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On the Frontlines: Self-care as an Internal Control

Blogs Eulonda Whitmore, CIA, CRMA, CCA Oct 09, 2023

Ahead of her presentation at The IIA’s 2023 IGNITE Conference, Oct. 24-26, Eulonda Whitmore highlights the importance of self-care in the workplace and the role that the internal audit profession can play in promoting it.

We bring our whole selves to work and our ability to function is often a product of how we’re feeling — mentally, emotionally, and physically. When we feel drained and are not taking care of ourselves, it can negatively impact how we make decisions, interact with others, and perform the essential tasks that we’re responsible for daily. As internal auditors, we have a unique ability to connect the dots between organizational culture and self-care to better understand the risks that stem from unhappy, unhealthy employees whose lack of productivity threatens to detract from the organization's ability to meet strategic goals.

How organizations can promote self-care

If an employee does not practice self-care and often heads into work feeling stressed, it can lead to decreased productivity, missed deadlines, or goals that aren’t accomplished. An employee who doesn’t have the patience to deal with the stresses of work also may take on a harsh and hostile tone that creates conflict within teams. Often, the actions of one stressed employee sets off a chain reaction that stresses out even more employees, so it is imperative that organizations take the issue seriously and work to promote a healthy culture. 

Organizations can promote a culture of well-being, strong internal controls, and a healthy work environment in many different ways, including: 

  • Encouraging employees to use their vacation days if they haven’t been out of the office in a while.
  • Communicating with employees that taking time off when sick is a best practice.
  • Giving employees the space to take periodic breaks during the day to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
  • Establishing a flexible work arrangement, allowing for employees to work from home when needed.
  • Actively monitoring employee workload to ensure each employee has a healthy work-life balance.
  • Encouraging employees to take a break during lunch and step away from their desk to help them unwind.

Organizations also can offer programs through human resources to help employees with their mental well-being if they are feeling down.

At the employee level, it is important to remember that we can all take care of each other and help boost our coworkers’ happiness in the workplace. Often, group activities can help build team chemistry and create support networks. Inviting coworkers out to lunch or having “walking meetings” is a great way to build camaraderie and boost team morale.   

Internal audit’s role in promoting self-care

Internal auditors should play a key role in promoting self-care within their organizations by assessing culture, governance, and risk management processes as they pertain to employee well-being. They should evaluate the policies and procedures and make recommendations regarding how management can help foster a positive, healthy work environment. Additionally, internal auditors can provide training to promote strong internal controls and lead self-care presentations to educate employees and management on the importance of mental health.  

Taking care of ourselves allows us to better help our organizations and clients by unlocking the door to stronger executive decision-making and creativity when assessing business processes, risks, and internal controls. It also improves our energy, which helps us more effectively manage our time and feel more confident about our work.

Self-care is different for everyone. It could mean organizing your space, keeping your doctor appointments, going for a walk, taking lunch away from your desk, exercising, spending time with family, meditating, praying, managing your time and calendar, golfing, or eating a good meal. No matter how self-care is defined by an individual, it is imperative that it is made a priority by the organization. The risks of not doing so are too great to ignore.

Eulonda Whitmore will be presenting a session on self-care at The IIA’s 2023 IGNITE conference, Oct. 24-26 in Las Vegas.

Eulonda Whitmore, CIA, CRMA, CCA

Eulonda Whitmore is associate vice president and CAE at Wayne State University and is based in Michigan.