The workplace of the future  starts with how we treat ourselves – first and foremost.

Before we can truly nurture our children, love our partners, care for our colleagues and friends we must first give all of these things to ourselves. For if we do not, we have no real marker for the quality of care we are offering; what we are delivering to others would only be an nth of a degree of what the potential could be.

Think about it like this… if our energy or love for self is only half full we only have a half full glass to offer others. What if we honoured and cared for ourselves in such a way that it left us feeling vibrant, joyful and healthy – like, full vitality healthy. How would our caring for others compare to when we don’t look after ourselves like we know we could?

“It is a common belief that caring for yourself first is selfish, yet when done in truth, caring for self is one of the most selfless acts that one can do. Self-care is an essential ingredient in the caring process and greatly enriches the quality of care you are able to offer another. When we are living our full potential we can then truly support others to meet their potential.”  Tanya Curtis, Fabic Behavioural Specialist

What would caring for others look like in the workplace if we made self-care a priority?

We would be fully present for a start. The caring wouldn’t be just about the doing – the rushing around and fussing about to ‘get things done’; be the caring for a child, elderly parent or spouse, or the work we do in our paid job including how we care as leaders of a team. Simply by way of reflecting how possible and easy it is to care for ourselves – it would feel like we have purpose and meaning in our life.

Parents At Work’s key message – ‘Creating family friendly and flexible workplaces’ – is the start of integrating more support for parents at home and at work but it’s also the beginning of something much bigger. In truth, many of our workplaces today still run in a way that puts profits first and people second. You just have to listen to how colleagues talk to each other when something goes wrong or feel the tension in the air when there is disagreement or negotiation taking place to know there is minimal care for others at times.

The good news is, there is more awareness around this issue than ever as more of us come to realise inconsiderate and uncaring behaviour is not the way forward. But family friendly is more than being nice and considerate of people or thinking about each other as family. It is actually about embracing the fact that we are all in this life together and we have a responsibility to each other – to all others – to bring the quality of care, understanding and love to every interaction we have. It is only when we can accept this responsibility that we will start to see significant changes in how we operate in the workplace.

Everything is interrelated – meaning how we feel and act at home has an impact on how we feel and act at work and vise versa. Every interaction, every email, every thought – it’s all significant. So what would happen if we lived this level of responsibility every day? What changes might we see in an all-embracing, care-based workplace?

  • More understanding, less judgement
  • More collaboration, less competition
  • More purpose, less procrastination
  • More enthusiasm, less self-sabotage
  • More flexible mind-sets, less inside-the-box thinking
  • More joy, less poor me
  • More acceptance, less resistance
  • More diversity, less stigma and discrimination
  • More responsibility, less blame
  • More equality, less abuse of power
  • More transparency, less defensiveness
  • More changes, less stagnation
  • More steadiness, less racey busyness
  • More loving directness, less passive-aggressive

These are just some of the benefits. Ultimately, as more and more research is showing, when an employee feels good about themselves, their home life, the work they do and the workplace they work in – they are more productive.

It’s very simple really. There’s not much more to it. And, as mentioned earlier, it all starts with caring for self. Employers have a role to play in supporting employees to do this, because let’s face it, most of us – especially those caring for dependant others – find it challenging to actually do this.

Barriers such as time, cost, childcare responsibilities, guilt, and motivation tend to get in the way. This is where the responsibility for all others comes in. We can support each other to see there is another way. We can offer our own lived experiences of what works and what doesn’t, not in an imposing way but in a way that may spark another to come up with their own way of caring more for themselves.

Employers can support employees to do this by:

  1. Genuinely showing they care about their employees’ wellbeing, not just in times when they exhibit signs of stress or overwhelm.
  2. Offering programs like Balance & Wellbeing or webinars like this one on meditation.
  3. Breaking down any ideals and beliefs around how busy, stressful people are good workers
  4. Initiating activities such as monthly discussion groups on wellbeing and self-care in the workplace
  5. Integrating supports that send the message that everyone’s valued and important i.e. family-work social activities or encouraging flexible hours.

We all want to work in a place that leaves us feeling uplifted, significant and empowered. It is only together that we will change the beat of the hectic, competitive and sometimes icy heart of a workplace. This may seem a long way off for some but it is absolutely possible. We all have a part in making it happen and the simplest way to do that is by reflecting self-care.