One reason busy workers find it hard to practise self-care on the job, is that they fear being perceived as a less committed worker, or letting their co-workers down. The traditional work ethic that equates self-worth with unrelenting work, can be embedded deep into our psyche without even realising it.
In order to leave work at a reasonable hour, or to catch up with a friend on the weekend rather than catch up on work, it helps to develop your own business case for wellbeing, that you believe and can articulate to others in a relaxed and confident way.
The science is in about the return on investment of supporting employee’s wellbeing at work. Rigorously designed studies indicate a ROI of about1:3 to 1:5. Absenteeism, productivity, sick leave, workers’ compensation and health insurance claims are typically used to assess the impact of workplace health programs.
Health and productivity really are two sides of the same coin, so you should feel justified in allocating your time and effort into sustaining your wellbeing.
Is your self-talk in line with the evidence? Or does it perpetuate the myth that working longer and harder with ever diminishing recovery time, makes you a better employee?
Let’s look at some examples of what your ‘healthy business case’ might sound like.
Imagine you leave work on time, while others are working back late. One of your colleagues comments on your prompt departure. What could you say in that moment, to affirm your choice? If you feel stuck, brainstorm some responses with your colleagues or friends and have some fun with it. The key is to keep the statements simple, easy to say, and credible to you. Here are a few ideas to play with:
I’ll be all the sharper for it tomorrow.
Yes I’m practising the science of high performance, which says that work:rest ratios are critical for staying on top of your game.
With our workloads so high at the moment, I can’t afford not to prioritise recovery time.
Let’s say you want to take a short break early afternoon. You could say”
“I’m taking 10 to boost my afternoon efficiency.”
Now consider being asked to participate in an extra-curricula activity that you know will stretch you too far.
I am practising pacing myself because I don’t want to become another burn out statistic. Maybe next time.
My overall productivity will be so much better if I say no to this one.
If I say yes, I’ll need to let something else go, otherwise the quality of my work will really suffer.
When you practise wellbeing out loud like this, you’ll not only get better at it. You’ll also give others permission to do the same. This is especially true if you are in a leadership role.
Predictably, there will be times when you falter, when your fears or default patterns of behaving and thinking get in the way of prioritising your health and wellbeing. In can be wise to anticipate and prepare for this. One of the most common types of sabotaging self-talk that busy professionals succumb to is, ”I’m too busy.” When you hear yourself say that, try countering it with something like, “I’m so busy, I can’t afford not to (exercise, go to bed now.)’
Once you have developed your wellbeing business-case slogans, you’ll need to give them the ultimate test – try them out on your inner boss. Keep refining your statements until he or she is on board. It’s worth the effort because prioritising your wellbeing is in everyone’s best interest.
Thea O’Connor is a wellbeing & productivity advisor, presenter and coach. She specialises in personal sustainability, helping individual and groups adopt healthy, sustainable and effective work habits thea.com.au