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Self care plays a critical role in cultivating a healthy workplace culture and enhancing productivity. But how does this translate into practical action on a day-to-day basis? It’s important to recognize that self care is unique to each individual, and what works for one person may not work for another.
For example, while sitting quietly with the goal of an empty mind may be stress-reducing for some, it can be overwhelming for others. On the other hand, mastering foundational skills like time management might not immediately strike us as self care, but it can be an effective way to prioritize our well-being. The key lies in recognizing what alleviates stress versus what becomes overwhelming rather than adopting a one-size-fits-all approach to emotional wellness.
Leaders can start by evaluating company policies and restructuring the company-wide calendar to create room for employees to do what works for them. Then, educate the team about mindfulness-based practices.
In this guide, you’ll find valuable tips on how to carve out dedicated self care time during the workday and a selection of mindfulness exercises to help your employees thrive professionally and personally.
The importance of practicing mindfulness during the workday
Mindfulness is an evidence-based practice that reduces stress, enhances focus, and improves decision-making and communication skills. Its positive influence extends to both productivity and overall happiness in our lives.
By observing the operations of other companies, we have learned that those with leadership that prioritizes mental health enjoy higher employee retention rates. To foster an environment where employees feel supported and valued, leadership must cultivate a culture that actively promotes mindfulness and self care practice.
Employees need to feel encouraged to explore exercises and activities that support their emotional well-being. It’s equally important for employees to have a comprehensive understanding of the mental health resources available to them.
How to overcome the challenges of practicing self care at work
In the middle of a demanding workday, taking breaks can be difficult. Even the smallest breaks can feel counterintuitive to productivity and insignificant in the grand scheme of things. However, it’s been proven that incorporating breaks in the workday boosts productivity and prevents burnout.
The way to overcome this challenge is by starting small. Allocating just five minutes, three minutes, and even one minute to engage in mindfulness exercises can make a notable difference. Employees can initiate a habit they can gradually expand by beginning with manageable increments.
Another way to overcome the time constraints of self care is to capitalize on transitional moments throughout the day. Seizing opportunities before and after meetings, at the start and end of lunch breaks, and during moments of switching tasks are all valuable times to pause and engage in mindfulness exercises.
6 tips for incorporating self care into the workday
These tips benefit every individual in the company, and HR leaders must evaluate how they apply to remote, in-person, and hybrid employees. It’s crucial that each type of employee benefits equally from the wellness policies that your company maintains.
Time management serves as a fundamental self care practice. Start the day by allocating time to prioritize and plan tasks, including scheduled breaks for mindfulness, meals, and physical movement.
To set a mindful tone for the day, make the initial task a grounding exercise. If the workday begins at 8 am, create a policy that avoids scheduling meetings until 8:30 am, allowing all employees to set a positive tone for their day.
Create a calming workspace with boundaries
For remote employees, maintaining a tidy workspace can help establish clear boundaries between home life and work. A closed door can go a long way in creating physical separation, and a dedicated space in the office or home for mindful breaks can support consistent self care practice.
In-person employees will benefit from an office environment that is inviting and enjoyable. Create space that allows employees to find moments of solitude and make the atmosphere comfortable and personalized to their needs.
Establish communication about boundaries
Encourage communication among the team about work and self care boundaries. Discuss important aspects, such as the times when interruptions are acceptable and when they should be avoided. Share when and where you plan to practice self care activities.
It’s essential to emphasize the significance of these boundaries and why they are vital for each team member’s well-being.
Take outdoor breaks
Upholding boundaries while working remotely can be challenging for employees who face the constant presence of their home environment. Getting out of the house for a short walk can be highly beneficial as it allows them to refresh their minds and establish a clear distinction between work and personal life.
Similarly, in-person employees can benefit by stepping outside to engage in movement, stretching, or mindfulness. Embracing the outdoors provides a change of scenery and an opportunity to recharge, promoting mental clarity and well-being.
Prioritize lunch breaks
While working through lunch may seem convenient, it’s crucial to remember that everyone deserves a dedicated lunch break. Taking time away from work activities to decompress and recalibrate is essential for maintaining well-being. Even if the day isn’t going as planned, this is a moment to regroup, step away from work tasks, and return with fresh eyes and a renewed perspective.
The beginning or end of lunch provides an ideal moment to take five minutes for mindfulness exercises. Engaging in mindful activities during this time can help employees create a sense of presence, reduce stress levels, and enhance focus and productivity when they resume work.
Use tools to find the time
Utilize integrated apps that synchronize with the company calendar to identify significant breaks in the day or week. By leveraging these tools, leadership can allocate and reserve these periods for team members to practice self care according to their preferences and needs.
Furthermore, these integrated apps offer valuable insights that enable team leaders to assess and optimize employees’ time. By analyzing the data provided, leaders can make informed decisions to enhance productivity, streamline workflows, and ensure a healthy work-life balance for the entire team.
Mindfulness and self care exercises for all employees
These exercises can be practiced by remote, in-person, and hybrid employees. They can be practiced briefly throughout the day or for longer periods of time.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation Exercise
- Find a comfortable seat or standing position.
- Take a few deep, slow breaths.
- Tense your forehead by raising your eyebrows, hold for a moment, and release, allowing the muscles in your head and face to relax completely.
- Tense the muscles in your eyes, nose, and face, hold for a moment, and release, allowing these muscles to relax.
- Repeat this process with your mouth and jaw by forcing a smile and clenching your jaw.
- Moving down your body, repeat this process with your neck and shoulders, chest, stomach, buttocks, arms, hands, thighs, lower legs, and feet.
- To begin, take a moment to bring your awareness to your breath.
- Now, notice and name five things you see.
- Next, notice and name four things you can hear.
- Notice and name three things you can feel.
- Notice and name two things you can smell.
- Notice and name one thing you can taste.
Other simple self care practices that can be incorporated into the workday are:
- Visualization exercises
- Journaling, doodling, or coloring
- Group games or puzzles
- Group guided meditations
- Stretch breaks
- Snack and water stations
How leaders can set the tone for mindfulness and self care
Self care is equally important for leaders. Management can set the tone for employee wellness by leading by example and regularly checking in with their team. Demonstrating sincerity in mindfulness practices and being open to continuous learning are key aspects of cultivating a mindful work environment.
To incorporate self care from the beginning, consider integrating it into the onboarding process by inviting new hires to share their preferred work styles and preferences. This includes their communication preferences, most productive and distracting hours, and boundaries regarding after-work notifications.
Teach your team about mindfulness and self care so they have plenty of tools to choose between. At Spring Health, our members have access to a comprehensive library of exercises that support emotional well-being. This includes mindfulness exercises that have led to an 87% reduction in reported anxiety symptoms.
Building self care habits for long-term well-being
The most important thing to remember when incorporating self care into a busy schedule is to start small. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming, instead, it can be personal to each employee. It’s important to find realistic strategies that align with their work, individual preferences, and daily routines.
By allowing employees to start with manageable self care practices, they can gradually build the habit and expand it over time. Encouraging this incremental approach supports long-term engagement and helps ensure self care becomes an integral part of their well-being journey.
Elevate your workforce’s well-being and work-life balance with these six additional mindfulness and self care exercises.