July 28, 2022

Self-Care for People-Leaders: 7 Practical Strategies to Continue Bringing Your Best

People Leaders are not immune to the changes, demands, and life problems that might negatively impact the employees they support. Yet, the expectation is often that they must remain unemotional, focusing instead on helping those around them. What is the cost of this expectation, and the prolonged stress of the difficult past few years on our People Leaders?

The Cost of Prolonged Stress

Recently, Allyson Tom, VP of People & Culture at Blueboard, joined Tiffany Richardson, Director of People & Talent Acquisition at Bravely, and Charlene Molino, HR Generalist at Blueboard, for a webinar, “Self Care for People Leaders: Practical Strategies To Continue Bringing Your Best.” During the discussion, Allyson shared her experience:

“It’s not just one thing, it’s the sustained levels of intensity and anxiety that we’ve been feeling for 2-3 years. It’s not natural. It’s forced us all to live in a constant heightened state.” 

Allyson Thom, VP of People & Culture at Blueboard

Allyson is not alone; according to a recent study conducted by Workvivo, “97% of HR professionals are emotionally fatigued from work over the past year.” Whether it’s the responsibility of leading the team through COVID-19 regulations, supporting employees who have faced loss, or processing the news of a recent world conflict, People Leaders often put themselves last, leading to higher rates of burnout and attrition. According to the same report, “78% of HR professionals are open to leaving their jobs.”

“People-people have needs!”

Tiffany Richardson, Director of People & Talent Acquisition at Bravely

As stress remains a constant at work, it’s essential that people leaders prioritize their own well-being, even as they continue to care for their teams and the people around them. Not only is it crucial to their own health, but People Leaders can’t provide a resource for their team that they lack themselves. If our mental health is struggling, Charlene Molino asks, “where is [the] capacity for deep empathic conversations [with employees]?”

So what are some strategies for People Leaders to practice self-care?

The panelists shared their tips:

  1. Go for a walk to change your scenery.
  2. Commit to a weekly practice outside of work that gets you out of your head and into your body. Try a dance class, yoga, or a brisk walk outside. 
  3. Develop a system to check in with yourself about your own capacity and use it consistently. 
  4. Get comfortable with the word “No.”
  5. Weekly therapy. (Sidenote: Prioritize free therapy as a benefit at work!)
  6. Use the benefits that you offer your employees
  7. Ask for help from the people around you. Colleagues, family, and friends are likely more than happy to support you and your initiatives if only you ask.

Modeling self-care encourages those behaviors in all employees

There’s another benefit to practicing self-care: it leads to communal care. If people-leaders practice self-care, they model the behavior for their employees, and bolster a community that values personal health and caring for one another. Over the last two years, we’ve had to redefine what we mean when we talk about “culture”. Many companies might bel at a loss when it comes to cultivating a workplace culture in this new hybrid world of work. What employees are craving the most is connection and community

Allyson Thom remarks that, “We’ve lost the human-side of the interactions- ask about someone’s weekend, check in with people. It’s ok to spend half of the allotted time just connecting with that person on a personal level. We can follow up, but investing in those relationships in times when you’re not in crisis is so important. Create the communal support system that will sustain you in the moments that you really need people.”

You are enough.

Putting in the effort to practice self-care strategies requires people-leaders to also commit to being kind to themselves in a demanding world of work. According to Allyson Thom, people-leaders need to stop “should’ing” themselves and feeling guilty for not doing more:

“How many times a day do you say to yourself, ‘I should have done this.’ You are enough. You’re doing enough. It is difficult to be in these times, and we are all doing the best that we can in supporting our people.”

Allyson Thom

Allow yourself to feel and process your emotions, set boundaries on the amount of work you can take on, and release the expectation to do everything urgently. You are enough.

To hear more practical tips for supporting yourself and your team, you can watch the entire webinar here.

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