The Imperative of Self-Care: A Strategic Business Approach to Combat Workplace Burnout

Employees continuously face a relentless pace of working long hours while balancing personal commitments. The influx of emails, messages, and notifications coupled with ever-expanding and endless duties means constant pressure in the workplace, taking a profound toll on mental health over time as it steadily depletes emotional reserves, chips away at resilience, and sparks burnout.

According to the American Psychological Association, workplace stress costs the US economy more than $500 billion, with 550 million workdays lost yearly due to job-related stress.

Stressed and anxious workers struggle to deliver their best efforts, impacting productivity, creativity, and overall wellbeing. When left unaddressed, deteriorating mental wellness can manifest physically, leading to declining morale, increased absenteeism, rising healthcare expenses, and elevated company turnover rates.

However, organizations that recognize self-care’s impact on the workforce – and invest in wellness initiatives accordingly – often see a significant return on their investment.

Self-care isn’t an indulgence – it’s self-preservation. Ignoring personal needs such as sleep, exercise, and relaxation diminishes a person’s natural resilience against workplace pressures. To withstand today’s hectic work environment without damage, employees and organizations must make tending to our wellbeing a top priority rather than an afterthought.

Given the stark reality of the costs associated with poor mental health and burnout, supporting self-care as a strategic business initiative emerges as not merely a prudent decision but an imperative one.

Setting the stage for self-care

Today’s “always on” workforce faces intense pressures that negatively impact mental wellbeing over time. Employees experience burnout more frequently, affecting companies and their bottom line. Proper self-care is critical to mitigating anxiety, depression, and burnout. When self-care isn’t prioritized, stress gradually breaks down resilience. If left unaddressed, poor mental health can also create severe physical issues.

According to the American Psychological Association’s 2021 Work and Wellbeing Survey of over 1,500 US adult employees, three in five reported negative impacts of work-related stress, including lack of interest, motivation, or energy (approximately 26 percent) and lack of effort at work (19 percent). Meanwhile, 36 percent reported cognitive weariness, 32 percent said emotional exhaustion, and 44 percent reported physical fatigue.

Hina Khan is a Peak Performance Coach and Founder of Hina Khan Worldwide Inc. Khan guides and mentors people to navigate and succeed in their personal or business goals. She is also one of the thousands of real-life professionals who share their expertise on LifeSpeak Mental Health & Resilience, a product of LifeSpeak Inc. In one Ask the Expert web chat, “Embracing Positivity and Self-Compassion,” Khan delves into not feeling guilty about prioritizing self-care.

“Guilt is not a productive emotion,” says Khan. “If you are spending time on yourself, enjoy it and be present.”

According to Khan, self-care is essential for all employees, especially for those who are caregivers. Juggling job demands while caring for dependent family members often leaves little time or energy for self-care. Overextended employees in these situations are susceptible to struggling silently from caregiver burnout without proper support systems.

“When you are a caregiver, it can be your natural inclination to put others first,” says Khan. “Your habitual response is to say yes when asked to do something for someone. It will feel odd at first and even uncomfortable, but you have to make the decision to put yourself first. Make a list of things that make you feel good, and that is now your to-do list. What could you do today? Don’t be surprised if you feel guilty, but push through it. Start to build the habit of caring for you.”

Self-care looks different for everyone

What replenishes one person may not have the same effect on another. However, a few popular forms can support wellbeing when practiced regularly.

When we often think about self-care, the idea of being pampered or relaxing comes to mind. Relaxation may consist of taking a bath, reading recreationally, enjoying a pastime, meditating, or getting quality sleep. But self-care goes far beyond that.

Some people treat exercise as a form of self-care. Any physical activity, from walks outside to yoga classes or high-intensity strength training, benefits physical and mental health. Exercise stimulates endorphins to boost mood while reducing stress and anxiety. Immersing in art, music, writing, or other creative outlets is another form of self-care.  Taking a class or joining a creative community online or in person can be a great way to relax, unwind, and rejuvenate, offering a valuable break from the demands of everyday life.

