How to Be an Organization that Cares: Strategizing Self-Care in Businesses
After more than two years of constant flux, employees and organizations who have been living in survival mode will need to redefine what self-care at work means. The impact of living in survival mode is that our nervous systems and brains have been constantly perceiving threats, which can impact focus, mood, and overall health and productivity. Without a balanced lifestyle that considers physical, emotional/spiritual, and psychological health, we can lack the resiliency tools needed to maintain our health when challenges come our way.
On July 24th, which is International Self-Care Day, we recognize and celebrate the importance of self-care. The date July 24th symbolizes that the benefits of self-care are experienced 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Self-care has life-long benefits and should be a part of living a healthy lifestyle year-round. The International Self-Care Foundation uses this day as a focus and forum for individuals and groups to promote self-care in their organizations and community.
During the pandemic and in the new post-pandemic world we are shaping, many people have found self-care activities to help maintain their health. Going for walks, visiting the doctor, or treating yourself to a spa day may be strategies you use to practice physical self-care. Gardening and spending time with loved ones may be a form of emotional self-care you’ve relied on. If we strive to practice self-care in our daily lives, why would it be different in the workplace?
Even those who are great at caring for their health at home might struggle to bring self-care strategies into the workplace. It continues to be incredibly vital for employees to take care of themselves and for organizations to ensure their teams have the support and tools to do so.
Organizational Self-Care Strategies
1. Recognize and control psychological health and safety risks
Ensure that you had audited your workplace for psychological health and safety risks. Assess the demands of the job, employees’ control over their job, the supports and resources available, the workplace relationships, role clarity, and how change is managed and communicated. Employers should look for pressures at work which could cause high and/or long-lasting levels of stress and who may be harmed by these pressures. Some hazards could include lack of civility and respect, lack of growth and development, lack of psychological and physical safety, poor workload management, and lack of expectations.
Preventing and managing psychological health and safety risks starts with setting clear policies, procedures, and expectations. Consider the following strategies:
- Set policies and procedures for workplace harassment, including a zero-tolerance policy, that sets the tone for an open and inclusive work community.
- Commit to a company boundary plan to create a culture that prioritizes work-life balance. Don’t forget to set a Right to Disconnect Policy to comply with Bill 27, the new Working for Workers Act.
- Create flexible work policies to allow employees to attend medical appointments, therapy, etc., to care for children, and to protect the other roles in their lives as needed.
- Provide employees opportunity for growth and personal development to increase engagement and satisfaction.
- Have clear role expectations and ensure that workloads are reasonable to prevent employee burnout.
2. Be a role model for self-care
Acknowledge the expectation of personal self-care as a corporate manager and demonstrate or model self-care behaviours. Find ways as a team to talk about mental health, self-care, and socializing as part of the workday.
Just as managers should hope that employees can approach them with concerns, managers too should be open about their own challenges with their superiors. Managers can become overwhelmed with work that they feel unable to step away from, so discussing ways to set boundaries can be a good place to start the conversation. Some examples of leader boundaries can include the following:
- Not feeling the need to respond to all emails right away
- Saying no to extra work, asking for help, and delegating work
- Choosing not to attend everything you are invited to
- Feeling comfortable expressing your opinion
- Taking breaks
- Not responding to employee emails after work hours
- Setting focus time boundaries by setting “Do Not Disturb”
- Educating staff on contact criteria for emergencies
3. Provide self-care education and resources
Education and team understanding of stress and mental health can help employees learn how to build skills and manage their own resiliency. Encourage the team to build a self-care plan, provide the team with wellness webinars, or have a speaker present on mental health and resiliency. There are many mental health resources within and outside your organization that can be recommended to your employees, including your Employee Assistance Program, wellness and benefits resources, and Occupational Therapy support from Gowan Consulting.
Consider that both employees and leaders need training in Psychological Health and Safety in order to create safe and healthy workplaces that employees want to work in. A comprehensive psychological safety course covers topics such as stopping the stigma, mindfulness, communication skills, conflict resolution, understanding unconscious bias, stopping bullying and harassment, and sexual harassment.
4. Communicate and show you care.
Use both direct conversations and indirect observations to get visibility into employees’ challenges and concerns. Use every opportunity to make clear to employees that you support and care for them.
Two-way communication between managers and peers provides employees with the information and perspective they need and enables them to focus on self-care as an important component of every workday. This communication can be achieved with regular check-ins, including coaching and mentoring opportunities for staff.
5. Create a supportive work environment
Collaborate with employees to create an environment that prioritizes self-care. This could include creating challenges or programs with the team that focus on physical, emotional/spiritual, and psychological health. This gives your team the opportunity to develop social connections and feel encouraged and supported by their peers. Here are some ideas you could try:
- Walking meetings
- Team activities, such as volunteering in the community or team-building exercises
- Icebreakers before starting a meeting
- Hobby groups
- Meditation meet ups
- Team challenges: walking challenges, water challenges, mental health calendars
- Mental health walk-in clinics
- Peer support groups
How Can Gowan Consulting Help?
Gowan Consulting has many resources for assisting with managing psychological health in the workplace. Here are some tools and strategies we can provide.
- Support employees’ mental health by providing peer support and mental health walk-in clinics. These programs connect employees with other resources to ensure recovery and focus on work-life balance and health. To learn more, contact us!
- Check out our mental health webinars. They cover topics such as resiliency, breaking down the stigma, mindfulness, and more. We can also provide customized sessions for your whole organization.
- Consider taking Success Coaching from an Occupational Therapist so you can develop strategies to stay well at work. Set up a consultation with Nancy Gowan to discuss your current strategy and determine if success coaching is for you.
- We provide Psychological Safety at Work Training and Manager Mental Health Training for your team. Our online workshops and courses cover all the areas of psychological risks within the workplace and assists employers in assessing and reducing the risk by implementing strategies and tools within the workplace.
- Identify and support those who require adjustments or flexibility in their work to manage mental health concerns – get help from an Occupational Therapist. You can make a referral here.
- Ask us about how we can help with policy implementation regarding remote or hybrid workplaces.
For more on all we have to offer, contact us! We want to help make the difference in your healthy business!