Self-care and the 9 to 5

By November 13, 2020 Performance

Self-care.  It’s got to be up there with the most frequently used words and phrases of the year alongside furlough, new normal, resilience and “You need to take yourself off mute David!”.  Yet when we mention it, talk turns to bubble baths and box sets.  This makes the assumption that self-care is something you need purely to recover from work rather than something that is part of work.

On a workshop this week the group were discussing said subject and most of the ideas centred around ways in which you take care of yourself by taking breaks from work.

Is that all self-care means? We don’t think so.  Strategies which aid effective working and a healthy brain and body can be just as important while you work.  And you don’t have to take a break to do it.

Here are 5 things to consider doing to bring self-care in to your 9 – 5 that are part of work not an escape from it:

  • Make thinking and planning part of the working day. Stop relegating it to before/after work time as if it weren’t real graft.  It very much is part of your professional skill set and the actions you take will be the better for it.  If necessary, block out planning time in your diary.  If more of us did this it would elevate the status of this underrated but crucial use of our time.
  • Engage in joint problem solving. Grappling with problems alone can be a real energy sapper not to mention a time stealer.  Sometimes just talking it through with another person gives rise to a whole range of options you never considered.  Joint problem solving can be an extremely effective use of time as well as a chance to connect with others and get more heads working on the issue.  A problem shared is not just a problem halved.  Often, it’s a problem solved too.
  • Prioritise caring for your essential resources. Make a list of the things you just couldn’t do your job without at the moment.  The list might include – stable Wi-Fi, your laptop, a decent desk and chair set up, your phone, access to online communications software, a quality set of headphones and an up to date system for filing vital information.  This may appear an unremarkable list but without those items working as they should, frustration builds, and time is lost.  So, make a plan to look after your essential resources, update them if necessary and keep them in top order.  Take care of them and they take care of you.
  • Create alternative options to virtual meetings. We’ve written a whole other blog on this subject which you can access here so we won’t labour the point.  Suffice to say devising effective alternative ways of communicating at work, which mean you don’t need to be on-screen all day is as much about self-care as it is about communicating.
  • Develop your professional networks outside your own organisation. Internal contacts and colleagues are vital but don’t always bring a fresh perspective.  External contacts who perform a similar role to you but in a different sector or a different role in a similar sector can be a fantastic source of ideas, information, support and challenge.  So – spend time cultivating these relationships.  A conversation with an external contact can be as refreshing as a walk in the park and you don’t have to take a break from work to do it.

We promised 5 things but here’s a bonus 6th self-care at work tip.  Work-based learning.  Take time to engage in it.  Identify a skill you could do with honing; some expertise you’d like to develop or experience you would benefit from gaining and set about getting that learning need met.  It may be as simple as talking to a colleague who has it or finding an interesting webinar to attend or a book to read.  Learning that happens at work is quicker to apply and easier to integrate into your current practices.  Learning makes us feel good and is a great way for you to add to your value as a team member and practitioner.

Self-care can still be something we engage in outside of working hours, but it doesn’t have to be limited to then.  Self-care at work in the ways we suggest makes the day more interesting and challenges us in a good way. So, when the day ends (quicker than expected with these newly applied strategies) you can curl up in the bath with the box set because it’s an enjoyable to do rather than as a response to burn-out.