Self-care is about taking actions to help maintain one’s own physical and mental health. It sounds like something that should come naturally, but with the demands of modern life, a huge number of people will tend to prioritise jobs, families and other commitments at the expense of their own well-being.
Individuals have a responsibility for their own well-being, but employers have a responsibility to nurture an environment that’s compatible with employee well-being and acts of self-care. The best work is produced from a place of wellness.
Lorelle Brownlee is a trained medical doctor and is director of Lovely Pack, which sells experiential care packages and self-care packages. She has seen a range of workplace cultures, from healthy to toxic, and has observed some of the features that distinguish a healthy working environment. Here are her 5 tips for promoting a culture of self-care in the workplace.
Encourage good physical health
It’s easy to create an environment where employees spend all day sitting at their desks, getting up only to make a cup of tea or take a short toilet break. The epidemic of “presenteeism” breeds this behaviour, making employees believe that above all else, they must be seen to be working hard.
Employers should avoid nurturing a workplace culture where employees feel they must show up at the office an hour early – they could use this time to go to the gym or take a long, brisk walk. People who undertake regular cardiovascular exercise have lower stress levels and higher quality sleep, which increases energy, focus and productivity.
Provide morale-boosting goodies – but not junk
In recent years, there has been a trend towards workplaces offering employees treats to boost morale during the working day. However, unlimited access to sugary drinks and biscuits can be detrimental. Not only can they leave employees feeling de-energised, but they contribute to poor health and low-self esteem. Well-being savvy employers are increasingly moving towards healthier goodies to boost morale, such as non-alcoholic fruity cocktails or small individual care packages.
Encourage rest time
Employers should avoid encouraging engagement and availability outside working hours, and should allow their employees time to recharge.
Time away from work is important, and employees must have their personal time respected. Demand for constant availability can lead to high-stress levels and disengagement with work. Quality of and efficiency of work done should be praised, but “martyrdom” should be discouraged.
Acknowledge hard work and effort
Even if the most desirable outcome isn’t achieved, the effort should be praised. No one goes into work aiming to do badly, so employees should not be treated as though they have. Praise can give an employee direction, and drive them to learn from mistakes and to do better the next time. Employees can end up feeling lost without positive feedback, unsure of what’s going well and what’s not. This can slow professional growth, decrease motivation and increase stress levels in the long term.
Accommodate flexible working
Employers should treat their employees as valued, skilled professionals and allow them some autonomy over their time. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been an increase in employee anxiety relating to commuting on public transport and working in enclosed spaces. If flexible working and working from home can be reasonably accommodated, they should be. This can help preserve not only the physical health but the mental well-being, of employees. This should be explored as a long-term solution, and not just for the duration of the pandemic.