At The Employee Experience Hackathon – our Winter Client Forum in February – we’ll be joined by Ruth Steggles, mindfulness explorer, and Co-Director of Fresh Air Fridays.

A trainer and speaker at heart, Ruth believes that being outside in the fresh air can support good mental and emotional wellbeing. Fresh Air Fridays programmes deliver access to wellbeing strategies that help staff to be happier, more engaged, able to respond rather than react, and be more mentally resilient.

Ruth is a particular advocate of ensuring that HR professionals take some time for themselves! HR Managers spend so long looking after everyone else, that they don’t always remember to stop and think about their own wellbeing.

Our Director of Global Partnerships, Gethin Nadin, attends Fresh Air Fridays. He says it's made a huge difference to how he approaches his time at work. “Fresh Air Fridays takes us back to basics. It teaches us about living in the moment so anxiety doesn’t get the better of us and has taught me exercises I can use when life gets too much. It’s become an anchor for me to go back to almost press ‘reset’.”

Here, Ruth tells us a little bit about herself, her business, and what to expect at The Employee Experience Hackathon.

Ruth, tell us a little bit about why you got into the business of mindfulness.

At a point in my life when things were going well for me as an individual and us as a family, our daughter developed anorexia. I had been of the belief that this sort of thing didn’t happen “to people like us!” It was a massive and scary wake up call to the realities of life that mental ill health can creep up on anyone of us when we least expect it. As I supported our daughter back to good health I discovered tools that were simple (if not always easy) but made a massive difference. Self-care and mindfulness were part of that package.

Why do you think this is becoming so popular, and why is it so important for businesses to encourage getting outside during work and practising mindfulness?

Those are two big questions. Getting outside is easier to answer, we evolved to be in nature. There is now a lot of research showing that being in nature makes us feel better. Some of the research from Japan goes into the chemicals that trees emit being of benefit to us. In our work we see the difference, when we take a group of staff from the foyer of an office and stand them under a tree, we see their body language change as they start to relax. In my opinion, The awareness of mindfulness has become a craze for numerous reasons. As a society, we have reached a crisis point in our mental and emotional wellbeing, leading to a need for solutions. Mindfulness - when fully embraced - can be an effective tool. The evidence for this is not only experiential but now also well researched.

What did you do before Fresh Air Fridays? What made you make the leap into becoming independent?

I started life as an engineer and then taught physics for a while. I have been self-employed since having our children and had a large direct selling organisation which meant that I spent most of my time training and coaching my team. Our daughter's illness precipitated the change into mental and emotional wellbeing, and developing my coaching practice further.

What sorts of things can people do to change their habits and get out of a “presenteeism” mindset? Are there any good practises which people can take up in order to start taking more time for themselves?

There are two really useful habits that anyone can do that make a real difference to how we feel. The first is 7/11 breathing. Breathing in for a count of 7 and out for a count of 11. It doesn’t matter how fast you count, but that the out breath is significantly longer than the in breath. This helps to calm you down. I recommend doing it in the morning and definitely before you go to sleep, as well as when someone has just pressed your buttons. The other thing it to get into the habit of being grateful for things. Not pretending that everything is good when it feels rubbish, but noticing even when things are rubbish, that that was a lovely cup of tea. At the end of everyday I write three things I am grateful for from the day. When I work with people with severe anxiety or depression, this can be a life changer. I recommend people get into the habit when things are going well to help them just in case life does ever get tough.

And finally; what are you most looking forward to at The Employee Experience Hackathon?

I love connecting with people and I am looking forward to having some great conversations, and finding out what is going on for the people I speak to. Really looking forward to seeing you there!

We're so looking forward to seeing Ruth in February. If you'd like to find out more about Fresh Air Fridays, you can visit the website here: