Ever woken up believing one thing and hit the pillow that evening believing its opposite? We spoke to finance professional Mary Attard about having her life perspective flipped on its head in a single day, thanks to a wellness program with Wellineux.
We uncovered her newfound life non-negotiables (phone-free time included) which you can implement too for a more connected, focused and productive day. You’re welcome.
What prompted your team to seek some wellness expertise?
The environment we work in and the lifestyles we lead these days are all about doing more. The catchphrase when someone asks how you are is, “busy”. We’re working harder than ever as the world changes so quickly, and as a large corporate we fight to stay ahead of our competitors. Life is so fast-paced and more demanding, while competition in the workplace is fierce and expectations are consistently high. To continue to bring your best self to everything you do, you need to rest and recharge. As a business leader you need to encourage this in your people but also lead by example.
And what attracted you to this particular program with Wellineux?
I attended a networking event where I was given a sample of Wellineux’s [book] Journey of Me. The simplicity of this and the activities is what attracted me to finding out more about Wellineux. There is so much information out there it’s often hard to know where to start. The approach [involves] simple tools and an easy-to-follow framework. Small steps make it easy to implement both personally and in the workplace. It’s also a great way to work on wellness as a team. My team have all been gifted a copy of Journey of Me. We have even attended the Atelier breakfast series as a team too. The corporate retreat that Wellineux hosts just ties everything together nicely. It gives you an opportunity to take all the things we know are good for us, and spend the day playing and being creative with simple tools we can take back and apply every day.
Why is it a worthwhile initiative?
The retreat is a great opportunity to stop and take stock. In our busy lives we all know we need to take care of ourselves but the retreat creates that space away from your desk, your phone and all the other distractions we face day-to-day. Taking that individual time out to focus on wellness provides clarity to take the next step as an investment in you. It’s also the first step you can take in having a positive impact on others with the opportunity to improve relationships, both personal and professional. The clarity and calmness that can come from this also results in increased productivity.
What do you deem to be the most important characteristics in a leader?
Being genuine and human. Authenticity as a leader is really important. You’re asking your team to trust and follow you. To build that trust you need to lead from a place of honesty and integrity. That means being vulnerable and acknowledging you don’t always have the answers, it means being able to make the tough calls but taking the time to explain why. It’s really important that your actions mirror your words and your people see you lead with these values. At the end of the day you are working with people who have feelings, families and lives outside of work just like you. Our role as leaders is to guide our people to be the best that they can be.
In your opinion, what’s the key to a happy, healthy, harmonious and productive team?
Clarity on team purpose, direction and trust in each other! It’s also really important to find a balance between work and play. You need to be able to laugh together but then knuckle down and get things done when needed. You’re at work for 8-10 hours every day – your team is like your family and you should take care of it the same way.
In what way did the retreat impact you individually and collectively as a group?
The retreat focused on self-reflection and individual growth. I think it’s through spending time in this space that as a collective you start to develop new connections based on where you are in your own personal journey. Through the creative activities and sharing of stories you start to learn from one another and develop a greater appreciation for where others are on their journey. Through self-reflection you become more conscious of what you bring to work and your relationships.
What do you identify as the greatest health challenges in the corporate world?
The corporate world is no longer the traditional nine-to-five job. With global markets, technology and social media there is now a demand for us to operate 24/7. The level of stress and pressure this causes if sustained over a long period of time impacts your entire wellbeing. What you often see is that when the pressure is on, the first thing you do is stop exercising, you then slip into bad eating habits. Stress also clouds your mind, causing you to stop sleeping and [not] be able to switch off, which leaves your energy levels low and results in not being productive. This in turn increases the level of stress even more and the vicious cycle continues. This keeps going until you either realise you need to make a change or you end up seriously unwell. We’ve all heard of corporate burnout.
Which practices from the retreat were the most beneficial?
I loved being creative and getting my hands dirty building a terrarium – it’s not something I would normally do and I found it to be very calming. It made me reflect on how I can bring more creative activities into my life. I also loved the quiet practice of the yoga class Max led, it was the perfect way to start the retreat and centre yourself for the day.
Biggest takeaway from the day?
Before the retreat I remember feeling like taking the time out of my week to spend a day working on my own personal wellbeing was an indulgent luxury. There was almost a sense of guilt. But by the end of the day, my mindset had shifted and I could really appreciate how important it is for me, my team, my family and friends that I do create space for myself to either be creative, practice mindfulness, whatever it may be that I need, without feeling guilty about taking that time for me.
Is there anything you will now be implementing into your daily work life back at the office?
Some things we’ve already implemented include:
Mindful colouring. A few minutes of colouring before a meeting starts helps people clear their mind, shift their focus and become present before launching into the agenda at hand
Stopping meetings before the hour is up. We tend to run from meeting to meeting [but] being able to give yourself 5-10 minutes between meetings allows you to clear your thoughts, stretch and refocus before moving on to the next meeting.
Walking meetings. We spend far too long at our desks or sitting around in meetings. It’s refreshing to get outdoors and walk the block while discussing whatever the matter is. It can really shift your perspective.
Taking 1-3 minute mindfulness breaks. This could be a simple as taking a series of deep breaths.
Putting your phone on ‘do not disturb’. Set your phone toautomatically switch to ‘do not disturb’ mode at a set time. When you do leave the office and are at home with your family, being present with them is just as important. Switching your phone off means you’re not distracted by emails or messages.
Me-time. Once a month I do something for myself. This could be as simple as sitting in a cafe having a coffee on your own, getting a massage or attending your favourite yoga class.
How have they made a difference?
These are all small, simple things you can incorporate into your day. They don’t take up much time but collectively they have a big impact. My meetings feel more focused and productive, the energy in the team has lifted and my team are more engaged. Practicing being more mindful or present has had an impact on my relationships, both personal and professional. I feel like I’m more in tune with what’s going on with people I work with and with my family and friends. My conversations are more meaningful because I’m in the moment and truly listening. There seems to be a little more time in the day. The biggest difference is the mindset shift from thinking wellness is solely diet and exercise to thinking about it more holistically including diet and exercise but also mindfulness, connection, growth and self-care.
Do you have any other development days, retreats or events in the diary?
I have a retreat planned for our wider department. My direct team and I are still attending the Atelier breakfast series and working in our Journey of Me [books]. Personally, I’d like to take a break in the second half of the year and attend a yoga or wellness retreat in Thailand or the Philippines. We have set ourselves a long-term goal for 2017 to attend a yoga retreat in Aruba with a yogi, Rachel Brathen (@yoga_girl), who we have been following on Instagram.