The Steemies talk positive mental health

As the pandemic swept through Scotland in 2020, we found ourselves spending more time at home – living, sleeping, eating and, of course, working. In June 2020, whilst continuing to work from home, we made the decision to trial a four-day work week by closing the business on Wednesdays. This constituted a reduction from a 35 to 32-hour week with no adjustment to salaries. The Board felt strongly that a four-day working week would not only safeguard the mental health of our team, but would also increase business productivity, sustainability and equality. We’re delighted to report that, on the back of our tremendously successful pilot – which saw an overwhelming increase in productivity and happiness amongst our team – we implemented the change permanently, and contractually, from 1 April 2021.

In the year 2019/20, nearly 18 million working days were lost globally to stress, depression and anxiety. Studies have since found that the four-day work week can act as a safeguard for employee mental health by increasing energy, nurturing creativity and, most importantly, leading to a more meaningful and purposeful life.

Given the theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is Nature – and as restrictions in Scotland start to ease – we caught up with our team to find out how they have been using their ‘day back’ Wednesdays. In particular, we were keen to hear how the change in working pattern has impacted their work life balance, mental health and wellbeing. We also asked if they have been able to use this time to get out and about and into nature – to nourish their minds, bodies and souls.

Our team overwhelmingly told us that the four-day work week has had a positive impact on their mental wellbeing.

Karen, our Candidate Support Coordinator said: “I have more time to spend with my family and friends. I also feel that I am not as stressed with work as I have the option to ‘catch-up’ on actions on a Wednesday if needed.”

Rosie, one of our Assessors, told us: “I now have energy in the evenings and weekends to spend good quality time with my children which is hugely important to me. It has made family life far more enjoyable and I am a better person to be around now that I am not as stretched. It also makes me more productive at work as I am satisfied in the other areas of my life.”

Our Esteem Coordinator, Grant agreed, saying that his Wednesday back: “Gives me a physical day in the middle of the week to recharge my mind. [It] allows me to be able to do some odd jobs around the house or visit friends and family and by doing so I can really relax when the weekend comes.”

We were delighted to hear that our team members enjoy the extra time that the four-day week affords them to see family and friends, complete some additional tasks and recharge their batteries for the days ahead and it certainly seems that, for some, a Wednesday is often used as a day of nourishment for the mind, body and soul.

Martina, our Operations Director said: “As well as spending quality time with my daughter, Wednesdays have been a real instigator in me becoming healthier and losing weight…recently I joined a local running group and started a Couch to 5K. I even did a buggy run to the local park!”

Emma, our Operations Coordinator, uses her Wednesdays to learn a new skill and told us: “I am undertaking a floral arranging course online and it allows me to use my hands when practicing”.

Our Onboarding Coordinator, Lauren uses her time on Wednesdays to spend quality time with her animals – here’s what she had to say: “I really enjoy spending time with my animals as I feel they have a very calming effect on me…Winnie (Lauren’s dog) enjoys her walks to the park so we will always start off the day with that, which I feel gets my mind going and gets me ready for the day.”

Exercising, learning and spending time with pets are all wonderful ways to help balance our mental health, and at Esteem Training we are proud to be able to give our Steemies the time they deserve to do just that!

Nature is so central to our psychological and emotional health that it’s almost impossible to realise good mental health for all without a greater connection to the natural world. That being said, during Mental Health Awareness Week 2021, the Mental Health Foundation is asking three things:

  1. Experience nature: Take time to recognise and grow your connection with nature during the week. Take a moment to notice and celebrate nature in your daily life.
  2. Share nature: Take a photo, video or sound recording and share the connections you’ve made during the week, to inspire others.
  3. Talk about nature: Use our tips, school packs, research and policy guides to discuss in your family, school, workplace and community how you can help encourage people to find new ways to connect with nature in your local environment.

In the spirit of participation, we asked our team to talk to us about nature and to let us share their stories, their experiences and perhaps a photo or two. Here is what some of our team members told us:

“I am really lucky to live in the middle of the countryside, so I can literally leave my front door and walk straight into our local country park. This has been a saviour during lockdown and I never take for granted how fortunate I am. I also like to run – it’s my way of meditating, when I think of nothing but my breathing and the sound of my feet as they hit the ground. I’ve also recently taken up wild swimming. There is a really lovely lagoon/quarry about five minutes drive from my house, so I get on the wetsuit, meet a friend and we spend about 30-45 minutes swimming and floating about in the water. I like that it is cold, it makes me feel really alive afterwards and then I sleep like a baby at night.”

