Over the past 18 months the importance of work/life integration has become paramount. We’ve talked about the importance of engaging in self care at the workplace, but to truly establish this as an organizational practice, leaders must actively encourage, model and normalize these acts of self care.
People will only feel safe choosing to engage in self care if the working environment they are in makes it clear that that is acceptable and supported. When we place the burden on employees to choose “self care” in the workplace without taking tangible actions to show that it will be supported, it actually makes it harder for people to care for themselves and choose to spend time resourcing and nourishing themselves.
So what are things you can do as a leader to create a culture supportive of self care in your workplace?
Encourage your team to use their vacation time:
We know that it’s actually better for both employee health as well as happiness, job satisfaction, and work productivity, for vacation days to be used and used regularly. You may think just offering the vacation time is enough to get people to use it. But Americans have a very anti-vacation culture. So even when we have the option to take time off, we often feel too guilty or too much shame to use it. By encouraging employees to take time off you can create that culture that allows employees to make choices to care for themselves!
Encourage healthy boundaries + lead by example
We’ve talked quite a bit about boundaries in the workplace, (and how to go about setting them with coworkers), but it bears repeating! Boundaries are key to protecting our mental energy, and it’s no different in the workplace. Just a couple ways you can lead by example with just your email could include:
- Not checking email outside of work hours
- Not emailing others outside of work hours; or including in your message that you expect to hear back from them during normal business hours
- Working a reasonable amount of hours in a week and encouraging others to unplug as well
Establishing these sorts of boundaries as the norm allows everyone on your team to feel comfortable setting their own.
Be flexible + allow for accommodations:
We’ve all had to learn on the go over the course of the pandemic. This learning curve has brought many things to light. Particularly that we have the skills and the capacity to be much more flexible than we ever thought possible! Your business no doubt has had to adapt over and over to the constant changes of the last year and a half, which is a great way for us to see that even when we’ve had to alter our initial vision, our business can still be successful while meeting the needs of our employees and customers.
This is an important perspective to keep in mind when considering employee accommodations. Perhaps you have an employee that deals with a chronic illness or chronic pain who has found that work from home actually allows them to take care of themselves much better when their pain flares up without having any negative impact on their work. Allowing for this flexibility–the shift back to work from home when someone on your team sees a need for it, for example–is another great way to foster that culture of self care. It shows you trust your team to get their work done to the quality you’ve come to expect, while still allowing them to be the expert on what they need to take care of themselves.