Self Care in the Workplace: Q&A with Cathy Bailey
Practising self care is an effective way to ensure we don’t push ourselves too much. You know, to the point where you are really stressed and it’s too late.
There are many ways you can carry out self care that’s effective for you. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. Whether you practice yoga or mindfulness or you just switch off for the evening, everyone is different. But every one needs to make time for it.
We speak to Careercake users who tells us sometimes at work they can feel overwhelmed, anxious, and sometimes stressed. They come to us asking if it’s ‘normal’ to be feeling like this but also to ask whether there’s ways to prevent it.
Now, we are not self care experts, but we do know a few. Take Cathy Bailey for instance. Cathy is the founder of Office Om, and a BACP registered counsellor and qualified yoga teacher. We interviewed her as part of our Let’s Talk series about self care in the workplace.
Here she discusses what self care is and how you can apply it.
Careercake: Tell us a little about you and why you are so passionate about championing self care.
Cathy: Self care is so important; I’ve learnt this in my own life. I come from a stressy background and my tendency is to be a ‘doer’. I’m getting much better at stopping and looking after myself. And I’ve seen the huge benefits this has given me. I’ve also seen the massive difference it can make to my clients, both working as a counsellor and through Office Om.
Q: What is self care?
A: Put simply, it’s about looking after ourselves. Self care can be different things to different people. For some, it’s about going for long runs; for others, it might include knitting dolphins. We are all different. In essence, it’s doing the things we need to do to look after our mental, emotional and physical health.
Q: Why is self care in the workplace important?
A: I’ve worked with so many people who have reached the point of burnout. Often we feel like we are coping and take on more and more. It may have been we have always coped with high levels of stress before and we tell ourselves that we are ok. And we might be ok.
But often, we can ignore the signs that we’re not actually feeling great. Workplaces don’t want their staff to burnout – it can be a big cause of workplace absence. And it’s not generally a joyful experience for us too.
On the other side of things, if we look after ourselves and ‘up’ our self care, often we are more productive. We can think more clearly, be more focused and have more insight. It can feel counter-intuitive: when the pressure is on, often we feel like we can’t stop. However, when we do pause, take some deep breaths, go for a walk or whatever works for you, it helps our mind and body relax. Often then is where I get my greatest insights.
Have you had the experience of grabbing a coffee and realising you’ve got an answer to something that was troubling you?
Q: What would you do if your team member exhibited signs of something that required self care?
A: It’s so important that we have chats about this sort of thing. Usually people don’t like to be told they look tired/grumpy/angry etc. One of my favourite skills is ‘noticing’. We can try saying something we’ve seen, for example, I noticed you slammed that door quite hard, or I noticed you’ve been getting into work a bit late, perhaps followed by ‘I’m wondering if everything is ok?’. It may be we’re mis-judging them or they might not want to tell us what’s going on, but at least we’re starting the conversation. We can also model self care and talk about the benefits – leading by example.
Q: If you were looking to introduce self care to your work place what would a typical programme look like? And how would you measure its success and or impact?
A: It’s important to gauge what fits your people and the culture of your organisation, as well as the work that needs doing, because the work still needs to get done. There’s such a range our there, from providing a jigsaw for people to stop and do, to encouraging lunch breaks, providing free fruit or yoga and exercise classes. Different interventions work for different workplaces.
If I were to start a programme including self care I would want to understand the particular issues that are going on in the workplace. I’d look at absence figures, speak to managers and people at all levels to understand what is going on for them and what they would like to happen.
Any programme going forward would be developed in collaboration with experts in the field, who understand the issues and what works. I believe any programme needs to include an educational aspect, so people understand what works. It’s one thing to be highly stressed, have a free massage and then go back to being highly stressed. It’s another to understand what makes you stressed and what you can do differently to be at the top of your game.
At Office Om, we’re passionate about increasing people’s self awareness: we need to be aware of how we’re feeling. There are two sides to this: both knowing when our stress levels are in an unsustainable territory and to also know what works for us. We need to know what we need to do more of to help ourselves feel at our best.
Q: “My boss is a little, let’s say, sceptical. What could I say to persuade them of the benefits?”
A: First here, become aware of the benefits to you as well as the benefits to your manager. Then, have conversations about it. For example, “I’m so glad I took my lunch break today, I felt so much more productive when I came back”. It can also be noticing what works elsewhere and reporting back. E.g. “my friend who works at Self Care Soda Inc said they are encouraged to take five minutes out when they’re feeling stressed and it’s really improved the culture – they all love working there”.
Want to learn more? Check out the trailer for our interview with Cathy here.
You can also find out more about Office Om here.