Your stories: creativity in our commute

Mental Health Awareness Week provided some thoughts, ideas and insights during an unusual period in our lives and was built around easily accessible daily commute sessions – 30 minutes at the start and end of the day. It also made good use of existing and created new MS Teams channels. The commute sessions were very varied in the hope of drawing in discussions from across the Development Office team.

‘The week started by taking inspiration from The Ashmolean via their Isolation Creations. We encouraged everyone to have a go at creating a piece of art and sending it in to be showcased in a presentation on Friday morning.

Photograph of the Ashmolean Museum beside a collage created with mixed media

Team collage inspired by the Ashmolean Museum

‘Tuesday’s sessions focused on the importance of music for mental health which led to the creation of 3 fantastic Development Office playlists (now available on Spotify). We also discovered our Innovation Animals - a way to see how we prefer to work and innovate. This led to lots of discussion of how teams interact and how plans could be developed with using Innovation Animals. We continued the animal and nature theme on Wednesday with a discussion on taking inspiration from nature, where people were able to share photos of wildlife and favourite walks. This has broadened into an impromptu photo competition with entries from Development Office staff across the world.

‘Another theme of the week was how podcasts have shown to be great way to lift moods, find out new things or explore new ideas. We created a new channel focusing on our favourite podcasts and Ted Talks and ran two sessions

Huang Yongyu's ink and colour rat side-by-side with a degu and a notebook with Huang Yongyu's text

Cat Campbell's (and Larry's) take on Ink and Colour Rat by Huang Yongyu

discussing the podcast ‘People Fixing the World – Fighting Depression Together’, and the Ted Talk by Susan David - The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage. This generated some interesting discussion around how we handle difficult emotions and how mental health is treated in different parts of the world. We were also treated to a webinar by Susie Hills – Using Kindness as your guide. This is part of the Advancing Oxford’s Online Webinar Series (also including Mark Hughes’ Emotional Intelligence.)

‘We ended the week with a look forward into how we can keep momentum going and continue the discussion around mental health. What really showed was that the Development Office Team were very happy to take part and made the sessions a wonderful mixture of serious discussion, creativity and good humour. ‘– Louise Dawkins

Cezanne's apples painting side-by-side with a bowl of apples and lemons

Antony Green's version of Cézanne's apples

‘Through these sessions we wanted to try and recreate the buffer zone that commuting provides between home and work, that separation being blurred for so many of us at the moment. We had an average of around 30 participants per session, with a great group of regular attendees, and our discussions were a wonderful way to learn about colleagues’ interests, opinions and hidden talents. I’m sure the week has spawned some new ideas for University of Oxford’s Development Office social activities that will persist beyond the lockdown.’ – Antony Green