talk video club on an area of common interest – sit outside to talk about it. We just learned about one that is a 21-day challenge on diversity, equity, and inclusion that we are going to try out together.
  8. Schedule, and get it on your calendar, at least one hour a week to work on a mission-based project you simply love – no “have to” items allowed, just the ones that feel like “want to” and “get to” projects.
  9. Plant some flowers by your office entrance or ask the gardener among you to bring in a few colorful stems for the front desk every few weeks.
  10. When passing by a playground, don’t hesitate. Just stop and play. I promise, it is still fun.

So that’s ten. There are so many more. What are your summer “we-care” ideas? There is no better day than today to start practicing them. This winter we heard, and saw, and felt the weight of all that is impacting our work these days. As a sector we are faced with attacks on our budgets and missions by the proposed and compromise state budget. And we are likely in for more uncertainty if the state moves into a shut-down plan as has happened in our recent past. We have heard and seen so many personal stories of challenge this year, especially as the impacts of generational shift are felt on our families and ourselves.

And yet, in the midst of all of this, I have seen tremendous moments of support offered and received. I watched 500 people recently come together at our Leadership Summit to learn, laugh, and offer ideas to show more gratitude. And while there will always be more to do, we can, and we must, make time for the “we-care” and the “self-care” to keep going. Our summers are short. So let’s commit together to a healthy step. What will you do first?