The traditional view of productivity holds that there is a linear relationship between more hours spent working and more work that gets done, but this can be damaging when taken to an extreme. Workplace toxic stress can have a chilling effect leading to burnout. And for those of us who are lucky enough to be exceptionally productive, we may justify our success by claiming, “I love working at X, it’s so much fun,” when we really mean “I love working so much that I am on the brink of burning out.”
The real secret to a more productive workforce is that your employees should not simply work more hours than they have available to them. There are four core principles that we follow when we realize that productivity comes from people who value self-care.
The first core principle is that, self-care should flow naturally from your job. If we thought about our jobs in an emotionally detached way—not as duties that we perform—we would see that self-care is not a separate function. It’s part and parcel of what we do.
The second principle is that you must provide opportunities to take care of yourself—not necessarily formal opportunities like yoga, but opportunities for you to cultivate your own emotional and mental well-being. You should not be required to just do this one act of self-care; you should learn to embrace yourself. And perhaps the most important realization of all: It is not ducking the life demands that will make you the most productive you can be.
The third principle is that you must foster your employees’ self-care. This is really important, because if you are ignoring your employees’ needs, your employees will eventually feel like you are ignoring their needs. Self-care is your carrot, and by creating self-care opportunities, you’re not just inviting your employees to take care of themselves—you’re having them take care of themselves so that you can take care of yourself.
The fourth principle is that you must empower your employees to take care of themselves. If we didn’t have the freedom to take care of ourselves and use our time well, we would have no time left for our jobs. What do I mean by that? If you spend two hours with your family every day, you might think that you can’t possibly spend an hour with your job, because you will be too busy taking care of your family. But, that’s not the case. Take a moment to think about your work, and how much you like it, and you will realize that you can do anything you want to do. Having the ability to take care of ourselves and using our time well is possibly the single greatest motivator for our continued productivity.
If you’ve ever felt like you have to work overtime because you’re trying to do 20 things at once, you are not alone. We all fall into the extremes of “bullet time” and “no time.” When we are truly organized, we tend to put off Deadlines, Tasks, or other critical business blockers. This tells you that, even when we work the optimum schedule, we are still having to manage some of those things down the road.
So how do we know if we are truly prioritizing our self-care? One way to do this is to ask ourselves what else we will be doing. If you set a goal of doing no more than 20 things at once, but you are still managed to remember to take care of your health or your home, you clearly prioritized your self-care. On the other hand, if instead of pushing all of your difficult tasks aside to focus on your personal life, you happily accept that these tasks are vital to advancing your business forward, you need to adjust your list to include more self-care.
Self-care should not pick and choose when you are deciding what’s important. You should be able to go to any length to be proactive about your health or you can be proactive about your business. That said, you can’t just decide that your self-care is your reason for working, because you must know that you are not just training someone to work. You can’t just ask someone to work more because that’s all they should be doing. It’s not enough to tell someone they are worthless if you are not also taking care of them.
So how do we encourage self-care from our employees while not undermining them and our business goals? How do we make self-care an expectation and not a surprise?
The answer is self-care training. By making self-care something that everyone expects from you, employees can’t just be doing what they feel like doing. By making self-care something we expect you to do, we create an expectation for our employees that self-care is an important part of our success at their company.
Ideally, we want our employees to be the ones taking care of themselves, so their self-care becomes part of their own self-care program. However we do that, we must support their passion. We must support their creativity. We must support their belief in their ability to succeed in spite of themselves. We must support their personal power. And to do this, we must not undermine them. We must help them.
This may be challenging at times—maybe you’re asking your employees to only do one thing to self-care, and they feel overwhelmed and overwhelmed by you—but if you put in that amount of energy into making self-care a priority, it will be worth it in the end.