For some people, self-care includes getting away from the daily grind into a completely different city and helps give them a mental and emotional refresh. Any travel through vacation time, a weekend getaway, or a short day trip allows the mind and body to unwind fully.

While there are plenty of personal rewards to self-care, regular renewal also provides meaningful returns for businesses. Employees who prioritize their wellbeing are more likely to show up to work in better mental shape. This means higher quality work output, better decision-making, and increased productivity.

Workers who make time for recharging activities work toward combating burnout over time. When organizations promote employee self-care as a critical priority, the dividend is a dedicated, innovative, and more motivated team. However, for those with busy schedules, it can be a challenge to make time for simple self-care practices.

Dr. Carly Crewe, MD, Psychotherapist, CEO, and Owner of Eunoia Medical Clinic, is another LifeSpeak Mental Health & Resilience expert. In “How Women Can Carve Out More Time for Self-Care,” Dr. Crewe says mornings and in-between moments during the day are great times to practice self-care easily.

“Taking the time to fill your cup first thing in the morning will pay you back in dividends for the remainder of the day,” says Dr. Crewe. “Most of us have hidden pockets of extra time in our days, such as our commute to or from work, waiting in the school pick-up line, or standing at the bus stop. These small pockets of time can be perfect to fit in micro-moments of self-care in our busy lives.”

Championing a caring culture

Creating a culture where employees are empowered to nourish themselves has a significant return on investment. While a lot of self-care happens outside the workplace, there are ways employers can encourage their teams to take time for themselves in both their work and personal lives. Taking regular steps to create a culture of wellness is one way to do this.

Here are some ways companies can encourage self-care in the workplace:

Invest in wellness benefits

Investing in wellness benefits is not just a corporate strategy; it’s a vital component of promoting self-care and overall wellbeing among employees. Digital products, such as Wellbeats Wellness, a product of LifeSpeak Inc., integrate seamlessly into companies’ wellness initiatives for on-demand fitness, nutrition, and mindfulness sessions.

Create a sensory-positive environment

Creating a sensory-positive work environment is integral to promoting self-care among employees. There are several ways to make a sensory-positive work environment for everyone. Do you host weekly team meetings? Try scheduling periodic walking meetings (in person or virtually) or encourage employees to recharge with screen-free downtime, away from desks with healthy snacks. Are your employees mostly sedentary in their roles? Well-designed workspaces in the office or at home with ergonomic furniture can decrease discomfort from extended periods of sitting. Freedom in the company dress code also plays a significant part in enabling a sensory-positive environment for employees.

Balance meetings with blocks of focus time on a team’s schedule

Team leaders should schedule meetings efficiently by clustering them together when possible, leaving gaps in the calendar for solo deep work sessions. This allows extroverted employees who gain energy from interactions to attend necessary meetings while still making room for introverts to recharge alone between engagements. Periodic check-ins are still crucial, so teams stay coordinated. However, scheduling some days with fewer meetings on the agenda recognizes that people have different energy levels and needs for alone time versus collaboration. Both styles should feel accommodated by a team’s meeting culture to support diverse work styles and innate wiring for social versus solitary tasks. An optimal schedule balances these varying self-care requirements to boost wellbeing, motivation, and productivity.

Support social events

Team-building activities beyond work foster essential connections and relationships that help employee self-care. Whether virtual coffee catchups or outdoor group classes, face-to-face interaction enhances resilience. Ultimately, creating an environment where prioritizing mental health is accepted and reinforced sets employees up to thrive professionally daily.  Making these minor changes can make an enormous difference to employee wellbeing.

When organizations prioritize self-care, everyone benefits

Employers support their teams to bring their best daily, fueling work performance and the organization’s bottom line by cultivating a culture where renewing the mind and body is acceptable and encouraged. When organizations prioritize employee wellbeing, everyone wins.

Digital solutions such as LifeSpeak Mental Health & Resilience help employees and their families navigate various life topics and situations through thousands of expert-led resources. Book a demo today to experience LifeSpeak Inc.’s impressive product suite. After all, wellbeing can’t wait.