Developing self-care as part of health and well-being at work

Developing self-care as part of health and well-being at work

Developing self-care as part of health and well-being at work

Health and wellbeing at work nowadays appears regularly in the professional and practitioner press and is raised more frequently by leaders in organisations as a potential problem, not only in the scale of employee illness but in the impact an ailing workforce has at work.

From here we could say that health issues have an impact on how we perform at work. If this is so, and, so widely publicised, are there further questions to be considered here?

Of course it is natural that people become ill from time to time, but, is the scale of ailment, illness and dis-ease increasing? Despite the many now publicised health and wellbeing at work programmes? (e.g. Chartered Management Institute’s ‘Healthy Workplace, Healthy Workforce - Guidance for Managers 2012).

In considering this further:

"There is a good evidence base to suggest that looking after the health and wellbeing of staff is very important in terms of delivering productivity and quality." (Dean Royles as quoted in Mooney 2011:22).

Additionally, a study (by the Health and Work Development Unit, Partnership, with the Royal College of Physicians and the Faculty of Occupational Medicine) audited nearly a million staff, and through this they confirmed the importance of senior leadership/the Board taking health and well-being of NHS staff seriously (Taylor 2012).

There is much literature, information and many websites on healthy workplaces or well-being at work programmes, so it is not that workplaces aren’t responding in some way.

So, where does this leave us?

Even if it is managing sickness absence, or health and safety regulations, things are being done at work to attempt to minimise illness. If this is so, why then is illness and dis-ease escalating at work? Is it because it is now reported more openly, or is it possible there is also another factor to consider here? A factor that requires consideration not just of employers, but of employees too?

A number of authors have outlined that wellness is ‘partially dependent on self-responsibility’ (e.g. Venart, Vassos and Pitcher-Heft 2007:58). In 2009 Steve Boorman suggested that the health and wellbeing of medical professionals influenced the care and outcome of their patients, and also stated:

"We have got to raise awareness that your own individual health is your own responsibility."

Boorman (2009) called for basic training for medical professionals to include a responsibility for their own individual health. Is it possible from this to glean that the way we are with our own health is an important factor in workplace wellbeing? And, if this is so, is it possible that deepening our level of ‘self-care’ at work is part of this?

Self-care could include many practical aspects of care and support we offer ourselves in preparation to work, and during work. It is fundamentally about deepening our own personal responsibility to look after ourselves at work, by the choices we make day in and day out.

Self-care is about deepening our own personal responsibility – the way we look after ourselves at work, through the choices we make every day.

Of note here is that, "People get ill because there is something going ‘wrong’ in their lives. This could occur in a whole range of ways: from relationships, environment, food or job." (Jobst, Shostak and Whitehouse 1999:71) ... all of which requires consideration, particularly when choosing to make ‘self-care’ a consistent focus at work.

"Only we ourselves can decide what is essential to our well-being." (Jaffee and Scott 1984:152)

This then raises some further questions about developing or deepening self-care at work and the link to well-being at work.

  • Why it is difficult to sustain?
  • What constitutes truly nourishing self-care practices?
  • What choices do we actually have every day?

This series of articles on developing self-care at work explores this further.


  • [i]

    Boorman S (2009) NHS Health and well-being. Report. Department of Health, Leeds.

  • [ii]

    Chartered Institute of Managers (2009) Best Practice: Healthy Workplace, Healthy Workforce - Guidance for Managers.

  • [iii]

    Jaffee, D. T. and Scott, C. D. (1984) From Burnout to Balance: A Workbook for Peak Performance and Self-renewal. New York:McGraw-Hill

  • [iv]

    Jobst, K. Shostak, D., and Whitehouse, P. (1999) Diseases of Meaning, Manifestations of Health, and Metaphor. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 5 (6) pp. 495-502.

  • [v]

    Royles, D. in Mooney, H. (2011) Success is a Team Effort. Health Service Journal. 10th November pp. 21 - 22

  • [vi]

    Taylor, J. (2012) Why Health Staff Means Happier Patients. Health Service Journal. 22nd March

  • [vii]

    Venart, E. Vassos, S. and Pitcher-Heft, H. (2007) What Individual Counsellors Can Do To Sustain Wellness. Journal of Humanistic Counselling, Education and Development. 46 (1) pp. 50-65. Worral, L. and Cooper, C. (2006) The Quality of working life: Managers’ health and well-being

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HealthAbsenteeismCareerWell-beingBurnoutHealthy living