OPINION

A work holiday could be just what you need

I have a secret. I employ workplace self-care. The World Health Organisation (WHO), defines self-care as: "what people do for themselves to establish and maintain health, and to prevent and deal with illness."

But the way that we understand it in practice, is largely to do with boosting our quality of life: we have all heard the well-being professionals talking about the importance of looking after ourselves, taking time out for us and ensuring that we aren't overworking ourselves to extinction. We are told that we need work-life balance.

But what about work balance? Why is "work" positioned as the opposite of "life"? When we spend 75 per cent of our lives in work related activities, why is work self-care not really a thing?

We shouldn't be ending the week feeling so exhausted we just want to slip into our PJs and spend the weekend in bed recovering.

If nothing else, this is significantly impacting our lives outside of work, and it's not healthy.

I call my workplace self-care a work holiday - a couple of times a month (sometimes weekly if I need it), I take a Friday away from the office.

I pack up the laptop and my phone and head down to a café in town, taking a seat up the back corner where there is a power point. I plug in, pop the air pods in, crank up my music and tap away at my keyboard while the amazing staff ply me with coffee.

I've been doing this since I replaced my desktop with a laptop about 18 months ago. And for something so small, it's had a profound impact on me.

When I take my "work holiday", I am always highly productive, churning out the work, and I don't think it's all down to the mainlined caffeine, either (well, not entirely). You see, I'm happy.

For a sole trader, work can be a lonely experience (even when you are seeing clients).

When I arrive at the café, the staff know who I am, show me to a table, make my (complicated) coffee without even needing to ask me what I'd like to order and they all drop by my table periodically, just to say hi.

I feel welcomed, like part of the café family. My Friday work holiday never fails to send me into the weekend on a natural (slightly caffeine induced) high that puts me in a great mood.

Nothing like finishing the week on a productive, buoyed note!

After all, happy workers are productive workers. However, this isn't the only way to employ workplace self-care in your workplace.

If you are in human resources or management, then you have the power to affect some changes for your team and facilitate the prioritisation of workplace self-care directly.

There are articles online that tell you what to do in this situation, but the one big thing missing from the ones I have read has been to talk to your people.

You need to know what is important to them, what will improve their work experience and foster a positive workplace culture before you start handing out information on weight loss and reducing blood pressure and install a treadmill in the storeroom.

Do your staff value the opportunity for an early knock off on a Friday? Or a late start on a Monday? Perhaps they'd love the chance to work from home (or a café) once a fortnight?

Perhaps work self-care could be a team pub lunch on a Friday or bringing in a massage therapist into work for short sessions with staff each week?

Despite popular opinion, work isn't meant to suck. Nor should it be considered the opposite of life. It's really important that we get it right ... we need balance in life and in work.

If you aren't in HR or management, ask yourself what can you do to invigorate your workspace.

Take a meditation class in your lunch break, negotiate an rostered day off every month, invite your colleagues out to lunch or spruce up your desk.

You need to know what will brighten your workday in order to achieve work balance, and then find the courage to ask for it.

Despite popular opinion, work isn't meant to suck. Nor should it be considered the opposite of life.

It's really important that we get it right, and that is our responsibility whether we are a leader or a team member. We need balance in life and in work.

Work self-care is a thing. Pass it on.

Zoë Wundenberg is a careers writer and coach at impressability.com.au