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Nature Works – culture, leadership and COVID-19

The Government has encouraged greater connection with the outdoors as part of its national COVID-19 coping strategy.

Going for walks, gardening, outdoor exercise and even “sitting on a park bench” have all been encouraged by the Government as part of its national coping strategy with the unprecedented impact and changes associated with the Corona virus.

For me and no doubt many other psychologists, health advisors, gardeners and proponents of wellbeing it has been both encouraging and joyful to see so many more people interacting with and connecting with the great outdoors.

Even if you are without a garden of your own, when there’s little else to do and with restrictions on socialising and physical movement over a sustained period of time, many more people have become grateful to get out and social media is full of people applauding the positive benefits of fresh air; seeing trees, flowers and natural landscape; listening to birdsong and the subconscious, unintentional mindfulness and awareness associated with being within nature: at a most basic level, there’s so much detail and complexity to see and register that it visually draws you in, cognitively stimulating you whilst releasing alpha brain eaves that provide that soothing, calming effect on us that nature has.

One challenge all organisations face as we return to work is sustaining positive mental and emotional wellbeing. Uncertainty breeds anxiety and underlying stresses. Perhaps somewhat obviously for a series based on how nature works on the human brain, it is my advice for leaders and organisations as a whole to put in place simple, free ways to encourage their people to maintain that connection with the outside world. Humans are creatures of habit and thrive with consistency and routines, so all organisations can help support their workforce by promoting – and approving – regular rest breaks; a specific lunch break away from work; walking meetings with social distancing, and to provide examples of how individuals might continue to grow their own; garden; enjoy walks outside; spot birds; take part in a bee or bug count; share photographs of leaves to make a giant digital collage… your imagination is the limit.

It is the responsibility of employers to actively give permission and encourage their employees to continue to support and improve their wellness and wellbeing. Or shall we change the “w” words that so many people say sound too fluffy and are still so uncomfortable with, to a “h” word instead? Human.

Just like nature; it’s all entirely natural.

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