HomeCareerwhat does self-care look like at work? — Ask a Manager

what does self-care look like at work? — Ask a Manager


A reader writes:

I’ve been working through some significant program transitions and expansion as a manager at a basic needs nonprofit. The need, as you certainly know, continues to grow, and we’re feeling it exponentially. My boss asked me what my strategies for caring for myself at work were, and I realized that I don’t even really know what that entails!

I understand how to care for myself in my personal life, etc., but that kind of thing in a work setting doesn’t feel intuitive. I’m wondering if you might be able to talk more about what self-care and recuperation can look like in the office.

The big ones are boundaries and time off. It’s stuff like:

•  Disconnecting from work on a regular basis, and not checking email and messages once you leave for the night or over the weekend. If you have a job that requires you to do some of that, you should be very disciplined about not doing it whenever you don’t absolutely have to. When you have a job that requires long hours, it can be easy to get into the habit of checking/responding to email even when you don’t need to … but it’s hugely important to give yourself large chunks of time when you’re not thinking about work, even if you think you don’t mind. You should mind, because over time that cumulative “always on” feeling will take a toll.

•  Taking real time off, preferably in big blocks like a full week or a full two weeks and not just a day here and a day there. For a lot of people, it takes a few days to fully disconnect mentally, and then your vacation is over as soon as you’ve managed to do that. And make sure it’s clear you shouldn’t be contacted while you’re away.

•  When you have a full workload, being assertive about saying no to projects unless something else comes off your plate or gets pushed back.

•  Carving out time at work where you can just think. If every minute of your work day is allocated to specific tasks, you’re much less likely to come up with new ideas and better approaches, more likely to miss things like “project X isn’t paying the same same dividends it used to,” and more likely to feel drained and exhausted all the time. Ensure your weeks (or at least your months) contain some space to just think.

Beyond that, the answer depends on what you personally find valuable. It might be stuff like making time to take a walk outside every day, or ensuring you eat a healthy lunch away from your computer, or being more deliberate about recognizing your own progress and accomplishments. But very few of those smaller tactics will be enough if you don’t tackle the big ones above.

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