Self-care for Overlooked Caregivers: The Secret to Sustainable Wellbeing for Everyone

Dr. Heather Bolton, Head of Psychology at Unmind talks about the ways in which managers can enhance their employee wellbeing programs

When people’s personal and professional lives collided at the start of the pandemic, employee stress levels hit an all-time high. Many employers were faced with the challenge of keeping their employees productive and while also keeping their businesses afloat. Some pushed a work-harder-and-longer mentality that only exacerbated the pressure employees were already facing. Others rose to the occasion and tried to implement lasting strategies with employee wellbeing at their core.

Either way, managers and internal informal caregivers were tasked with (or, in the case of informal caregivers, willingly undertook) the mammoth initiative to not only be leaders during a global pandemic and economic crisis but also remain company cheerleaders and trusted confidants. That model, however, is a ticking time bomb, because it depends so heavily on the strong to carry those who are struggling while at the same time failing to heed the importance of self-care for everyone along the way.

You face a very real threat to your entire organization’s morale, brand, and performance when the encouraging boss or the always-understanding teammate suddenly finds themselves at their breaking point, with nowhere to turn.

The problem is that the typical employee wellbeing program fails to meet the needs of the entire organization or enable every employee to nurture their own needs before they start to suffer more costly mental ill-health symptoms.

Below are three ways all employees can meet two valuable goals:

  • Prioritize self-care for everyone, whatever their role and wherever they are in the organization
  • Maximize performance of your existing wellbeing strategy

1. Make it about more than bubble baths and candles.

While a sudsy tub is a perfect place for some to unwind, not everyone relaxes and recharges in the same way. Encourage all of your employees to unplug by doing something they enjoy, whether that’s a walk with immediate family members, getting together with friends on a video conference, or just reading a good book.

Also, self-care shouldn’t just happen after work. Employees can do all sorts of things throughout the workday to improve their mental health:

  • Take 15-minute breaks
  • Eat a healthy snack
  • Schedule PTO
  • Talk to a peer or boss
  • Practice self-compassion

Tip: Encourage all employees, including managers and internal caregivers, to make a list of things that nurture their individual self-care needs.

2. Foster a culture where it’s OK to say no.

With more and more people working from home, the boundaries between work and play are blurred. Many employees feel that to be seen as a valued team player, they need to be everything to everyone. But this can lead to exhaustion and burnout. Let all employees know it’s OK — even encouraged — to say “no.”

When employees aren’t overwhelmed, they’re able to give the project in front of them their full energy and focus instead of stressing about what remains to be done.

Tip: When managers lead by example, it encourages others to follow suit, leading to happier, more productive teams.

3. Employ technology to help.

Making sure everyone is taking time to recharge takes time and energy. Use technology to ease the burden on your managers and caregiver employees. Many companies are adopting all-in-one mental health platforms to more easily and effectively help address the whole person. These tools nourish all aspects of an employee’s mind, heart, and spirit. They support several important aspects of wellbeing, from sleep and calmness to fulfillment and happiness.

Tip: Not all wellbeing platforms are created equal. Make sure you find one that addresses the psychological, physical, and emotional needs of employees to help you measure, understand, and improve the mental health of the whole person.

Self-care is like a muscle — the more it’s flexed, the stronger it gets. By fostering a culture of self-care and offering tools to support and nourish the whole employee, organizations see happier, more productive employees and teams no matter their role. Which means you’re sure to support the informal, often unrecognized caregivers who are helping to bolster your organization at ground zero day in and day out.

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Dr. Heather Bolton

Dr. Heather Bolton is a clinical psychologist and BABCP-accredited cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) therapist. She is Head of Psychology at Unmind, the trusted workplace mental health platform. Before joining Unmind, Heather worked in the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) for nearly 10 years, focusing primarily on improving access to therapy for people with depression and anxiety disorders.


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