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The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of a healthy work-life balance. As employees have adjusted to working from home, they’re facing all kinds of new challenges, such as setting boundaries between work and personal life, time scheduling and balancing work with childcare. Not only in times of crises, but companies should always help their employees implement self-care so that they can achieve mental and physical well-being.

The pandemic has caused the stress levels of professionals to reach new heights. One study revealed that a few months after the onset of the pandemic, 73% of professionals were feeling burned out. One of the top reasons for this burnout was the lack of separation between work and home life. 

Hopefully, in the months since then, we’ve all got better at the remote working lifestyle. However, the coronavirus has not disappeared and is still a significant stressor in employees’ lives. But stress has been a growing issue for a long time, and we shouldn’t need a pandemic to make us tackle it in the workplace. 

In small doses, stress can be beneficial, but in high-stakes moments or times of tight deadlines, it can make people work faster and more efficiently. In contrast, chronic stress not only affects people’s mental health, but their physical health too. Being constantly in emergency mode impacts the sleep cycle, metabolism, hormonal system and more, leading to all kinds of health problems. This means fatigue on the job, more sick days, moodiness, poor judgment and decreased productivity. So not only is stress bad for the individual, but it’s also bad for the company.

On the other hand, employees who have time for themselves and actively take care of their physical and mental health will be much happier and more productive on the job. The well-being of a company is closely connected to the well-being of its employees. So it stands to reason that companies should promote self-care practices in their workforce.

But what practical measures can you implement to nudge your employees into better self-care? Here are a few ideas.

●    Insist Employees Take Leave
Due to lockdowns, a huge number of UK employees have unused holiday time, yet this isn’t an unusual trend. Employees often believe that they’ll seem more hardworking if they forego holidays in order to get more done. However, the burnout they’re likely to experience as a result can lead to decreased productivity, thus cancelling out any time gained by skipping leave days. 
Remind employees about their holiday entitlement and encourage them to take them. Perhaps you could require them to take off a certain number of days each quarter, or at least limit the number of days an employee can sell back to the company. Likewise, discourage overtime and working on weekends.

●    Encourage Healthy Eating
Taking care of your physical health is a vital aspect of self-care. If you currently have an in-person office or one for when people start coming in again, make sure you have healthy snacks available in the office. If you offer company-sponsored meals, provide options that are both nutritious and delicious. If you want to encourage healthy eating practices in your employees, it starts in the office.

●    Promote Exercise and Healthy Movement
To care for the body, exercise is just as important as eating well. Send your employees the message that you care about their health by starting a walking or running club. If you can, create an in-office gym and hire onsite exercise instructors. Another option is to offer to reimburse employees for a portion of their gym memberships or exercise classes as part of your benefits package. If everyone is working from home, no worries—just move the classes onto Zoom.

Healthy movement goes beyond exercise. 

Many people who work office jobs suffer many health issues related to sitting at a desk for extended periods. Remind employees to stretch regularly and to get up from their desks for two-minute movement or mindfulness breaks. Consider offering alternative desk and chair arrangements such as standing desks or exercise balls. Even if all work is remote, you can still remind employees to stretch, particularly during long meetings.

●    Be Flexible
It’s likely that COVID-19 has caused you to implement some flexibility for your employees’ working hours. Consider keeping this flexibility even when everyone is back at the office. 

Giving your employees control over their own work schedules helps them arrange their lives in a way that works best for them. Gone are the days when everyone has to be at their desk from 9 to 5. That doesn’t mean you can’t have core work hours when employees need to be available, but allow a little flexitime as well as some leeway in the event of emergencies. It will lead to happier employees and more productivity in the long run.

●    Value Employees’ Time
It’s all very well to encourage employees to implement a healthy, balanced lifestyle, get enough exercise and sleep and take all their leave days. But this will seem disingenuous if you then inundate them with meetings and drown them in deadlines. One thing the pandemic has taught us is that yes, it could have been an email. 

Find ways to be efficient so that your employees have enough time to complete their work and still take time for themselves. That’s not to say that you should eliminate meetings—some synchronous connection with co-workers is essential in this time of social distancing. Yet you can limit the number of large or unnecessary meetings and minimise their length by creating agendas and collecting the relevant information in advance. In addition, encourage employees to take proper lunch breaks away from their desks and to implement a strict schedule so that work doesn’t bleed into personal time.

There are many ways you can encourage healthy self-care habits in your employees. The most important point is that your employees know you care about their well-being. Companies expect their employees to give them their best, so it’s essential to provide the support necessary in order for them to do so.