We’re all in this together

Last January looked a lot different to this year. I had recently graduated and moved to London, excited to start my life as a young professional.

Then overnight, working from home, baking banana bread and walks at my local park became the new normal. I still struggle to comprehend how quickly life changed.

Twelve months (and a lot of netflix series later), as those of us in England enter our third national lockdown, it’s now more important than ever to look after ourselves. We work in fast paced, high pressure environments, and although it can be hard to find the time, it’s essential we pay attention to our wellbeing.

Evidence has shown that taking these 5 steps can improve our wellbeing:

  1. connect: have meaningful relationships with those around you, this can be done virtually
  2. be active: get moving, step outside and get some fresh air
  3. take notice: be aware of our thoughts, emotions and surroundings and of those around us
  4. keep learning: try something new
  5. give: a small act of kindness, send gratitude to others, or volunteer your time

I spoke to colleagues across GCS to find out how they are prioritising their mental health, which I hope offers some inspiration, especially on days that are feeling tough. After all, we’re all in this together.


Joining a networking group

Lindsay Gormley, Head of Priority Campaigns, Department for Health and Social Care:

“I’m part of a network for women working in communications and marketing, and we run a mentoring programme of one to one mentoring and events which normally take place face to face. I volunteered to be part of the team shifting the programme online during lockdown and matching mentees and mentors. It felt really good to be connecting women at different stages of their careers to support each other during these difficult times.”

Work conversations don’t need to be so formal

Leanne Ehren, Head of Communications Hub, Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme (ESMCP), Home Office:

“Since we’ve been working virtually, I’ve taken the opportunity to pop in a set of headphones and get outside for a walk when having meetings. We connect with the outdoors around us, get some air into the lungs and use the time to check in.”

Katy Barton, Communications Manager, Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs:

“Living alone and working at home during the pandemic has been really tough at times, but as a communicator I am very lucky to speak to people all day every day. Over the last few months, I have made a real effort to have quality conversations with those who I do speak to and I do not feel guilty if the conversation strays away from work topics.”

Be active

Mindful exercise

Nicola Williams, Internal Communications, Department for Work and Pensions:

“For me, working from home has been a challenge, not having that natural break of either driving home or going to the gym after I’d logged off for the day. I’ve now committed to a month long yoga programme and plan my sessions as soon as I’ve logged off. This helps me switch off a bit before home life starts, helps me stay active and is a nice end to the day.”

Stephanie Mittiga, Insight and Evaluation, Department for International Trade:

“I started meditating using the Calm app during 2020, which really helped me stay grounded and enjoy the little things. I found the mindful walking sessions particularly good, where I was encouraged to focus on each of my senses in turn, helping me to get the most out of my daily walks in the park near my home. When you are doing the same walk every day, taking the time to notice the different sights, sounds, smells and sensations really makes the walk feel more stimulating!”

Take notice

Put yourself in others shoes

Leona Awoyele , Curriculum Manager, Cabinet Office

“I think patience and empathy are really important at the moment. We’re all having to navigate this new normal, while still working from home. Meetings might need to be pushed back, deadlines extended, but this is okay. A few of my colleagues are working from home, while still homeschooling young kids, for example – it can be tricky juggling the two, so it’s always important to take this into consideration.”

Matt Dolman, Senior Communications Manager, GCS Flex team:

“Spending a full year working on Coronavirus (COVID-19) communications has been tough. I’m grateful to have a strong support network in my managers and the people I work with to help bolster my resilience. If we all try to be the kind of colleague we’d love to have, and take notice of how those around us are doing, our world will be a little bit better.”

Don’t be hard on yourself

Susan Walton, Communications Officer (Internal Content & Channels), Ministry of Defence:

“I’m trying to tune out my (often deafening) inner critic and practise being kinder to myself. Also my new mantra for this year is: “My productivity does not equal my worth.” This encourages me to take more breaks and not be so hard on myself on those days where the to-do list goes out of the window!”

Keep learning

Start a new hobby

Paul Smith, Head of Capability and Development, HM Revenue and Customs:

“I’ve taken advantage of some budget-friendly City Lit online courses to test the waters on some new skills. And I have just invested in a painting kit for beginners and will be teaching myself via YouTube.”

Hyo Adams, Communications and Project Coordinator, Cabinet Office:

“I have always had a passion for learning the basics of new things – be it sports, activities or topics. While lockdown has restricted my potential to do as much, I found time to study the finer details around chess and play against friends and colleagues virtually. “


Share your passion with others

Lucy Fenn, Area Communications Manager, Crown Prosecution Service:

“I’m a yoga teacher outside of work, and have been teaching online over the lockdown. I’m lucky in that yoga is both my greatest passion, as well as being something that I can offer to those around me. I have been teaching classes online for friend’s birthdays, for example, and I find the routine of having to teach a class so beneficial.”

Volunteering is rewarding

Emily-Rose Rolfe, Senior Press Officer, Social Mobility Commission:

“I coordinate one of 35 homeless shelters for an incredible charity called Glass Door, which is London’s largest winter night shelter. This includes managing volunteers, being the link between the venue and the charity, cooking, and serving food to guests. I would recommend volunteering your time, in an environment you feel safe in, as it has provided me with much needed balance and a sense of purpose.”

Clare Parker, Head of Communications, Forest Research:

“I’ve been giving back by using my communication skills to support the Civil Service Lifeboat Fund. It is particularly good at keeping my social media skills sharp on Twitter, but I also take great pleasure from volunteering for a charity that’s been supporting the RNLI (another passion of mine) for over 150 years.”

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  • Corina Sehmar (1)