Aroha (pronounced AH-roh-ha) means ‘LOVE’ in the Māori language.
Aroha formed the basis for the weekly Monday team catch-ups we implemented in my workplace at the start of 2019. So what exactly is Aroha Monday?
Let me take you back a step first. At the beginning of 2019, several teams were co-locating to the new Student Hub on level 1. The open-plan hub would essentially house four student services teams, who previously worked in separate areas and rooms in the building. Upon moving into the space, it was clear that people weren’t too familiar with each other with little interaction across teams (and people literally stayed in their designated areas). Naturally this did not create a seamless move towards effective collaboration.
To address this gap, I met with two amazing colleagues, Artemis Shirvani and Sarah Claridge, who wanted to change this stilted atmosphere. We talked about the idea of helping our colleagues to get to know each other better, also knowing that this would also improve work connections. We all agreed on some key things… people connect over food, conversation, and through having regular opportunities to learn.
To achieve this we decided to a weekly catch-up with all the teams, for just 30 minutes every Monday. We chose the beautiful Maori word ‘Aroha’ as we wanted everyone to invest time in showing genuine care for each other at work. We took turns running an activity each Monday, finishing with light food and refreshments.
Some of the activities included:
- Sharing holiday highlights using picture cards
- ‘Speed dating’ as a way to get to know each other
- Using table top cards to talk about a random topic
- Learning stretches and exercises we could do at our desks
- Creating outfits out of toilet paper
- Practising a waiata
- Using ‘skills’ cards to learn about our preferred strengths
- Dancing along to the Macarena (umm, this was very interesting!)
- Sharing tips on how to unwind and de-stress
- Making smoothies
On each Monday, we also gave opportunities to share any major updates.
Initially some staff members saw Aroha Monday as onerous, or too out of their comfort zone, but over time staff saw it as a great way to ‘pause’ and make time for each other. A few people even commented that it helped them to share more of themselves, creating trust and connections with others.
During 2019, we went through a restructure and it was a challenging time for many people. In a way, I believe that initiatives like Aroha Monday strengthened the connections between staff, allowing us to express genuine care and support for those affected.
Whilst numerous staff have come and gone in the past year, Aroha Monday continues to thrive on a weekly basis. We still set aside 30 minutes a week to ‘pause’ and make time for each other.
To those of you who are thinking of ways to build a team or to foster a positive culture, then ideas like Aroha Monday can help to grow connections and understanding between others. It only takes us 30 minutes a week, which is miniscule compared to a full time equivalent of 2400 minutes in a working week! All it requires is the energy of a few leaders, a clear space, some creative ideas, and some food and drinks.
With the team support, we’ve noticed that as long as you have someone to talk to, it makes it a little bit easier. – Wendy Watson