The modern workplace, once thought to be just a hub for productivity, can be another avenue for ensuring well-being is at the foundation of everything we do. And why shouldn’t the workplace be more inclusive of our mental health? After all, it serves as the backdrop for a substantial part of our lives, the stage where we strive to fulfill our ambitions, and the place where we seek purpose.
While mental health has always been top of mind, I recently became more curious about how others view it after a recent out-of-office email reply from a colleague. The automated response was full to the brim with an array of apologies for taking a break, being away from the office, and not responding instantly. I was curious, but more so confused wondering why they felt they needed to apologize for taking time away from work.
I’m not alone; many others feel the burden of this work culture impacting their well-being, only made more difficult by a prevailing inaccuracy that we must be available at all times. Such demands can lead to immense stress and anxiety, as individuals grapple with the need to be perpetually online. Most organizations have become increasingly aware that their success is tied to their employees’ mental and physical health. But as demands from work, our family and friends, and personal lives come to a head, our well-being sometimes falls to the wayside.
It’s crucial, and luckily not too complex, to carve out time for self-care. Both minor changes in our daily routines and how we view work in the grand scheme of our lives will have an impact on how we can thrive mentally and professionally in the world.
Prioritizing your own self-care
Self-care isn’t just about the wellness programs your organization may have in place. Rather, it’s about how you consciously commit to care for your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. This will not only keep you sharp, productive, and focused, but it will also ward off any chances of feeling stress, anxious and burnt out at work.
I looked within, as well as my colleagues, to find the best strategies to help ensure self-care at work including:
- Set boundaries: It is essential to establish a clear boundary between your work and personal life. This means not peeking at your work emails or attending calls outside of work hours. It’s also crucial to allow yourself breaks during the day to relax and recharge your eyes and mind; a quick walk around the block can help.
- Prioritize sleep: A well-rested brain is better equipped to handle stress and make rational decisions. Ensure you are getting 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night.
- Maintain a healthy diet: Consuming a nutrient-rich diet fuels you with the energy you need to power through the day. Incorporate fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into your meals.
- Engage in regular exercise: Physical activity is an excellent way to keep stress at bay, lift spirits, and maintain high energy levels. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. Walk to a lunch spot instead of ordering in.
- Nurture social relationships: Spending time with your family and friends can keep you mental and emotionally healthy. Make time for activities that bring you joy and allow you to connect with loved ones.
- Make yourself the priority: This could involve reading a book, taking a soothing bath, or simply going for a stroll. Ensure it’s an activity you genuinely enjoy, which will help you stay relaxed and destressed.
By investing in your well-being and mental health, you’re investing in yourself and future success both professionally and personally.
Leaders must practice what they preach; employees won’t consider important self-care initiatives if they don’t see their leaders prioritize self-care themselves. Here are a few ways where we all win:
- Foster a psychological safe environment: Encourage your team to be their authentic selves at work, without the fear of negative repercussions. A high level of psychological safety within an organization promotes inclusivity, empowering employees to voice their opinions, present ideas, and ask questions without fear.
- Offer mental health resources: By providing access to counseling services, arranging mindfulness classes, or organizing workshops on stress management, amongst other resources, can better prioritize well-being at work.
- Make healthiness a priority: Ensure that employees have access to nutritious food and fitness options, including stocking the fridge with healthier snacks or offering discounts to local gyms.
- Encourage breaks: Employees should be actively encouraged to take short breaks throughout the day to mitigate the risk of burnout.
- Be a role model: Most importantly, as a leader, embodying the culture of health and wellness can significantly inspire your team to the same. Prioritize your own physical and mental well-being, setting a positive example for your employees.
As I noted earlier, my recent run in with an apologetic out of office email made me reconsider my own well-being and that of my colleagues. So what should a typical response look like? Here are some of my favorites, crafted guilt-free and with love:
● “I’ll get back to you when I return to civilization.”
● “I know I’m supposed to say that I’ll have limited access to email, but…”
● “The bad news is that I’m out of office. The good news is that I’m out of office.”
● “Currently away from the office and probably soaking up some sun. Hope you enjoy your work week.”
It’s no longer a luxury but a necessity to provide employees the tools to ensure well-being. By cultivating a culture of self-care, companies can not only empower their employees to thrive but also enjoy the benefits of a more engaged, loyal, and innovative workforce.
However, you’ll fail before even starting if you take a one-size-fits all approach to self-care. It’s important to understand that mental health initiatives span a wide range of practices and methods that are customized to individual needs and preferences. Responsibility for fostering a culture of self-care within the workplace doesn’t fall solely on the management; it requires collective commitment and collaboration across all levels of the organization.
Prioritizing mental health practices, like self-care, transforms where we work into spaces that are free of stress and anxiety ensuring ‘well-being’ is not just a buzzword but a lived reality. It’s not selfish to want to be physically and mentally healthy but a benefit to yourself, your loved ones, and your organization.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Global Head of Leadership and Business Content, Skillsoft
Anju Choudhary is currently the Global Head of Content for Leadership and Business at Skillsoft. Prior to joining skillsoft, she has led global L&D and DE&I teams at NextRoll, UST Global and IBM. With unique thought leadership and extensive experience in leadership and talent development, she strives to help organizations accelerate performance through learning. Her expertise is in building strategic learning solutions focusing on supporting lifelong learning with a great end-user experience.
She believes that a successful future comes from unleashing the power of diverse, engaged, self-directed teams that have an outlook of continuous learning. She is a Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Coaching Certified Coach and a champion for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. She is passionate about creating an inclusive workplace for all employees. She holds an MBA degree with a double specialization in HR, and Marketing and a bachelor’s degree in science.