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We're creating a restorative work environment at ACEs Connection


 Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images

We've all heard about self-care — making sure we exercise, sleep, eat well, etc. — and some of us are incorporating these things into our lives. And then there's creating a restorative work environment, which is different. I'd venture that most of us look at self-care as something we do for ourselves outside work, or we squeeze it into our workday. 

When I came back from vacation last week, I really didn't want to go back to working the way I had been: waaaaayyyy too many hours of work each day, back-to-back meetings, making unrealistic to-do lists (which leads to intense frustration in not achieving goals), sitting for hours at a time.....I could go on. And on. And on. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. 


At our team meeting last week, we talked about this, and thought it was a great idea to explore how each of us can create a restorative work environment. It means not only NOT doing things that were hurting us, but it also means incorporating restorative practices into our day and make them part of our work. It's just another effort on our part to walk the talk of integrating practices based on ACEs science into our lives. 

Of course there's some overlap between self-care and restorative practices, which you'll see in the following lists. Five of our ACEs Connection team volunteered to post their lists. These lists are what each person decided to do for herself; these are not suggestions for anyone else. But we thought that sharing these lists might prompt others to create their own. Eventually, we may even figure out what elements on these lists might rise to being staff-wide practices. 

You'll notice there are six lists. When I told Lisa Wright, a social worker with Greater Richmond (VA) SCAN and coordinator of the Greater Richmond Trauma-Informed Community Network, about what we were doing, not only did she send her list, but she also sent the images and the attached article about restorative supervision (as opposed to reflective supervision). She gave me the idea to include the term "restorative work" in the headline of this blog post. Thanks, Lisa!

We'd LOVE to see your lists, no matter how short!  Please add them to the comments section, and we'll update this from time to time. No pressure. No due date. No stress!

And if you've set up a restorative work environment, please write a post about it!!! We're all ears!

Jane Stevens, ACEs Connection

  • Check email only once an hour

  • Turn off email when I’m not working on it (especially the sound)

  • Tell co-workers that I’m doing this, and ask that they contact me via text or Slack if they really need an answer quickly.

  • Schedule meetings for 30 minutes or less, unless the agenda or person I’m meeting requires that it be 50 minutes.

  • Schedule meetings that were 60 minutes long to 50 minutes, to provide transition time.

  • Start meetings with one to five minutes of deep breathing, depending on who I’m meeting with.

  • In 50-minute meetings, take a one- or two-minute stretch break at about 25 minutes.

  • Work no more than 37.5 hours a week. 

  • Schedule thinking/planning time of at least one hour a day. 

Marianne Avari, ACEs Connection

  • Set timer to get up from computer every hour 

    • When I sit back down to begin again, take 5 nice deep breaths 

  • Only check email during working hours (particularly on phone app)

  • Spend 15 minutes outside in fresh air once in morning and once in afternoon

  • Aim to not schedule back to back meetings

  • Schedule a lunch time and stick to it!


Cissy White, ACEs Connection

  • Continue to be realistic about projects (made film festival quarterly rather than monthly for this reason)

  • Take my vacation time before the end of the year

  • Prioritize and accept I can’t get to everything and not everything has to be lightning fast or super in-depth.

  • Go for a walk at least once a day. 

  • Prioritize health, emotional and physical, knowing that will mean better life and work quality. 

  • Keep reading all posts by the Nap Ministry to remember that slowing down is social change.

  • Borrowed from Gail: BSY - Before Saying Yes to a new project, give myself a waiting period to think about it.  Make that standard for anything I am asked about.

Gail Kennedy, ACEs Connection

  • Block off time in my calendar each day to schedule NO meetings and have dedicated time for projects.  

  • BSY - Before Saying Yes to a new project, give myself a waiting period to think about it.  Make that standard for anything I am asked about.

  • Meditate every morning before sitting down at computer and set my intention for the day. Write down my intention so I see throughout the day.

  • Dedicate days every month where we are OFFLINE (Our Ketchup and Mustard days (Ketchup = Catchup; Mustard = Must address)

  • Identifiy leads for each project; produce MOCHAs for each project with timelines

  • Prioritize.  Realistically.

Jenna Quinn, ACEs Connection

  • Listen to music while I work and even before I start working in the morning

  • Work in a spot with good natural light and ideally a view out the window 

  • Keep my inbox tidy, my number of unread messages low, and utilizing the labeling feature to prioritize what needs to be done and to sort past messages 

  • Make time to stretch and to get up and move 

  • Set up Slack’s automatic “do not disturb” feature for night time 

Lisa Wright, Greater Richmond Trauma-Informed Community Network

  • Take a 15-minute walk outside

  • Stretch for 10 minutes during the workday

  • Change my location within the office or at home at least once during the day (we have a back space with a huge window, fairy gardens and view of a gorgeous tree at our center)

  • Create an inspirational board and post in the copy room/workspace & change quotes, pictures, etc., periodically

  • Incorporate discussion about restoration in supervision and staff meetings

  • Create a list of the things that help me to restore


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Comments (6)

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This is a great list and I so glad I am imbedding these practices into my daily routines.  I listen regularly when working with some natural lighting and seems to help my day go by peaceful and serene.  

Thanks much!

Hah - Initially reading this article before "calling it a day", I didn't include a list so I could honor my personal restorative practice of getting  at least 7 hrs. of sleep (totally ignored sleep requirements for the first half of my career.) 

Work restorative practices include:

*Spend time in contemplation each day.

*Opt for water (over diet soft drink).

*Tackle more complex projects first thing in the morning, breaking it down into more manageable "parts".

*Working remotely, I strive for work/home balance too, but am also learning to be more in tune with "energy flows".  I enjoy spending time in my office on weekends/evenings if/when new ideas emerge and there's lots of synergy.  Likewise, if there are no "sparks of creativity", or if I completed my work commitments for the day/week, I act on that too and don't sit at my desk.  


Thanks Jane!  Since you asked...

I keep a plant or fresh flowers in my workspace.

I drink water throughout the day.

I use essential oils to boost my energy or shift my mood.

I take care of my body in small ways -stand, stretch, tap on acupressure points, deep breathing - and occasionally get outside to hula hoop when I need to get my blood flowing.

Think before saying yes (love that one)!

Honor internal boundaries and commitments to myself about work/life balance.

I actually asked this question to kick off a meeting with my child abuse prevention team and people appreciated the opportunity to reflect and share - those moments of reflection and sharing are a part of our meeting culture and it helps people get into their creative brains before we get to work.

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