How Do You Role Model Self-Care As A Leader?

Author: Helen Gillett

What is self-care anyway?

I’d probably be more likely to say, it’s how I enjoy life and stay well.

I have a whole range of habits I’ve learned over the years, everything from the amount of sleep I get; to the food I eat; the exercise I take; the hours I work and the time I spend with family and friends. It’s important for me, possibly selfishly, to get these things right otherwise I really start to struggle. I’ve come to realise that it’s also really important as a leader, that people see me doing these things.

Why do you have to be a role-model?

It’s very simple – if you talk about a wellbeing culture but the senior people don’t contribute, then it’s likely others won’t either. This means being intentional about certain things – I don’t want to be contacted outside working hours (except in specific, defined and agreed circumstances) therefore I shouldn’t be contacting colleagues then either. It’s no good sending a bunch of evening and weekend emails, and then saying ‘oh but I didn’t expect you to answer!’. Even those email footers that say something like: I’m sending this now but you don’t have to reply’ don’t get you off the hook – some poor soul has had to open the email and read to the bottom before they find that bit out!

Modelling self-care made simple

Here’s an example of how simple it can be – a while ago at BetterSpace, it was even busier than usual – clients, fundraising, product development you name it. I noticed there was quite a lot of work visibly happening out of hours. You can bet that what you can see is not the half of it. So I called it out in our weekly team meeting. I thanked people for how hard they were working, I said I was getting into bad habits that I don’t like. I said: ‘we’re not going to become that business – you know the one, the start up with good intentions that then just turns into every other business that drives people to burnout.’ I said we’re going to keep a lid on it, inviting everyone to keep each other honest in case we regress again!

Intentional. Honest. Equitable. 

What’s the impact of modelling self-care as a leader?

There are a number of impacts:

  1. Your colleagues are less likely to burnout;
  2. They will be more productive – tons of evidence for this, we all quote it to each other, about how long hours don’t equal good work!
  3. You yourself will feel better – you need the self-care as much as the next person, we’re all human;
  4. You’ll be contributing to a culture where your people will want to give their all, and talent will seek you out.

Give it a go and see how you get on – we’d love to hear your insights, join the conversation over on LinkedIn!


BetterSpace is the employee wellbeing platform putting control where it belongs: in the hands of the individual employee. Our groundbreaking solution has been developed with medical and domain expertise and is aligned to our Six Pillars of Wellbeing. BetterSpace empowers your workforce to understand and fulfill their mental health needs.

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