Last year, WHO included burnout in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11)1 as an occupational phenomenon. The costs of burnout are well known, but organizations rarely go beyond offering meditation and yoga classes as a solution.
Moreover, most organizations fail to recognize the nuanced needs of a diverse workforce when it comes to self-care. Here are some strategies that workplaces can use to build a culture of community care, especially for people of color.
- Train employees on microaggressions and interrupting bias
A few years back, I remember a white male stakeholder expressing surprise when I, a brown woman from a developing country, spoke fluent English in a meeting. While it might sound harmless, microaggressions like this are exhausting for those of us who deal with them all the time—in addition to everyday workplace stress.
In addition to standard diversity training, organizations should make workplace microaggression training mandatory for staff. Organizations should particularly invest in training their managers to identify and interrupt microaggressions in their teams.
- Create safe spaces for employees to bond and heal
Organizations often place the onus of self-care on the individual. However, self-care isn’t always the solution and employees can benefit more from community care. I have personally found connecting with others more healing than any other form of self-care.
Organizations can support this by creating safe spaces and platforms for employees, especially for employees from marginalized communities, where they can build meaningful connections, find support for shared frustrations, and heal. A few other resources organizations could offer to help foster community are discounted YMCA memberships, yoga and fitness classes, physical therapy, and paid volunteering hours.
- Invite and encourage input from employees
Policies regarding employee wellness are often made with good intentions, but there can be disparities between what the employees need and what the organization is offering.
When drafting wellness policies, organizations and leaders should invite suggestions and input from employees. This can be done by creating formal channels of feedback, placing more people of color on committees that influence such policies and making this a discussion point at company-wide townhalls.
- Change starts at the top
Leaders should model a culture of self-care to ensure that these initiatives are effective. This could start with managers not replying to emails after work hours, using vacation time, and making self-care a regular agenda item on check-in meetings with employees. Managers can also structure jobs and projects in a way that offers opportunities for employees to build networks and communities.
Building a culture of inclusive community care in an organization takes time, effort, and vulnerability from leaders. By making this investment, organizations will not only empower their employees but also reap the benefits of a healthy workforce.
- DEATH BY A THOUSAND PAPER CUTS: Microaggressions and Their Effects on the Learning Climate by Stanford Medicine
- The Impact of Microaggressions – An Introductory Training – a presentation by Brea M. Banks, PhD, University of Nebraska Medical Center
- Tool: Interrupting Microaggressions – Adapted from Kenney, G. (2014). Interrupting Microaggressions, College of the Holy Cross, Diversity Leadership & Education
- Recognizing and Interrupting Microaggressions training program by The Center for Transformation and Change
Aneeha Patwardhan is a non-profit management professional with a background in engineering and data analytics. She currently heads the India branch of Vegan Outreach, an international nonprofit working to end violence towards animals.
featured image found at peoplematter.in