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

Sue Montgomery
Sue Montgomery

Self-care is not always a priority for executives, but it is important to achieving greater productivity, workplace happiness and success.

Self-care is not always a priority for busy executives, but it is important to achieving greater productivity, workplace happiness and success.

Just as nurses use the nursing process (assess, diagnose, plan, implement, evaluate) to care for patients, executives can use the same strategies to prioritize self-care in an office environment to optimize productivity for better results.

Assessing one’s office environment and workforce to determine what small things are having a significant impact is critical.

Diagnosing challenges and planning and executing strategies to improve them is something that executives do every day, and is the same approach that should be used when addressing barriers to self-care and personal wellness.

Here, we’ll discuss how you can apply such an approach to benefit yourself, your employees, and your organization as a whole.

Assess Your Office Environment and Workforce and Diagnose the Areas That Need Attention

Assessment is key. This includes both the office environment and the members of your workforce. In the office, factors like light may seem insignificant, but studies have proven that they have a noticeable impact on office productivity, mood, energy and alertness.

Natural light from both the morning and evening has been found to be best, and even if access to daylight isn’t available, research has proven that working under “blue-enriched” light bulbs actually increases work performance by supporting mental acuity, vitality, and alertness while reducing fatigue and daytime sleepiness.

In addition to assessing your office environment, assess the state of your workforce, as well. According to a 2013 survey by the American Psychological Association’s Center for Organizational Excellence, one-third of working Americans have chronic stress related to their work and the World Health Organization (WHO) says such stress costs businesses in this nation $300 billion a year.

In addition, according to research by The Energy Project, 79 percent of workers don’t get enough sleep, and 69 percent have trouble focusing and are easily distracted.

Such stress can lead to health issues, and a dynamic perhaps best described by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) as “Presenteeism: people who are at work but are unproductive because of their health problems”, which is estimated to cost more than medical care, prescription drugs, and absenteeism combined. “By some estimates, it accounts for an estimated 10 percent of all labor costs,” according to Sean Sullivan, CEO of the Institute for Health and Productivity Management (IHPM).

Plan a Course of Action and Then Implement Your Plan

With your assessment and diagnosis complete, it’s time to plan a course of action and then implement it accordingly.

Here are a few key principles to keep in mind as you do:

  • Start with your own self-care first. 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.

  • Communication is key. Treating high levels of stress as an accepted norm of business is detrimental to what you are trying to achieve. The better approach is to discuss the stress in your office openly and with a strategic attitude that includes the team to develop solutions together. 

  • Increase autonomy. Jobs that include high demands and strict timelines contribute significantly to employee stress, especially if the individual has little say over how they’re expected to complete projects and tasks. As possible, make adjustments that encourage both more individual autonomy and a team-based approach.

  • Reward best efforts. Endless work without reward certainly discourages self-care and can lead to ill health. Ensure that leaders and their employees are on the same page in terms of career development and the path to promotion. Support such efforts with a clear and consistent reward system.

  • Increase social support. Defined as proactive communication, care, and understanding, the need for social support includes settings both within and outside of work. Encourage employees to take time off to spend with friends and family, and ensure that support mechanisms, such a mentors, are available within the work environment.

Promote traditional self-care techniques. According to WHO, self-care is defined as “personal health maintenance to improve or restore health and to treat preventative diseases.” Related techniques include regular wellness screenings, exercise, healthy eating, proper sleep, using relaxation techniques, taking dietary supplements, and treating chronic conditions.

Evaluate the Results

Business executives are some of the most skilled of all professionals when it comes to evaluating results. Whether you are evaluating a formal framework for workplace health promotion, or evaluating the effectiveness of your changes through more informal metrics, it’s essential for you to find out what is and isn’t working.

There are a variety of methods by which results can be evaluated, and one is the familiar SWOT analysis, Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Though typically applied to strategic business planning “to compare and weigh the strategic influence of internal and external factors that influence the likely success of a business undertaking,” a SWOT analysis can be applied to your organization’s self-care efforts, as well:

  • Strengths: What positive outcomes have resulted from new self-care efforts? What 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 there anything, or anyone, in the organizational culture that is 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 employees, it will also lead to better productivity and a boost to your organization’s bottom line. That’s a win-win for everyone involved.

Image Credit: Fizkes / Getty Images
Sue Montgomery
Sue Montgomery
Sue Montgomery, RN, BSN, CHPN is the CEO of Sue Montgomery & Associates. She has been a nurse and healthcare leader for over 32 years in a variety of settings. She is also an entrepreneur and provides communications consulting and other writing and editing services through her company. Sue has worked with 2U and other notable brands and her writing has also been featured on Working Nurse, Nuviun Digital Health, Medtech Engine, and Medeuronet, among other publications.