ideas for self-care in the workplace
Updated: Sep 1
By Melani De Sousa and Dara Nixayathirath
If two years ago we were told we’d be converting our double garages, rumpus rooms or, lo and behold, kitchen dining tables into fully functioning home office setups…we’d have laughed in disbelief. Yet here we are in 2021 alongside millions of other Australians feeling the pinch after months, possibly years ahead of lockdown juggling the commitments of zoom meetings, household chores, screaming children and socially anxious pets all within the confines of our own homes.
“The workplace” is not what it used to be. For many of us, they are now our beds, lounges or Ikea study desks set up with a double screen, camera and fast speed internet connection (if you’re lucky). No longer can we convene in the staffroom kitchen or around the watercooler and discuss meetings we’d rather forget or deadlines we wished would go away…all of which helped us manage stress and provided an avenue to vent after a busy day.
Wellbeing is now a top priority for most of us looking for ways to decrease workplace stress, combat anxiety and increase resilience. An essential component in all of the described, is a simple self-care routine which proactively encourages healthful habits and activities that can be done easily, quickly and with little barriers.
what is self care?
Self-care can be defined as; “Identifying and regularly doing the things we know help improve or sustain what we consider to be the definition of our own wellbeing.”
It is a proactive strategy, rather than a reactive coping mechanism that is practiced regularly to reduce the incidence or severity of issues like burnout and fatigue. It is not limited to time outside of work hours and when practiced on the job can promote wellbeing, boost concentration and increase productivity. To be successful, self-care activities should be:
· Consider all areas of wellbeing
our top 7 ideas for self care in the workplace
It’s important to remember that wellbeing is multi-dimensional. Each person’s definition and fulfilment of wellbeing is different to the next. Creating a successful self-care plan involves identifying current self-care habits you currently engage in, how they fit within the following areas of your wellbeing and strategies to build and improve on them.
Physical wellbeing, amongst other things, involves taking care of your body through physical activity, eating a wide variety of nutritious food and maintaining hydration.
Tip 1 – keep a water bottle at your desk and sip on it throughout the day
Tip 2 – aim to add one new fruit or vegetable to your lunch plate every day
Keeping physically active, approximately 30 minutes per day three times per week is shown to increase serotonin levels and endorphins while reducing stress hormones in the brain. This in turn helps improve our mood, concentration levels and alertness.
Tip 3 – walk around the house or around the block while you take work calls on your mobile
Learning to recognise our emotions and move forward whilst acknowledging how we feel is a good way to approach emotional self-care. Ultimately, there are no right or wrong ways to feel, within and outside the work environment.
Tip 4 – Keep a mood journal and write down changes in your mood as a result of particular work tasks, specific people or meetings. This can help identify triggers of stress that you can start working on with your manager or HR Manager.
Today’s way of socialising has undoubtedly changed due to widespread restrictions and social distancing! Nevertheless, it is important we engage with others to maintain connection and foster feelings of empathy.
Tip 5 – Reach out to a work colleague who seems more withdrawn or quieter than usual. Being there for others is a great way to feel better about yourself.
Environmental self-care involves maintaining a clean and tidy work and living environment that promotes productivity and feelings of happiness. Cluttered spaces can create cluttered minds and stifle creativity.
Tip 6 – Remove at least 3 items from your workspace that you no longer need or use. This could include old stationery, books or devices that are taking up space and collecting dust.
Finding balance between our personal and professional lives can bring about a state of wholeness and provide purpose that further drives us. Ensuring your role at work aligns with your personality and values, as well as your strengths is instrumental in ensuring long-term happiness and success.
Tip 7 – Get a copy of your KPI’s from your manager and assess whether your strengths are suited to the core requirements of your role. If not, look at ways at improving or obtaining these skills or ask to be repositioned in the company in an area that is more suited to your personality.
Self-care is a proactive strategy, rather than a reactive coping mechanism that is practiced regularly to reduce the incidence or severity of issues like burnout and fatigue.
self care strategies to improve employee wellbeing
With employee wellbeing at the top of most organisational priorities, there are a number of things higher management can do to ensure staff aren’t succumbing to fatigue, illness and burnout. It’s widely known that health status is linked to performance outcomes with sick, fatigued or unwell staff creating substantial costs to employers who need to make up for sickness-related absences and loss of working hours.
Strategies for managers to enhance employee wellbeing
Offering incentives or subsidies for appropriate physical ergonomics – If you know employees are using uncomfortable chairs or makeshift desks at home to complete their work, offer incentives or monetary subsidies for them to purchase back cushions, better furniture or adjustable desks. If allowed, consider loaning out the office furniture that is sitting in un-used workplaces during lockdown.
Exposure to natural light and outdoor views – For those able to work in the office, assess the amount of natural light sources available in workspaces. Office workers with greater light exposure in the workplace tend to have better sleep quality, longer duration and greater quality of life compared to workers with less light exposure.
Access to healthy foods - offering or having readily available fresh fruit and snacks promote active participation in healthy behaviours and promote wellbeing. Fruits contribute to a healthy balanced diet, an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, good source of fiber to help you stay fuller for longer and can help lower the risk of some non-communicable diseases.
Raising health awareness - Self-care is self-directed. However, a study has found managers who act as health-promoting leaders, through recognising health problems, offering health services and creating a health-promoting environment, can motivate employees to take charge of their own health and reduce the risk of burnout.
When employee wellbeing is fulfilled, employee engagement and personal productivity rise. Keep in mind self-care is unique to each individual and does not need to break the bank. A good self-care routine should be simple, easy to implement, regular and part of an ongoing routine.
to discover how a self-care workshop could boost your team's wellbeing and productivity enquire here today.
References & Resources
Lassale C, Batty GD, Baghdadli A, et al. Healthy dietary indices and risk of depressive outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies.
Firth J, Gangwisch J E, Borsini A, Wootton R E, Mayer E A. Food and mood: How do diet and nutrition affect mental wellbeing?
National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/_files_nhmrc/publications/attachments/n55i_australian_guide_to_healthy_eating.pdf.
Miller, K.R., McClave, S.A., Jampolis, M.B. et al. The Health Benefits of Exercise and Physical Activity.
Yeung JWK, Zhang Z, Kim TY. Volunteering and health benefits in general adults: cumulative effects and forms
Horstmann, D. & (2018). Enhancing Employee Self-Care. European Journal of Health Psychology
Boubekri M, Cheung IN, Reid KJ, Wang CH, Zee PC. Impact of windows and daylight exposure on overall health and sleep quality of office workers: a case-control pilot study.