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Updated Apr 16, 2024

The Importance of Self-Care for Productivity in an Office Environment

Self-care can boost employee happiness, well-being and productivity. Here are some self-care techniques for you and your workers.

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Skye Schooley, Senior Lead Analyst & Expert on Business Operations
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In a world where people are “always on,” self-care often isn’t a priority for busy executives and employees. It can be difficult to turn your attention away from your screen for some much-needed rest, but self-care is important for achieving greater productivity, workplace happiness and personal and professional success.

It’s critical to assess your office environment and workforce to determine which small things are having a significant impact on your productivity. Planning and executing strategies for improvement is something business owners and employees do every day ― you can use that same approach to increase your focus on self-care and personal wellness. It will benefit you, your employees and your company as a whole.

What is self-care?

When you hear the term “self-care,” you may instantly think of spa days and meditation. While those are a couple of common examples of self-care, practicing self-care is so much more than that. Self-care is when someone does something to support their physical, mental or emotional well-being. To take it one step further, self-care in the workplace involves taking specific actions to support your well-being so that you can be productive and engaged at your job.

For example, if you have a stressful day at work, you may want to curl up with a good book at night to take your mind off things. If you sit at your desk all day, self-care might involve a 30-minute walk outside in the middle of the workday. If you’re loaded with too much work, self-care can even mean saying no to helping someone else with another project. Everyone has unique workplace stressors and needs, so what constitutes effective self-care for you may look different for your colleagues.

Did You Know?Did you know
In a recent Vagaro survey, respondents said that self-care boosted their self-confidence (64 percent), productivity (67 percent) and happiness (71 percent).

Why is self-care important for productivity in the workplace?

Self-care is used to improve physical, mental and emotional health ― a combination that is essential for staying productive over a long period of time. Stress is a hazard of the workplace and costs businesses more than $300 billion a year, according to Stress.org. When left unmanaged, stress can have a major impact on productivity and well-being. However, with proper self-care, you can reduce stress and improve your overall productivity in multiple ways:

  • Self-care can improve your physical health: Stress can have physical effects on your body, such as high blood pressure, headaches, upset stomach, chest pain and sleep disruption. These health issues can be minor distractions or be severe enough to cause employees to miss work altogether, reducing productivity. Physical self-care techniques, such as regular wellness screenings, exercise, healthy eating, proper sleep and relaxation techniques, can help employees stay physically healthy and ready to work.
  • Self-care can improve your emotional and mental health: Workplace stressors can cause emotional and mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression, burnout, disengagement and lack of focus ― all of which often lead to reduced productivity in the workplace. Mental and emotional self-care techniques allow employees and business leaders to press a reset button and address these issues before they start to have a financial impact on your organization.
FYIDid you know
Self-care helps people stay physically, mentally and emotionally healthy, which allows them to perform at their best and sustain high productivity in the workplace.

How do I use self-care in the workplace?

Self-care consists of taking care of your physical, emotional and mental well-being. If you’re looking to improve your overall self-care in the workplace, you will need to address all three areas.

Physical self-care

Here are a few ways you can modify your physical environment to embrace self-care: 

  • Maintain a comfortable and ergonomic workspace: Assess what’s going on in your workplace that can be changed physically to improve your well-being. For example, if you sit in an office all day, self-care might involve taking an afternoon run, working outside on Tuesdays or buying things to improve your workspace, such as an ergonomic chair, a standing desk or some plants. If you’re on your feet all day at work, invest in that good pair of shoes you wanted or ask your boss for an occasional break when you need to rest.
  • Improve the lighting in your workspace: The type of lighting in your workspace can also be significant to your overall well-being and should be considered part of self-care. Studies have proven that light has a noticeable impact on office productivity, mood, energy and alertness. Natural light from both the morning and evening is the best booster and even if access to daylight isn’t available, research has proven that working under “blue-enriched” lightbulbs increases work performance by supporting mental acuity, vitality and alertness while reducing fatigue and daytime sleepiness.
  • Use the 20-20-20 rule: If your job has you staring at computer screens all day, you can practice good eye health by using the 20-20-20 rule. This rule says that for every 20 minutes you spend looking at a screen, you should look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This rule serves not only as a way to improve your eye health but also as a reminder to take frequent breaks ― all good things for improving your physical well-being.

Emotional self-care

You may be a business leader or an employee, but you are a human first and foremost ― and humans have emotions. You can try to suppress your emotions at work, but they will likely come out eventually, one way or another. Assess your emotional state regularly and how it is being impacted by work. 

