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  • Laila Datoo

Why Self-care at work isn't selfish

What's the definition of self-care?

Taking care of your physical, emotional and social well-being before that of others. We tend to think of it as selfish, when it's actually what people require in order to do their jobs well and be healthy. The sayings "you can't pour from an empty cup" and "put your oxygen mask on first before you help others" ring loud and true in the public arena.

How much do you pay attention to self-care at work?

I'm constantly having conversations with business owners AND employees who tell me their jobs are "highly stressful", "go-go-go" and "that they don't have time to even stop for lunch."

Any well-being options we discuss are to give them an hour's "peace" from their busy jobs. What if that break wasn't the one peaceful moment of their day but the reminder that every part of their day needs to have calm pockets- so that they didn't leave their stressful jobs for a well-being session, but went back to jobs that they didn't even call stressful because they approached their tasks with positivity, focus and efficiency? Many businesses fail to realize that self-care can be a strategic and integral part of modern business plans. Research suggests that adding self-care approaches and employee wellness programmes to your company operations can improve productivity, teamwork, and innovation.

91% of workers at companies that support well-being efforts say they feel motivated to do their best.

How can we create space for self-care at work?

According to research by The Energy Project, 79% of US workers don't get enough sleep, and 69% have trouble focusing and are easily distracted. This undoubtably impacts work performance and job satisfaction. There's plenty of advice out there for individuals on how to self-care, but very little for businesses or people wanting to create the right environment in their workplace. Yes it's vital to look after yourself so that you can lead and manage from a positive, engaged place. Yet a business has a huge responsibility and an opportunity to create an environment that supports, encourages and celebrates self-care. So as a business or someone who cares about their workplace, what can you do to create an environment where self-care is the norm? It starts with creating the right environment and giving staff permission and space to look after their needs first.

What does a supportive self-care environment look like?

Inclusive culture

By understanding that all staff are different and that they have different needs to do their best, a business is able to create a working environment that is inclusive to all needs and diversities as well as flexible enough to accommodate changing priorities. This can look like supporting flexible working, agile working, adjusted work hours, unlimited holidays or days off for big life events, open recruitment processes and strong development and mentoring plans.

Flexibility and Autonomy

By allowing staff to work how they want to work, businesses require a huge amount of trust. This can radically impact company success if done right – as staff who can mold their life around their work and vice versa are able to contribute more, consistently. Giving your team more control on how they perform their roles also empowers and boosts employee self-esteem and their desire to do a great job.

Communication and Team culture

The biggest factor I've experienced to avoiding burn-out and reducing stress – is the strength of an open communication channel. Supportive managers and leaders who are able to vocalise challenges, their own experiences and listen to their team members means that any stress factors are caught early.


This is something I am discovering more and more in my work and the reason I chose self-care as the focus for February. Staff often look to employers for permission (or acceptance) to take time out of the day to eat a proper lunch or take a walk. And yet, as many managers want their staff to leave work at a decent time and take their full lunch hour but come up against "but I have too much to do". So it seems it's as much about the business creating the space for small acts of self-care as the employee giving themselves permission to carve out small pockets in their day to manage their energy.

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