The value of self care when burned out
Question: If high stress levels and burnout are issues in an organization, what are some ideas to start bringing these discussions & activities to team meetings when people are feeling unsure of the value of self-care?
Answer: I read an article by Yashna Padamsee where they talked about community care. I had always thought of self-care as an individual focus. Their article expanded my understanding of how we need community-care, team-care, organizational care to provide the framework for individual self-care as well.
It is useful to position self-care and community care within the types of priorities of the leader and the organization. I’m a practical person, as much as I want leaders to invest in people because all humans deserve a quality life at work and at home, I am not naive enough to believe all or many leaders are motivated by these values.
Find out what they care about, such as: organizational reputation; their personal reputation; being liked & admired; financial viability; retaining top employees; innovative products and services; staying ahead of the competition, etc. Then frame talking about the need for self-care within their priorities.
You can meet with leaders and talk about what you are noticing and give the benefit of the doubt as you start: “I know you are noticing this as well. More and more people are coming to me or talking in meetings about how exhausted they are feeling. I’m afraid too many people are burning out and we may lose some of our top people to our competitors…. I’m wondering how we can get ahead of this and be more proactive before we start to see a more significant drop in creativity, teamwork and customer service…. I was listening to a webinar and got some useful handouts we might consider using in staff meetings. I’d be willing to share them with you as well as lead a couple activities to test out my hunch that we need to put more attention on self-care and community care.”
You may want to talk to the people who do training and development in HR or other areas and see if they’ll sponsor or co-sponsor these trainings or co-facilitate with you. My third book, In It for the Long Haul, might be a good pre-reading for a series of sessions or a book club.
Some initial activities might be to ask people their early warning signs they need more self-care. The have them use a zero to ten scale to talk about how much they need self-care right now. Have them choose a number and then talk with a partner about why they chose it. Then have them talk about 2-3 things they are already doing to get more rest, rejuvenation, centeredness, and clarity in the work environment.
I have a handout of 38 indicators we may need more self-care. After these warm-up activities, I have people complete that worksheet and you can feel the energy in the room shift as they come face-to-face with the reality of how they are living their lives. Have them share in airs of 3’s and relate in as others share.
The question I’ll ask you is, “How far do you want to go talking about self-care in a work environment?” As an external consultant, I can usually go a little further than a supervisor of a team since people usually choose to attend my workshops. If you are working with an in-tact team, be thoughtful how much vulnerability you ask of people. You may not want them to share much more about areas in their life they’re satisfied & not satisfied with or ways they over-use substances and activities to numb out and distract ourselves from our lives. O discuss this last point, I ask people to talk IN GENERAL about the ways other people was over-use things like alcohol, drugs, food, shopping, exercise, relationships, working, etc. I don’t ask them individually to share about themselves, thought I do invite them to reflect for a moment how about how they are feeling about these different areas of their life.
If you lead self-care discussions, make sure you find out some local resources to share with people, including if the organization has an EAP Employee Assistance Program or employee resource group that’s about self-care, work-life balance, family care.
I hear complaints sometimes when people in their fifties and sixties saying, “These young people, all they care about is work-life balance and how much time they get off!” I respond by asking, “Do you want people at their best at work? Do you want them being innovative, doing cutting edge work? Do you want them passionate and energized? Then this will require you intentionally do more to support work-life balance if you want to retain top talent.”