Here are some tips for emotional self-care:

  • Set professional boundaries: Boundaries can be a great way to maintain emotional well-being and improve productivity. For example, if a toxic co-worker keeps bothering you with complaints throughout the day, self-care could involve setting healthy communication boundaries with them or working remotely some days to get some space. 
  • Assess your workload balance and potential for burnout: Another thing to consider is how your workload is impacting you. Are you overworked and reaching burnout? If your workload is getting too full, self-care might consist of saying no when a colleague asks you to take on another responsibility.
  • Employ traditional self-care techniques: There are many traditional self-care activities you can do to improve your emotional well-being. These include activities like journaling, meditation and therapy.

Mental self-care

In addition to assessing your physical and emotional well-being, assess the state of your mental health. Here are some tips for mental self-care:

  • Take a mental health day: A great example of mental health self-care is using mental health days when you need them (if that employee benefit is offered by your employer). Burning the candle at both ends is no longer a badge of honor. Check in with yourself about how you’re doing mentally and take a break from work when you need it.
  • Set a timer to take short breaks throughout the day: It can be helpful to take periodic five-minute breaks throughout your workday. This involves disconnecting from work and considering mental health self-care strategies like reading, listening to a podcast or taking a brief walk. This mental reset can be just what you need to continue your workday.
  • Listen to music: According to Statista, listening to music is the most common method of self-care among young people in the United States. Listening to the right music can boost dopamine levels and increase your overall well-being and productivity.
Did You Know?Did you know
People are focused on self-care now more than ever. Statista found that more than 90 percent of young people in the U.S. use self-care methods for managing their mental health and emotions.

What are some self-care tips for business leaders?

Self-care is especially important for business leaders, as they set the tone for the rest of the company. Here are a few key principles that business owners and managers should keep in mind as they navigate self-care for themselves and their teams:

  1. Start with your own self-care: The behaviors of leaders have a significant impact on those they lead, and it will be difficult for you to instruct others about the need for self-care if you’re not attending to your own.
  2. Discuss it with your team: Treating high levels of stress as an accepted norm of business is detrimental to what you’re trying to achieve. The better approach is to discuss the stress in your office openly and with a strategic attitude that includes team members developing solutions together.
  3. Increase autonomy: Jobs that include high demands and strict timelines contribute significantly to employee stress, especially if the employee has little control over how they’re expected to complete their projects and tasks. When possible, make adjustments that encourage both more individual autonomy and a team-based approach.
  4. Reward best efforts: Endless work without reward certainly discourages self-care and can lead to employee burnout and ill health. Ensure leaders and their employees are on the same page in terms of professional development and the path to promotion. Support such efforts with a clear and consistent reward system.
  5. Increase social support: Defined as proactive communication, care and understanding, social support is necessary both in and out of the workplace. Encourage employees to take time off to spend with friends and family and ensure support mechanisms, such as mentors, are available within the work environment.
TipBottom line
Promote self-care techniques across your organization so that you can build a happy, engaged and productive workforce.

How do I evaluate the results of self-care?

There are a variety of methods to evaluate self-care results and one is the familiar strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis. Although typically applied to strategic business planning, a SWOT analysis can also apply to your organization’s self-care efforts:

  • Strengths: Which positive outcomes have resulted from new self-care efforts? Which strategies seem to be working best?
  • Weaknesses: Which efforts seem to be ineffective? Are there specific employees who are still struggling?
  • Opportunities: Where can self-care initiatives be enhanced? Have employees been asked for their input?
  • Threats: Is anything (or anyone) in the organizational culture a persistent threat to self-care efforts? Are such threats being addressed?

Attending to self-care in the office environment isn’t just good for your own health and that of your team; it will also lead to better productivity and a boost to your organization’s bottom line. That’s a win-win for everyone involved.

Sue Montgomery contributed to this article.

author image
Skye Schooley, Senior Lead Analyst & Expert on Business Operations
Skye Schooley is a dedicated business professional who is especially passionate about human resources and digital marketing. For more than a decade, she has helped clients navigate the employee recruitment and customer acquisition processes, ensuring small business owners have the knowledge they need to succeed and grow their companies. In recent years, Schooley has enjoyed evaluating and comparing HR software and other human resources solutions to help businesses find the tools and services that best suit their needs. With a degree in business communications, she excels at simplifying complicated subjects and interviewing business vendors and entrepreneurs to gain new insights. Her guidance spans various formats, including newsletters, long-form videos and YouTube Shorts, reflecting her commitment to providing valuable expertise in accessible ways.
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