Recognizing International Self Care Day: The Importance of Self-Care in the Workplace

Yoga, jogging, reading.

What do they all have in common? They are forms of self-care, and they are not alone.

Self-care is what you do to restore and increase your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It can take to many forms: going on a walk, listening to music, meditating before bed, or a simple deep breath. The phrase ‘self-care’ is particularly meaningful to me because it’s not something anyone does for me, I am fully accountable to myself.

Take a moment to think about ways you practiced self-care recently. Chances are it didn’t happen at work. This raises an important question: why is it that we reserve time ‘off-the-clock’ to care for our wellbeing when a third of our life is spent at work?

Tabling time for self-care and not introducing it throughout our day has taken a toll on the American workforce across industries. During a time when burnout is at an all-time high, integrating self-care into the work day has the potential to make a difference in our personal and professional lives.

In recognition of International Self Care Day, observed this year on Sunday, July 24, I thought it essential to discuss why, as leaders, it is crucial to create a culture of self-care in the workplace.

It would be naive of me to say that self-care is the cure-all to burnout, as burnout is not something to be taken lightly. I, myself, have experienced burnout in my career, as do roughly 77% of professionals. In a recent survey conducted by Deloitte, upwards of 70% of employees feel their employers are not doing enough in preventing and alleviating burnout within their organization. Many drivers of this statistic center around aspects of company culture, and with support from management, can improve the way employees feel about their employers. So while self-care alone will not solve burnout, recognizing it as a priority and embedding it into a company’s culture can build an employee’s trust and connection to an organization and its leadership, allowing them to be happier and healthier.

As a mental health company, we understand the important role self-care plays in our overall health, and thus have implemented initiatives for employees at the company-wide level. We introduce flexible working arrangements during the summer months, giving autonomy to our employees to adjust their work to depart early on Fridays. For some, there will be days where stress may be too much, and for that, we are proud to provide all of our team members with three, fully-paid mental health days with no limitations as it is key that they redeem this time at their discretion. I am most proud that we offer our employees free access to 4 of our mental health products, Sanvello, Digital+, Therapy+, and Concierge Services, where we match participants with resources that fit their needs best. We also host weekly mindfulness sessions and archive them for playback at any time. We offer Employee Assistance Programs to all employees, regardless of whether or not they are on our benefits. And for those looking to support more wellness activities, employees can join the Wellness Collective Employee Resource Group.

We, as leaders, have the power, the means, and the responsibility to change the narrative so that our team members enjoy coming to work and feel comfortable seamlessly weaving their work and home lives. With that, I ask, what can we do?

For starters, have an open conversation with your employees about what self-care means to them. Gathering information about the way they view self-care can help shape a plan of action and uncover what they value most. Some may enjoy occasional employer-sponsored cycling classes, while others may prefer a few hours back in their week to spend with their families.

At AbleTo, we make every effort to encourage our teams to weave self-care into their day, even subtly. Here are a few things that I have found helpful in fostering a culture with prioritization of self-care:

  • Set communication time boundaries. Encourage employees to set boundaries around their time and communicate those boundaries with others. This can be accomplished by explicitly noting that you do not expect an immediate response if emailing or messaging after-hours, and by communicating that to your manager, teammates, and other stakeholders if you are unable to be reached during a certain time.
  • Take your meeting on a walk. When able, take meetings by phone and walk away from your desk. It’s scientifically proven to promote creative thinking and solution building, all while supporting their physical and mental health.
  • Support employees in their mindfulness journeys. We are fortunate enough to provide our employees with weekly mindfulness sessions graciously conducted by our licensed clinicians. There are mindfulness resources, like Sanvello, and helpful tools or sessions that encourage employees to slow down and breathe. You could have group yoga sessions, or even just introduce brief five-minute meditations. Taking the step to provide this to your employees shows your support for their well-being.

It goes without saying that we must all work together to build culture. Taking any of the above steps to incorporate self-care into your organization’s culture should also be met by employees exercising their liberties to voice their needs. By welcoming the idea of regular self-care practice, it will open the door for teams to do their part in adopting this beneficial way of thinking.

After all, practicing self-care at work is an integral part of combating feelings of stress or burnout. When we find ways to manage our mental and physical health in the workplace, we can feel more relaxed and focused throughout the day. Encouraging your team to incorporate a self-care routine into their day, reminds them that they are people before employees.