Rosie, Assessor

“I am a trustee for a Charity which has a wonderful group of heritage buildings called Hynish on Tiree so I use Wednesday mornings to visit the Charity and hold meetings with the team or complete any work I need to do. I find the place very restful and spiritual. I usually get my husband Jim to drop me a mile or so before and I walk down with the dog to the village. I love this 20 minutes approach to Hynish. Jim and I often go to one of our three cafes on Tiree for lunch on a Wednesday. We meet people there which is great to have a chat. I have my great nephews from nursery on a Wednesday afternoon. They’re aged three and four, and great fun. They love the beach and we have toys and chairs down there. If the weather is OK, we go down and have a picnic on the beach. I enjoy the time with them.”

Trudy, Director

“Mostly I spend my Wednesdays catching up with my friends, usually meeting for lunch or going for a walk. I recently went home to the Isle of Tiree for the lambing season and was able to spend my Wednesdays helping my brother on the croft.”

Karen, Candidate Support Coordinator

“Every Wednesday, I walk my son Charlie down to school and push my daughter Rosie in her pram. After dropping Charlie off at school, we usually walk the long way home which goes around Troon beach and is about 10 kilometres. I’ve also been doing bits and pieces in the garden when I can on a Wednesday.”

David, Assessor

“Wednesdays are for my daughter (Ava, who’s three) – we spend the day together and it always involves nature. Ava is just like me and would be outside all day every day if she could. No matter the weather, we head off to the forest, beach, or for a long walk (with Ava in the buggy, in part). She also loves being on the back of my bike – sometimes we ride out to the local castle. We recently bought Ava her first pedal bike, and she loves riding with us down the country lanes – hopefully soon we can take her on some of the downhill biking paths Dumfries and Galloway is so famous for.”

Martina, Operations Director

“I moved into my home almost two years ago and have been able to use my Wednesdays for DIY and decorating. On good weather days I am working on my garden – mainly pulling weeds. I have sourced a few plants that I would like to grow as well, and I have a complete design of what I want to do with the garden and am working towards achieving this. I also like going for long walks. I live two minutes from the beach and have enjoyed taking as much advantage of this as possible. I like to go out walking at night in the summer to take pictures of the scenery. I also spend as much time with my family and boyfriend as I can, such as going on hikes, having a coffee etc.”

Karen, Creative Design Coordinator

“Once I drop my daughter off at her Dad’s in the morning, I like to go home and get my dog, Obie ready for a long walk. With the restrictions lessening off around us, I won’t hesitate to get on a train somewhere with lots of scenic routes and take Obie out for a long walk that will surely wear her out in time for bed. I have recently moved to a house with a front and back garden, so on my project list is the gardens and making them look lovely and happy. I have a real passion for floral arranging so my goal is to grow some of my favourite cut flowers at the back of my garden and arrange them without having to go to the market – so gardening is definitely a way for me to relax.”

Emma, Operations Coordinator

“Almost every Wednesday (weather depending) I play golf, and in between that I’ll try and do a few things around the garden as it is only recently that I really became interested in plants and growing my own herbs and vegetables etc.”

Andy, Business Development Manager

“I usually spend my Wednesdays helping my Nana and taking care of the shopping for her, which also allows me to get my own shopping done for the week. I will also get some housework done beforehand, to keep the wifey off my back! One of my favourite things to do is to go on a drive to new places with Kim. I also love taking photos of the great outdoors which is always at the forefront of my mind when trying to find somewhere to go! The prettier, the better!”

Lauren, Onboarding Coordinator

“Wednesdays are all about adventures with the dogs and we have been gradually working our way round all of Greater Glasgow’s country parks… Last week we went to Palacerigg Country Park where we walked the Badgers Trail. I have loved getting out and about to these spots and feel so lucky to have what I have within a short drive from the house.”

Grant, Esteem Coordinator