When you think of the phrase “self-care”, what springs to mind? Is it exercising, eating healthily, and reducing alcohol consumption, retail therapy, spending less time on social media, or socialising with friends?
There can be many negative connotations around “self-care”, as some may jump to conclusions and think that this equals putting on face masks and binge-watching a Netflix series. However, self-care can come in many shapes and forms, and ultimately, it is unique to each individual with no “right” or “wrong” way to do it.
If you’re not OK at home, you probably won’t be OK at work, so self-care is especially important to ensure that you are in a balanced headspace, as it will also reduce the risk of burning out.
What does self-care actually mean to you?
Firstly, it’s important to figure out what self-care means to you or your team. It can vary from physical, psychological, emotional, social or professional, to environmental, spiritual and financial.
Some options within each category are easily achievable at work, whilst some may be harder to focus on. Equally, you may not need to focus on each area in such depth. Instead, it’s important to identify what you need to work on, which is usually influenced by your stress levels inside and outside of work.
We often look at work as something entirely different to our personal lives, when in reality, we spend more time at work with our colleagues than we do with our friends and family. Thus, viewing self-care as an ongoing effort will allow you to draw parities with work and home life.
How can you create a work environment that promotes self-care?
The last 18 months have demonstrated how important it is to take care of ourselves. We are making a conscious effort to encourage employees to prioritise self-care in their everyday work. You mustn’t pay lip service to self-care, and instead, introduce and promote ways in which employees can see and experience a tangible connection to it.
1. Set boundaries
Setting boundaries requires discipline with yourself, as well as a healthy dose of courage too! Communicating your boundaries can feel daunting at first, but it’s a great way to build genuine connections with the people you work with. Recruitment is a challenging career path, and sometimes the days can feel all-consuming with meetings and calls whilst also trying to catch up on your inbox.
Boundary setting allows you to establish what you are and aren’t comfortable doing, as well as educating your team, or your manager, on how you like to operate. This could be as simple as highlighting the tasks you can prioritise that day without overwhelming yourself, or it could be explaining that you won’t be responding to emails after a specific time.
These two examples are effective ways of managing your workload and stress levels whilst keeping others in the loop on how you like to communicate.
Another aspect of your work life (and personal life) that requires boundary setting is your relationship with technology. Covid-19 forced many people to work remotely all over the world, which for some, didn’t feel natural due to either their industry or their companies’ outlook on remote working. If you struggle to switch off and find yourself checking your emails at 10 pm on a Friday, you need to set some boundaries for yourself.
The “always-on” and “hustle” culture can be very dangerous, so giving yourself time limits on technology can be a great way to reduce that. Whether that’s deleting your work emails from your phone or installing an app that locks certain applications for the weekend, being disciplined with your technology use can enable you to have a healthier relationship with it.
2. Set goals
It can be easy to lose motivation when juggling multiple projects, especially if your role is process-driven. Setting goals is something we actively encourage, as, although we are incredibly purpose-driven, each individual still needs to have things to work towards.
Sometimes, smaller goals can be better than bigger ones, as you can take stock regularly of what you’ve achieved - and often, we surprise ourselves with how much we’ve done.
We also focus on breaking goals down into manageable chunks, whether this is working towards a promotion or something more personal. Creating “checkpoints” gives people a confidence boost, which is great for motivation and general wellbeing at work.
If you lead a team, emphasise the importance of goal-setting and create regular touchpoints with your team to see how close they are to achieving them. You can do this by getting people to write down their goals or even gratitude lists at the end of the day.
3. Be honest
There is power in being honest in the workplace, and in some ways, this has a direct relation to boundary setting. Being honest about how you feel can be an act of self-care in itself. Whether you’re struggling mentally or you have a lot going on in your personal life, it’s important to communicate openly at work.
If you’re in a leadership role, this is one of the most important traits to possess. Leaders must set an example to the rest of the team, who will all mimic and embody these behaviours.
If a leader is open about how they feel, encouraging boundary setting, and showing their vulnerability, this will show other employees (whether they are being managed by this individual or they are peers) to do the same thing.
It’s OK not to be OK - however, if no one at a senior level is actively talking about this regularly, you won’t achieve the level of honesty needed to combat issues that employees, colleagues, or peers are having.
4. Provide the correct resources for employees
If you are a leader or a company owner, it’s vital to provide the right resources for employees, so they can start to practice self-care. Whether it’s investing and setting aside a budget for wellness initiatives and group exercises to spread this message or providing a space in the office for employees to decompress and spend time away from technology, you have to give people the tools they need.
Finally, don’t treat it like a tick-box exercise! If you celebrate mental health awareness week once a year, you can’t claim that you’re a company that encourages self-care at work. It has to be something you champion 365 days a year for it to be effective.
A great way to do this is by creating a group of ambassadors internally at all seniority levels who can promote this. We do this via our Culture Board, which can regularly check that all aspects of our culture are being lived every day, whether by the senior leadership team or our junior employees.
This keeps everybody accountable and provides you with regular feedback on how you can improve the environment at work - whether that’s for self-care initiatives or something else.
In conclusion, self-care isn’t a linear process and takes time to master. However, staying disciplined with yourself and putting yourself first can allow you to be authentic at work without sacrificing your mental health and integrity in the process!