Promoting Self-care to Reduce Burnout and Improve Employee Wellness

Promoting Self-care to Reduce Burnout and Improve Employee Wellness

January 4, 2023

By Jodi Davidson
Note: As part of Inspirus’ weekly series of internal education events, Jodi Davidson, Vice President, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Sodexo recently presented on the topic of self-care. Davidson’s presentation shared some proven strategies for identifying burnout and creating implementation plans to help manage employee health. 

As a society, we’re starting to normalize occupational burnout. Feelings of stress and burnout at work have become extremely common. Around half (Nearly 50% of employees and 53% of managers) report that they’re burned out at work, according to Microsoft research, and 89% of workers have experienced burnout within the last year based on a recent survey by Visier.

These statistics are telling, and as a result organizations are placing even more emphasis on employee mental health. Despite the progress being made, we must rally together if we are to destigmatize mental health challenges and help employees overcome any hardships they’re facing daily.

Clearly the opportunity exists for these efforts to transition from being largely driven by HR, to being fully embraced by business leaders. By telling authentic stories about their own life journeys, leaders can create an environment where team members feel safe coming forward during their time of need. When HR and business leaders join forces in this way, we will empower a more positive employee journey.

For anyone still on the fence about the value of self-care conversations at work, I do want to underscore this is not simply a “touchy-feely” or sentimental concern. In fact, research consistently links employee wellness to employee engagement, which boosts employee retention, productivity and even profitability.  

Creating a self-C.A.R.E. plan 

In my presentation entitled “Wellness Starts Within,” I coined and use the acronym, C.A.R.E. which stands for compassion, alignment, resilience, and energy. The approach offers proven strategies that each one of us can use to thrive, not just to survive.   

  • Compassion: So often we feel motivated to help alleviate the suffering or the pain of another person but forget to practice self-compassion. Kristin Neff’s three elements of self-compassion: kindness, common humanity and mindfulness reinforce the importance of “treating ourselves as we would a friend” and to know that we’re not alone.
  • Alignment: Alignment puts “purpose plus passion over action” and invites us to first and foremost recognize what fills our cup. When we know that what we're doing makes our life — and the lives of others — meaningful, we can gain a greater sense of well-being at our core.  
  • Resilience: Resilience means to “struggle well” and to find the fortitude to keep going despite adversity. By engaging a growth mindset and remaining focused on what is controllable, it becomes that much easier to balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system and move away from a chronic state of “fight, flight or freeze”. 
  • Energy: Lastly, it’s important to recognize our energy as finite, and to create space in our lives for what we want vs. what we do not want, and what we get to do vs. what we must do. By investing our energy in this way and taking necessary breaks, we can transition to a more joyous and engaged life.  

Activate positive thoughts

Part of my self-C.A.R.E plan includes breathing exercises that are followed by positive thought activation, with the goal of helping people calm down and appreciate what they are grateful for. To prompt intentional thoughts, I’ve devised a series of five pointed questions to ask during these moments, including: “What else is possible here?”  and “What really matters at this moment?” Another tip is to keep something on your desk to bring back positive thoughts: it could be a photograph of a treasured moment, a memento from a happy or meaningful time, or even a scented candle that when lit evokes calmness and reignites purpose. 

Looking out for yourself and others 

While we are each responsible for our own journey to well-being – both at work and at home – it’s key that we reach out when we need support. And regardless of the role we occupy or level we hold in our organizations, let’s show up as compassionate colleagues and leaders who care about the well-being of others. In doing so, we will create a psychologically safe workplace, build trusting relationships, and we may even become the “life preserver” for someone who’s facing a crisis.