@Vera Petrunina | Dreamtimes
It’s Time to Redefine Self-Care for both Employees and Companies

It’s Time to Redefine Self-Care for both Employees and Companies

June 30, 2021
“As companies did a great job pivoting during the pandemic, they must continue to do the same when it comes to self-care,” explains Robert Allen, CEO of New Dimensions Consulting Services.

At some level, all of us know that stress takes a terrible toll on our health and ultimately how we are able to perform our jobs.  What we don’t know is how to figure out at what point stress will turn into anxiety and even depression which will affect both our personal and professional lives.

While companies have tried a variety of methods to help employees, either through employee assistance programs ( EAPs)  or more recently due to the pandemic more information and discussions about burnout, there is more that can be done.

“As companies did a great job pivoting during the pandemic, they must continue to do the same when it comes to self-care,” explains Robert Allen,  CEO of New Dimensions Consulting Services and author of Self-care Let’s Start the Conversation. “As individuals, and as companies, we need to examine our levels of stress and chart a new course.”  He describes the process as the 4r’s – Retreat, Reflect, Replenish and Regroup.

The best starting point is to do an assessment of a company's current practices which determines the company's culture. He provides the example of working with a company whose leadership sessions were quite lackluster, with the majority of the leaders not paying attention during the meeting. Consulting with the COO, he asked to take over the first ten minutes of these meetings. Allen played music and posed ice-breaking type of questions, such as asking about favorite cartoons. Once the group relaxed and had fun, everyone was able to absorb the content of the meeting. In fact, with time, the first ten minutes of the meeting turned into a time to meditate and relax bringing stress levels way down. “The leadership of this company enjoyed the new atmosphere and brought that to the managers and down the line of the organization. It was a true culture shift,” says Allen.

The structure for this type of activity isn’t really all that different from what many in the manufacturing, and other sectors, do which is getting to the root cause of an issue. Just as any company regularly checks on the health of its machinery or other assets, this method is in fact a check on the human assets. And just as many companies have safety meetings at the beginning of the day, Allen says to use that time to check on the health of the employees. “ Take a few minutes at the start of a group meeting,  so as not to make people uncomfortable,  to ask people how they are doing. It can make a great impact. It can start a discussion,” says Allen.

 And from there a company can place the information in a more formal structure. He suggests taking a quick survey asking people specific questions with specific measurements.

  • How is your stress level using a scale of 1 to 5?
  • What times of the day do you feel more stress?
  • How is your work/life balance?
  • How can the company make your time at work better?

Looking at the answers can provide great insight into the company’s culture. What the company feels is a good working schedule, may turn out not to be. What is self-care to one person, perhaps flexible shifts, seems disruptive to others. These answers can be a great starting point to evaluate the culture that currently exists and open up ways to readjust and improve.

The next step is to take this data and analyze it to determine where the problem is, just as you would look at data to see where the machinery is breaking down. While human solutions are not as clear-cut as machine maintenance, there are many ways to readjust working conditions.

“I tell companies that in some instances if employees work a six-hour day it would be more productive than an eight-hour day, as often two hours are spent fixing mistakes. If people are at their optimal performance level for 6 hours, overall company productivity could improve.”

Once areas of improvement are noted, there are several ways to move forward. “I suggest that leaders just walk around the company, much like the Gemba walk of manufacturers, and see for themselves what is going on,” says Allen. “Read the sign language. As an outsider, I can usually tell pretty easily the state of the culture.”

Companies can opt to bring in consultants such as Allen, but they can also hire what he calls Goal Coaches.  These coaches can work to figure out ways to address the issues. An example Allen cites is a financial firm that has a psychologist, as a coach, on staff to work with stockbrokers to see where and how they get stuck. Sometimes it’s business processes or sometimes it’s something in their personal lives that need to be addressed. “Using a coach takes away a stigma that many people have about discussing their mental health,” Allen points out.

Allen is very hopeful that given the tools both employees and employers can find methods to put self-care at the core of the culture leading to healthier people and companies.

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