Self-care may seem like a rudimentary activity, but a lack of self-care is actually sabotaging a large majority of Australian employees.

Sometimes associated with being a guilty pleasure, a new study has found 70% of women admit they have put on weight because of their work lifestyle and 77% have skipped exercise because they had to prioritise work.

The research by Bayer Health Yourself found Australian women were not prioritising self-care or practicing healthy workplace habits.

“Self-care can induce feelings of guilt and so many women are reluctant to put themselves first,” Nutrition Australia’s Amber Kelaart told The CEO Magazine . “You have to drop the belief that self-care is somehow an indulgence and believe it is a minimum requirement for optimal health and wellbeing.”

While both men and women are affected by a lack of self-care, women often struggle more because of multiple demands including caring for children or aging parents, maintaining the household and general admin.

The study surveyed 2,007 adults in Australia and found only 23% of women choose their lunch option at work based on its nutritional value while 30% of women make a choice based on accessibility.

“I think both women and men equally need to make improvements to their self-care,” Amber says. “One thing that men in general do better that women can learn from is they are better at saying no without the dreaded guilt following them around for the day.

“Having firm boundaries can in fact make self-care much easier to facilitate.”

4 ways leaders can create a healthy office

  1. Incorporate an overarching organisation-wide health and wellbeing policy.
  2. Develop a culture that supports work-life balance through flexible working and work from home opportunities.
  3. Provide health and wellbeing opportunities in the office such as fresh fruit bowls, yoga classes and subsidised gym memberships. Encourage people to take lunch away from their desk.
  4. Create a culture of open communication where employees feel safe to discuss challenges.