Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Dan Scalco – Founder and Marketing Director at New Jersey-based Digitalux. His opinions are his own.
If you’re a business leader and you are interested in running a successful company, then you should enable and encourage your employees to take good care of themselves.
Research has found that when team members experience greater wellbeing, business outcomes also improve in the form of elevated productivity, reduced absenteeism and turnover, increased customer satisfaction, and greater profitability.
For the sake of your team and your company, every manager should encourage their employees to adopt the following self-care practices.
1. Set boundaries at work
American workers are increasingly being asked to do more work with fewer resources and insufficient compensation. Not only is this unjust, but it’s also bad for your team and the company as a whole. Stressed out employees are more likely to suffer from an inability to concentrate, irritability (which affects the dynamic between coworkers), physical illnesses leading to absenteeism, higher rates of turnover, and reduced productivity. In contrast, team members who enjoy a healthy work-life balance continually demonstrate greater work performance.
Your team members probably know that unhealthy workloads aren’t doing them (or the company) any good. But they won’t feel comfortable cutting themselves some slack without the support of higher-ups.
Make sure you’re modelling healthy boundaries and truly encouraging employees to set them by enabling your team members to take ownership of their schedules, enjoy mini breaks throughout the day, set their own deadlines for projects, delegate tasks when possible, and say “no” to new assignments when their plate is full. Regularly meet with team members to solicit feedback about whether or not their workload is feeling reasonable.
Exercise is one of the most powerful stress relievers around. It can also help keep employees healthy and productive. In fact, studies have found that exercise can improve focus and alertness, provide sustained energy, facilitate creative thinking, and directly improve productivity.
Encourage your team members to get a move on by providing them with paid gym memberships or an on-site gym, offering flexible schedules (so employees can head to the gym during their workdays), incentivizing anyone who bikes or walks to work, and encouraging the formation of walking or exercise groups.
3. Sleep more
If you don’t know how important sleep is for maintaining productivity and wellbeing, then you’ve probably been living under a rock. But let’s break it down just in case. Sleep deprivation can negatively affect our ability to learn and retain information, relate positively with coworkers, focus on work, remain healthy, and sustain efficiency. It’s such a massive productivity killer that research suggests it costs American companies up to $63 billion each year.
That’s why it’s so important to encourage your team members to make sleep a priority. You can do this by offering employees flexible work schedules, enacting a “no working after work hours” policy, providing employees with stipends to purchase new mattresses (since mattresses play a huge role in sleep quality), and providing generous sick and personal leave policies so employees have a chance to catch up on sleep if they start to feel burnt out.
4. Take vacations
You’ve probably seen the headlines: Americans aren’t taking enough vacation days. That’s a serious problem, because taking sustained time off from work is essential for managing stress, remaining physically healthy, sustaining mental health, and boosting our work performance and productivity whenever we head back to the office.
If you’re already encouraging your team to set healthy boundaries at work, that’s the first step toward enabling team members to take vacation. When employees’ workloads are high, they may feel they don’t have time to take days off. It’s also important that higher-ups model healthy work-life balance by taking their own vacations and actively encouraging their employees to do the same.
5. Digitally detox
Even when employees aren’t on vacation, it’s important that they take breaks from their inboxes.
A variety of studies have disproven the idea that constant accessibility is a boon for productivity. In fact, the opposite is more likely to be true: We need to unplug on a regular basis in order to maintain our capacity for creativity, focus, and problem solving. When employees check their email first thing upon waking up, constantly throughout the day, and all throughout the evening before they go to bed, they’re robbing themselves of essential opportunities to give their brain space to recharge. This helps explain why workers who set email boundaries and unplug throughout the day are more likely to be happier and more productive.
Assist your employees with regular digital detoxes by instituting policies that stipulate email is only to be sent, checked, and responded to at work. Encourage employees to create “email free” blocks in their daily calendars and to set up automated email messages when they’re on vacation or otherwise unplugged. And ask employees to talk to each other directly instead of sending emails for urgent matters.
Onboarding your team to these habits will take some work, because many of us are used to constantly checking email. At first, it may even provoke anxiety in some workers to limit their email check-ins to two or three times a day. That’s why it’s so important to make sure that higher-ups are modelling these policies and (gently) holding accountable any team member who continues to operate as if everyone should be checking email 24/7.
As you can see, the key to enabling your team members to take good care of themselves is to imbue the company’s culture with a self-care ethic. By modelling and encouraging these five behaviours, you’ll improve your team members’ wellbeing and your company’s bottom line.