What I learned at One Team Gov #WellbeingCamp

Neel Rokad is a Policy Advisor at the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) where he is also chair of the Mental Health and Wellbeing Network. Here he talks us through what he learned at Wellbeing Camp…

Neel at #OTGWellbeingCamp with event organiser Gail

What is One Team Gov and what is a Wellbeing Camp?

I was introduced to the 2019 One Team Gov Wellbeing Camp by Lisa Bandari and was immediately interested.

One Team Gov was formed by like-minded civil servants who all wanted to change Government from the inside. They seek to come up with innovative solutions to some of the perennial issues facing the Government (something especially useful in DExEU).

Despite only being formed in 2017 (and thus being even younger than even DExEU!) the movement has grown rapidly under dynamic leadership and an inclusive culture that has won them plaudits across the Civil Service. Indeed, Clare Moriarty has been an early supporter of their work and gave me strong encouragement to go and discover ideas and best practice that we could bring back to DExEU, making it an even better place to work.

A photo of Clare Moriarty at One Team Gov Global in 2018. This photo was taken by David Pearson.

The event is purposefully not too prescriptive; in fact, One Team Gov are known for their ‘unconferences’. If you’re unsure what an unconference is, I’d highly encourage you to read this great blog post by Clare:

The joys of ‘unconferencing’ – Part 2

What did I learn?

I learnt a lot of great lessons and took away some really interesting ideas. Among them was on how to Thrive at Work – delivered by Rob Baker.

Humans are hard-wired to see things in a negative mindset – our brains receive 4 times more stimulation to a negative event than a positive one. This developed purely out of evolution: Neatherthals needed to remember that the last time they went in a particular cave, there was a sabre-toothed tiger much more than they needed to remember the a day “playing” in the forest.

Some of Neel’s sketchnotes from the event

The point I took is that thriving will involve failure and this is not a bad thing – nowadays getting something wrong is fine, it’s giving it a go that counts – and in any case you won’t be attacked by a sabre-toothed tiger!

Too often, the nature of our work – coordinating departments during an ever-changing context – can make us revert to old habits of doing things.

Many view wellbeing like a lighthouse – standing firm against the storms and waves of work and life.

This is not the vision of DExEU that we want. We should try to be buoys – moving with the waves rather than trying to resist them.

In a similar vein, both individuals and DExEU as a whole need to be willing to change and bob in our current political waters, knowing that bouys still have an anchor right down at the bottom of the ocean.

So what’s our anchor? This might involve doing positive things, taking time for yourself, or engaging with others, having meaningful relationships, seeing the meaning to the work you do and having a sense of achievement once you’ve done it (PERMA).

A quote from Denise Bisell from the Cabinet Office that reads “I’m at One Team Gov Wellbeing camp because I genuinely care about people and I want to create the right conditions for them to thrive at work”

I think one of the best things about this conference was that the ideas and thoughts I came away with came from both the sessions and conversations in equal measure.

After a brilliant session on burnout run by Sarah I had a chance discussion with a representative from the Fire Brigade. He highlighted the importance of having one thing that you look forward to each day. This is something that motivates you and acts as a buffer in bad times.

For him, it was making sure he could read his children a bed-time story and taking the dog for a walk at the weekend.

It means different things for different people: getting coffee with a colleague in another department, going for a walk in St James Park at lunch, trying a new recipe for dinner or watching a film that evening.

Whatever it is, I realised how important it was to genuinely look forward to taking time for yourself. Treat the things that make you happy with the same importance as your day job and you won’t go far wrong.

As you can probably tell, I really enjoyed attending a conference dedicated to improving the way you work and the way work works for you. For those of you who think PERMA or having something to look forward to every day is too much, I’d recommend starting a gratitude journal. It’s exactly as it says on the tin – at the end of each day, write down the best part of your day – whether it was getting a free coffee at Pret, your team thanking you for a piece of work or hitting that 10k step count.

These personal and professional records will build up and insulate you when you are feeling down. Being dyslexic, I find routine incredibly difficult, so if I’m doing it, I assure you it will be easier for you!

Please let me know if you’d like to know more about OneTeamGov or to discuss Wellbeing – I’m an oat milk chai latte away 🙂

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