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Several years ago, some Foundation staff formed the health and wellness committee with a goal of promoting healthy habits and self-care in whatever form that takes.

Amid two years of COVID-19, staff learned to embrace self-care and connection. We deliberately pursued this learning through health and wellness huddles: 30-minute open-ended Zoom meetings we host every Friday for staff to deepen our relationships and join in collective healing.

The pandemic changed everything.

When the pandemic hit, our typical way of working and interacting with each other changed dramatically. In-person work events became virtual or were canceled altogether. We all were forced to cope with remaining at home for extended periods, be it in isolation or close quarters with others. And things still aren’t back to normal.

Staff often expressed that the biggest challenge of remote working isn’t the work itself. It’s being apart from our colleagues. We missed those watercooler conversations and casual “hellos” in the hallway. We missed those valued connections.

So the wellness committee launched the health and wellness huddles.

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“The wellness huddles bring joy to my Friday mornings. The environment and format are welcoming, inclusive, fun, engaging, full of laughter, insightful, and a great example of building staff community.”

Karen Appelbaum
Operations Director, Northwest Area Foundation

The huddles give us open space to just talk.

At these huddles, staff simply gather virtually and chat about any and everything. The idea is pretty straightforward: give people a space to be together without physically being together.

Initially the conversations centered around the pandemic: How’s it going working from home? What’s been challenging? What’s everyone looking forward to most when this is all over? Those were big issues that many staff were understandably eager to vent about.

More than one person could relate to trying to do a virtual meeting at the kitchen table while kids played in the background, someone’s at the door, and you can’t figure out how to take yourself off mute. We could hear how others were dealing with the stress and also how it’s okay to not be “okay” sometimes.

This pandemic has affected everyone, and there’s a kind of solidarity in having these experiences together.

Over time, the huddles have taken on a lighter tone. What shows are you watching? What’s your favorite local restaurant? The wellness huddles even featured cooking demos, trivia, giveaways, various tips and tricks, and show-and-tell.

The huddles have become a way for staff to get to know each other. Out of a chaotic pandemic grew an unexpected opportunity to learn more about the people we work with. For many, that’s been a definite high point of this experience.

“As an employee who started in a remote environment, I’m thankful for the wellness huddles. They have really helped me to get to know everyone better. They’ve been a well-needed, extended, icebreaker exercise for me and I’m grateful for the time.”

Anna Rogers
Accountant, Northwest Area Foundation

This has been an expression of our new values and self-care.

Last year, we discussed the Foundation’s six new values in a series of blogs. The weekly huddles have presented a means for living into many of these values.

We see courage and trust when staff are able to open up to colleagues, sharing their emotions and experiences. There’s an opportunity to listen to and learn from each other as we weather this relentless storm, knowing that our work and personal lives may be forever changed. We show heart in our ability to take care of ourselves, physically and mentally, allowing us to continue to do the work we have a passion for.

This is also a further commitment to self-care, not only to nurture staff, but as part of our diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) journey. Last year, Dr. Rahul Sharma wrote a blog that expresses the importance of self-care to avoid burnout and to stay whole as staff takes on the challenges of pursuing justice through transformative change. The huddles are one way we’ve been taking this need to heart.

We’re grateful to have this new system of support to heal, grow, and stay well. Even as staff transitioned back to the office in early February, we continued the huddles because we’ve grown to understand the importance of cultivating self-care and connection at all times, whether or not there’s a pandemic.

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