Self-care is usually something reserved for evenings and weekends, to help ease the stress of the working day. But with stress and anxiety underpinning many problems in the workplace, looking after your wellbeing is something we should be doing all the time.
A survey of 2,000 people in 2018 found a third of Brits feel stressed for at least one full day per week, with the most common worries being work, money and health. Work-related stress, anxiety or depression also accounts for over half of all working days lost due to ill health in the UK, according to figures released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
“For an individual, employee self-care at work supports their physical and mental wellbeing, helps to manage their stress levels and ensures that their resilience is not depleted,” says Suki Bassi, founder of HappyMaven, an organisation promoting wellbeing in business. “Resilience is a finite resource, both psychologically and physiologically and needs to be topped up.”
“Self-care ensures that we are functioning at our cognitive best and able to be collaborative and creative. Furthermore, self-care supports decision making – compromised mental wellbeing, during periods of stress, will impair decision making and productivity.”
Self-care among employees is also beneficial for businesses, Bassi highlights, as it improves productivity, employee retention, and prevents staff absences and presenteeism.
Here are five simple ways to take care of yourself at work:
Check in with one another
“The simplest advice I give to every client is for people to check in with each other,” Bassi says. “Start meetings – especially meetings with remote teams – by actually asking how people are before diving into the agenda.
“It will always be a good barometer and just ensure that we remember to bring our human self to work.”
Don’t eat at your desk
And while most of us are used to grabbing a quick sandwich and eating it in front of our computers, this is something to avoid. Overall, the average lunch hour has decreased to just 22 minutes since 2012, research by UKactive and Sodexo have found, which contributes to poor productivity.
“The second piece of advice is do not have lunch at your desk. Multi-tasking is not a thing. You are just doing a few things less well and not having a break,” Bassi says.
“Plot a 30-min walk in the area around the office and post it on notice boards and encourage people to take ‘welfare walks’ – or if they are too busy (and the truth is that when you are at your very busiest is when you need this advice the most) encourage them to take a walk around the block or schedule waking meetings,” she adds.
Manage your screen time
We check our phones every 12 minutes on average, according to a 2018 report, with many of us spending long periods of time checking emails, answering messages or browsing social media apps. But being connected 24/7 can make it difficult to switch off from work.
“Switch your work phone or emails off at a set time,” Bassi says. “Use the out-of-office message if need be. And stop using your phone as an alarm clock.”
Think about your food and drink
It’s all too easy to get through multiple cups of coffee without giving it a second thought, until the caffeine-induced anxiety sets in. Likewise, picking at biscuits or cake in the office kitchen can impact our health and wellbeing without us realising.
Eating well – whether it’s bringing in a healthy lunch, or finding a new local restaurant – is essential, as is going for regular exercise and making sure you aren’t hunched over your computer all day.
Promote positive behaviour
“Walk the Talk. If you are a line-manager you need to model positive behaviour,” Bassi says. “If you are sending emails at 11.00pm or having lunch at your desk it undermines any and every wellbeing policy you may have.”
Laura Weaving, founder of Duo Global Consulting, a behavioural business consultancy, adds that ensuring you are working to your areas of strength and in the behaviours that you are your most productive is important in managing stress.
“Being aware of how you use your energy in the workplace as a whole is important – if for example you are involved in negative conversations in the office as soon as you start the working day, a big proportion your energy may already be used up before turning on your computer,” she says. “Being mindful of how your energy is used throughout the day will help you to manage your stress levels.”