Self-Care Isn’t Selfish: Help Employees Prioritize Wellness
Director of Education & Government Practice-Employee Benefits
Remind Your Employees to Take Care of Their Health
Self-care has become a bit of a buzzword in the conversation about mental health amidst the pandemic. Google Trends shows that searches for this term have more than doubled since 2015, highlighting its recent popularity. I expect that this trend line will only continue to rise.
Self-care is defined by the World Health Organization as: “the ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider.”
It’s a broad definition, inclusive of the things that we do to take care of our own health and wellbeing – everything from physical hygiene to stress reduction and coping (and a whole lot in between that helps us maintain and improve health.) From a 30,000 foot view, self-care can essentially encompass everything that adds up to health and happiness.
Why are we talking about this now? Society continues to grapple with the effects of pandemic-induced isolation and ongoing changes to “normal” life, and individuals are turning to comfort-based activities in order to balance out the mental strain. However, encouraging self-care practices can have broader benefits for the health and wellbeing of your employees.
Why Employers and Employees Should Care About Self-Care
Your employees do their best work when they are healthy – mind, body, and spirit. It is virtually impossible to expect your team to service clients and customers effectively when they are dealing with health and wellness issues.
When I work with a client on their benefits, everything from health care offerings and wellness programs to employee assistance programs and onsite clinics, self-care is a part of that discussion. Reminding employees to take care of themselves during times of hardship can improve their health, as well as their engagement in the workplace.
“When self-care is regularly practiced, the benefits are broad and have even been linked to positive health outcomes such as reduced stress, improved immune system, increased productivity, and higher self-esteem,” says Brighid Courtney, a faculty member at the Wellness Council of America.
How Employers Can Encourage Self-Care
As part of M3’s holistic approach to health and wellness, our employee benefits account executives engage in conversations with employers about how to best support their staff to create better health outcomes – including how they can integrate reminders about self-care into their strategy. These are a few of the methods we cover in those discussions:
Engage employees in the process
When your team is a part of the health care decision-making process, you’ll end up with benefits that accurately reflect the needs of your employees, and align with the philosophy behind your benefit program.
Explore opportunities to encourage and even incentivize self-care
As an employer, you can make self-care a part of your wellness and benefits communication strategy.
- Encourage your team to prioritize annual preventative care as a part of their wellness incentives. Remind them that self-care is not selfish, and that taking care of their mind and body will allow them to better care for others in their lives.
- Inspire employees to take time to check in with themselves. Evaluating and reflecting on how they are doing and what their bodies are telling them they need is a good place to start.
- Recommend incorporating deep breathing, meditation, and mindfulness practices into a personalized wellness plan.
- Provide a template for employees to make a plan for their own self-care. Practices like walking, running, experiencing nature, connecting with a friend, crafting, meditation, yoga, cooking, journaling, and prioritizing quality sleep can reduce or help employees cope with personal stress.
- Promote opportunities for employees to share their gratitude and praise for the positive things in their life.
There are many resources that can help employers support their employees as they pursue self-care.
- Employee assistance program (EAP) or local behavioral health resources
- Resources from life and disability insurance carriers for financial and lifestyle wellbeing
Use population health data to drive strategy
Self-care should also be embedded in your strategy. Your benefits approach should never be a guessing game, or worse, a copy and paste approach from the year before. We utilize proprietary data analysis to evaluate each aspect of the health of our client’s population, and base our benefits strategy recommendations (including implementing self-care communication campaigns for employees) off of cost drivers. Encouraging self-care as part of your strategy can open doors to additional strategies to serve both the health of your employees and your organization.
Self-care is not a selfish act, even in times of large-scale societal stress. By that same token, self-care should not be left out of the conversation around benefits strategy and employee communication. Reach out to your M3 account executive to learn more about building an employee wellness strategy and communication campaign that can remind employees of the self-care adjacent benefits to them.