A Prescription for Self-Care: A 12 Step Program for Incorporating Self-Care into Your Organization’s Work Culture

The importance of individuals attending to their self-care (i.e. wellness) needs has been a topic for years. Do a web search on “self-care” and you will find no shortage of articles on things to-do to promote one’s health through self-care. More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically brought this topic forward as a priority for businesses as organizations struggled to maintain their operations in the face of employee absences.   

While the pandemic has been declared over, organizational leaders are now faced with the “great resignation” phenomena in which employee stress and burnout are the new challenges that demand attention. For leaders, addressing employee self-care needs has become not only the right thing to do for employees’ personal welfare, but also, it is good business.

Leaders have not widely and consistently adopted good self-care practices for their employees and even less so for themselves. Too often this topic has been referred to Human Resource Departments with the intent of addressing employee self-care needs by modifying employee benefits packages, offering programs/activities (diet, smoking cessation, exercise classes, stress management etc.). While this is a step in the right direction, it fails to appreciate the complexity of the problem and the need for a more systemic approach to addressing it.  It fails to ask the question, “What should all leaders be doing to promote all employees’ wellness needs?”. 

Management guru Peter Drucker once wrote, “that which gets measured gets managed.” Therefore, to engage leaders in managing their employees’ self-care needs, they need leadership plans to address employee self-care needs, where progress can be measured. 

I offer a prescription for creating and maintaining a comprehensive, systematic, organization-wide approach for managing their employees’ self-care needs.  

The Rx is as follows:

  • Include self-care in every employee’s job description, up to, and including the CEO (basic premise is that which gets evaluated, is attended too; that not included might not get done. Supervisors might be more likely to ignore it as they see their responsibility to their teams and their boss over self).
  • Include it in every employee’s annual performance review (same reason as above).
  • Have it as a standing agenda item for supervision meetings (document in writing with summary notes as a record, reminder, and for tracking going forward).
  • Have it as a standing agenda item for team meetings (also with written summaries/minutes)
  • Develop a formal written policy and procedure on self-care, definition, statement of importance, expectations, and resources.
  • Consider having this policy and procedure require every employee to have a written self-care plan. It can be short and simple, perhaps evolve and become a bit more sophisticated over time. (If you don’t know where to start, do a web search for self-care plans.) Share the plan at least with your supervisors and include having something in items 1 thru 3. There is value to sharing it with at least one other person, perhaps a co-worker or relative. Having someone else as a coach so to speak, enhances effectiveness. Maybe post it on your desk as a constant reminder to yourself. 
  • Include this self-care policy and self-care education in your new employee orientation program.
  • Include self-care in your organization’s Strategic Plan and ongoing monitoring.
  • Include self-care in your organization’s CQI/PQI Plan
  • Include self-care in ongoing employee training offerings, including optional offerings and mandatory (and annual) trainings.
  • Include self-care opportunities in your employee benefits offerings, e.g. onsite, free or discounted exercise, yoga, transcendental meditation, mind-fullness classes; gym memberships; smoking cessation; nutrition counseling; EAP.
  • Leaders can start by adding this Prescription to their “to-do list” and then fill it. They can weave self-care into the very fabric of their organization. 

For more resources on self-care and self-care plans, visit http://cantstopleading.com and click on the articles link and/or read the related chapter in “Being a Supervisor 1.0.

Joseph F. Duffy, Retired CEO of Catholic Charities Paterson NJ | Vice Chairman, DCM Associates – Executive Search – Nonprofit Leadership – Board Performance

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