Creating a Self-Care Culture

Burnout. It’s a real thing. As we head into the final rush to commencement, you and your team are probably feeling it some. Dozens of awards events, end of the year activities, and lots of social media content.

While this is just one busy season — the reality is our marketing and communications teams take on so much. It’s up to us to build a culture where care matters.

First though — What is Burnout?

Burnout occurs when your internal fire is out, and you have no more fuel left. It can result in a negative attitude, a lack of productivity, high stress, a lack of teamwork and a negative transparency

Robert Bogue, Thor Projects

Why is it such a problem?

From my perspective, it’s related to the pandemic. For some, the pandemic meant they’ve had to manage more than ever before. For others, working from home and having time with family shifted priorities. Having to go back into the workplace, is tough.

There are a myriad of reasons, all of them fair. However, as leaders it’s on us to manage this and where are employees find themselves. One way to do that is creating a culture that focuses on self care.

6 Tips to Support Self Care at Work

Lead from Your Lane – Regardless of where you are in the org chart, prioritize self care. Chances are you can’t control everything for the company, but I bet you can create a self-care focused environment where you are. Don’t wait on human resources to begin this work. Create a culture within your department or division to prioritize people and self care. It won’t be all encompassing, but it will do wonders to help people know you’re committed to the work.

Set the Priorities – As a newer leader, I worked each week with my direct reports to help them know what (out of the long list) was critical for the week. Then, as the leader, I worked with others wanting things to make sure they knew reasonable timelines. What I found is that over time, the team naturally became good at determining what things were the priority. If everything is a priority: then nothing is a priority, so it was helpful working together to determine the priorities for the week.

Make Sure Vacations Happen – We’re coming up on summer. It’s a great time to take some vacation. I pull a report of who has unused vacation each May and encourage people to use that time. I also am going to start asking my direct reports in their meeting each week about time they intend to take off (Thank you Lana for this great idea). It’s on us as leaders to encourage our teams to take time off. We also have to cross-train others on our team to know how to complete critical duties so folks can be gone, and they can truly unplug.

Take the Victory Lap – Our teams do incredible work! And sometimes we as leaders (myself included) don’t do enough to recognize that. As a leader, it’s on us to pause after a big win and celebrate. That could be a successful gift, a special event, a campaign launched, or a viewbook completed on time. We need to recognize that work and pause to celebrate with our teams. Take the victory lap. Celebrations don’t have to be huge, either. It can be donuts, a written card, a meal at a restaurant. Just be sure to honor the great work of your team!

Set Communication Norms – One of the easiest ways to ensure a self care culture is to create norms for your team around communication. This helps people know what to expect. Here are a few of ours – projects go in the project management software. Not through email. If an email happens after hours, there is no expectation to respond. (As of late, I’ve started scheduling these). If I call after hours, that is important and needs your assistance on a project. If it can wait, I will wait until working hours. Doing this helps people know where to look for important information, so they don’t have to look in all the places, relieving pressure they might miss something.

Ask How People Are Doing – Be sure you regularly check on people. Ask how they’re doing. A new way I’ve started asking this is “What’s the Weather Between Your Ears” (Thanks Christina for this one). It gives people language to say how they are doing in a way most can understand. A word of caution – don’t ask if you don’t care or don’t want to know. It will only cause more harm. Sometimes when we ask, we are placed in a scenario where we have to put the person ahead of their job. If you’re not willing or able to do that, asking can cause more harm than good. I also try to own the rough days. It helps people to recognize that even as leaders we struggle, so it humanizes the fact that we can all have rough days.

What Else?

This is only a starting point. There are countless ways we can prioritize a care culture with our teams. I’m curious what are ways that you try to support your teams.

Feel free to reach out! I’d love to hear what you’re doing!

2 responses to “Creating a Self-Care Culture”

  1. After a crisis, remember that communicators will be affected too (and they probably won’t tell you.) Being on the front lines with the media and community is a heavy burden of responsibility. Part of the evaluation and after action report should include deliberate efforts to heal the communicators.


    1. Amen. That stress is enormous and requires time to recuperate away from the office.


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