By Roseann Bennett
Self-care is a highly-used buzzword that’s been trending in various articles and online publications, even peaking in Google searches in the past two years. It’s also been the subject of self-empowerment, especially amongst women, in politically upended times. Yet, it feels overused to the point where many of us have grown tired of hearing it. After all, as entrepreneurs and busy professionals, we feel busy all the time. Self-care is a nice idea, but realistically, it’s hard to find (and justify) the time and money to really pamper ourselves.
But as you may have guessed, self-care is not just a byproduct of new age fads — it’s a means of survival — and not just in your personal life. In fact, it actually could make or break the success of your business.
Many 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 programs to your company operations can improve productivity, teamwork, and innovation.
Business leaders can implement self-care principles in their business strategies for both themselves and their employees. Here’s how and why it’s worth the effort:
Self-Care for Leaders
If you’re going to build a wellness culture, it needs to start at the top with business leaders who shape the direction and structure of their companies. Business leaders of high-intensity, high-achieving corporations are even starting to recognize the benefits of three major self-care rituals including exercise, mindfulness, and sleep on a regular basis. A report from McKinsey & Company relates the art and science of these self-care techniques on the body and brain in our plugged-in, fast-paced work culture.
Indeed, those who oversee the stability of a company need to make sure they eat healthy, exercise, relax, and get plenty of sleep. Not surprisingly, numerous research studies show that sleep deprivation wreaks havoc on your cognitive abilities and emotional resilience. In addition, a study from the University of California, Riverside demonstrates a close relationship between happiness and workplace success.
Mounting evidence shows that mindful meditation practice decreases emotional reactivity and enables working professionals to focus better on cognitive tasks. There are many other fact-based benefits to mindfulness including a boost to working memory, mental flexibility, relationship satisfaction, morality, and self-awareness. During a busy work week, it’s easy to lose sight of what employees need. However, great leaders are able to stand back and examine their team’s needs with emotional intelligence. They could improve group morale by inspiring stressed workers, offering assistance or mentoring, or encouraging them through feedback. As an executive you might not always have time, but it’s good to implement these helpful, collaborative strategies into your management.
It’s no wonder that self-care is so closely linked to business success. As a leader, your behavior directly affects the people you work and communicate with every day. It’s hard to do so if you’re not feeling centered and collected. Practicing 10-20 minute meditations each morning after 7-8 hours of sleep should become a habit for better business relations and acquisitions.
On top of it all, self-care can improve your confidence, presentation skills, focus, and time management skills. As a result, it can also help increase your business revenue. After all, when people sense you’re confident and put together, you hold more influence.
Self-Care for Employees
Companies are starting to recognize that their highly educated employees — who are very capable of performing and learning — need to be engaged, happy, and healthy to live up to their full potential at work. The 2017 American Psychological Association’s Center for Organizational Excellence survey found that 61% of working Americans experience chronic work-related stress. As a result, numerous workplaces are beginning to implement wellness programs that benefit both executives and workers. There are several ways that corporate or business benefits and can promote regular self-care strategies in the workplace:
Work/Life Balance: Part of building positive social wellness is building a company with a good work/life balance policy. A positive work/life balance is a major component in social wellness and can increase positive social interactions at work and even home. To encourage mental and physical wellness, companies can allow adequate time schedules for self-care practices like yoga, meditation classes, and gym memberships.
Wellness programs only work when you create a culture that allows and encourages self-care as a priority. Yet, Harvard Business Review mentions that workplaces that prioritize the work/life balance in conjunction with wellness programs have witnessed profound results. In fact, professional research advises that frequent breaks from work, relaxation activities, and more strict boundaries between work and home can reduce work stress and increase employee engagement. Many businesses could not only afford to, but would benefit from offering flexible hours, work from home days, and in-house mentoring.
Company Culture: Among the perks that foster positive self-care and inclusion, company culture is one the biggest factors that promotes a healthy environment for employees. The open office, for instance, can surely be a part of your business strategy. More than other business perks, company cultures with open work spaces offer opportunities for more socialization, collaboration, and higher recognition. Employees with these perks report a 13% higher well-being score than those without collaborative and social company cultures. Leaders should seek to engage teams through team-building practices and well-structured projects without hierarchical boundaries. These could prove to build strong bonds between leaders and their coworkers.
Parental/Sick Leave: Although it might seem obvious, giving your employees the necessary time to rest or spend time with their growing families is essential to their physical and mental health. In fact, paid sick leave improves job security by 25%. In addition, paid parental leave can significantly boost employee morale and loyalty. A Deloitte University survey shows that employers can attract up to 77% better talent by offering such policies.
Workplace Wellness Programs: Many wellness programs offer gym memberships, but there are many other ways to promote wellness in the workplace. Healthy meal or vending machine options provide employees with ways to make healthier lifestyle choices. Implementing exercise and healthier food strategies can help boost workers’ productivity, too. In fact, according to The O.C. Tanner Institute 2015 Health and Well-Being Study workers with poor well-being report that they’re only operating at 64% of their maximum output, making the case for office wellness programs.
These wellness programs promote self-care practices while helping to build social, mental, and physical benefits through camaraderie amongst co-workers and a better loyalty to their company.
The Self-Care Revolution
It may seem like self-care is just a trend, but it’s become such a popular component within our culture. As Millennials demand more workplace benefits that help them live more secure, promising lives, self-care themes may continue to become ingrained in our every facet of our lives. People need to care for themselves so they can care about the world and the people around them. From a business perspective, prioritizing self-care could help secure a positive atmosphere socially and financially. The World Health Organization and the American Institute of Stress estimate that stress costs American businesses nearly $300 billion annually. So, implementing self-care business practices not only helps yourself and others feel better, you could also help the economy feel better, too.
It’s more important than ever to heal and empower ourselves, our economy, and the people we’re responsible for. As you integrate health-centered, mindful practices for your business associates and yourself, positivity can start to holistically trickle into the lifeblood of your business and professional goals. As we continue to strive for optimal wellness in all areas of life, it may be that “self-care” is just a great working title for the revolution destined to thrive in business and lifestyle sectors for years to come.
Roseann Bennett is the executive director and cofounder of Center for Assessment and Treatment, a 501 c(3) charitable organization which provides and advocates for outpatient mental health treatment for individuals and families, especially those from underserved communities. She was named a Wall Street Journal Women of Note. Follow her on HuffPo.