We hear a lot about self-care in the popular press. But, workplaces infrequently support employees taking time to care for themselves. We hear even less about caring for others at work. A lot of people, including managers, believe that the workplace should be free of emotions. For that reason, employees might not know if it’s acceptable to take time out of their day to care for themselves or others. The good news is that this way of thinking may be changing. Brand new research suggests that self-care and other-care can decrease burnout. Decreasing burnout increases performance at work. So, companies may finally come around to recognizing the importance of compassion on the job. Read on to learn how compassion can help you to avoid work burnout!
What is Compassion at Work?
As mentioned above, compassion can take two forms at work. The first is compassion toward yourself, or self-care. Self-care is about your needs, so there is no one “right” way to do it. You are practicing self-care when you notice your needs and respond to them with compassion. If there are parts of your personality you don’t like or you do something that you’re embarrassed of, you might tell yourself it’s ok and that everyone has flaws. Similarly, if you are suffering or going through a hard time, self-care would entail allowing yourself to feel this way, without judgment. It would also require providing yourself with whatever you need to get through it (e.g., downtime, engaging in a relaxing activity, etc.). Overall, self-care is listening to your body and accepting who you are and what you need.
You can also practice compassion toward others. This means that you are responsive to others’ emotional needs. For example, if you see someone who is sad at work, you might take time to comfort them. If you notice that someone is going through a particularly hard time, you might go out of your way to make their day better. Finally, if someone is having difficulty in life or at work, you could listen to their troubles and provide encouragement. In other words, just like self-care is about tending to your own emotions, other-care requires you to attend to others’ emotions too.
Why Does Self-Care Reduce Burnout?
Self compassion reduces burnout because it affects two of the main components of burnout, exhaustion and feelings of inefficacy. When people are burned out, they often feel tired and sluggish. At the end of the work day, people who are burned out feel “used up”. If you feel like you’re already tired of working before you even get started, you might be exhausted by your job. But, when you show compassion to yourself, it makes you feel more in control of your day and your work. It shows you that there is something you can do to improve your own situation, even if you can’t change the job itself. So, self-care allows you to regain some authority over your own life, and decreases your feelings of exhaustion as a result.
Self-care can also decrease feelings of inefficacy, because it increases your self-esteem. When you show yourself that you’re worth investing time and energy into, you feel better about your worth. And, when you feel better about yourself, you remember that you have performed well in the past. You also feel more confident that you are a good contributor to the bottom line. In other words, caring for yourself boosts your feelings of self-love, which decreases feelings that you aren’t good enough.
Why Does Other-Compassion Reduce Burnout?
Showing compassion to others reduces burnout because it decreases cynicism and feelings of inefficacy. Cynicism occurs when you feel like your work doesn’t have an impact or isn’t meaningful. It is a component of burnout because it involves feeling like nothing you do matters. If you’re no longer interested or enthusiastic about your job, this is a sign that you might be growing cynical of your purpose at work. When you show compassion to others, however, it rejuvenates your feelings of belonging on the job. When you realize that you are important to others, you boost your enthusiasm for your work overall.
Second, when you show compassion to others, you realize that you are more effective than you might have thought. If you’re able to help other people, then you must be a valuable member of the team! Just like self-compassion enhances your self-esteem, so does showing compassion to others. You feel good about yourself when you know you can make someone else’s day!
So, don’t be embarrassed about showing yourself some love at work, or about showing others a bit of kindness! We have talked about the importance of lowering burnout before, and compassion is a great way to get the ball rolling toward a happier, healthier you!