By Dr. Raine Arndt-Couch, DSW, JD, LCSW, CCM

As a health care professional working in a fast-paced demanding environment, I've learned to embrace opportunities to leverage technological tools to facilitate communication and boost productivity in the workplace.  Like so many in the field of case management, the gold standard of daily practice involves valuing collaboration in pursuit of mutual goals, including achieving positive outcomes for our clients.  The use of technology to maintain the necessary organization and accessibility of partners in achieving these goals has proven invaluable.

There are clear risks to an over-dependence on technology in the workplace, including the potential impacts on one's health and well-being.  The growing use of technological tools has, in my humble opinion, reinforced workplace cultures that emphasize on-demand responses, at all hours of the day, with little to no respect for personal time and boundary setting.

If you're like me, the unread messages ballooning in your email inbox, the constant ping of instant messages, and a flow of never-ending meeting invites scheduled on and often over your calendared events – can make you feel like your time and energy are slipping right through your hands. The overwhelming requests and demands on your time are often facilitated through the very tools meant to make your work more efficient, but that can easily produce a crushing feeling of information overload and for some of us, anxiety about what to attend to next with the limited number of hours we have in a day.

I recently read the article Learn When to Say No, first posted in October 2020, which proves I'm not alone in wondering how best to navigate the professional world to ensure my commitment and work ethic are not valued so highly that they cause a loss of control or worse – burnout.  As individuals in our field know all too well, a caregiver (or case manager/leader, in this case) is of no real help to those in need if they are not healthy themselves.

So how does one strike the balance that is so important for sustainable practice, in what we can only assume will be an increasingly demanding workplace environment?  We certainly don't want to let our leaders, colleagues, or clients down – but it's also impossible to say yes to everything and everyone and expect to do all of it well. 

By now, you may have heard of the concept of a Yes Day, appearing on the scene in a 2009 children's book and popularized in a 2021 box office comedy starring Jennifer Garner.  The idea is simple: parents empower their children with 24 hours to call the shots; parents must say yes to each request (with a few parameters to ensure safety, of course).

What if we turned this concept on its head and gave ourselves (and perhaps the people we lead in the workplace), the freedom to say "Yes" to a No Day? A day where we are not beholden to the requests of others, but rather, empowered to decide for ourselves where we place our time and energy, given a full accounting of the needs and responsibilities on our plates.

By no means is this idea intended as a rejection of collaboration or accountability. Quite the contrary. Our ability to have the space and freedom to evaluate our highest priorities and take back control of our daily to-do lists.  By setting appropriate boundaries, we allow ourselves the power to use our skills as case managers to assess our workplace demands, create a plan of action, and work together with others to get things done, ultimately achieving better overall outcomes for ourselves and our internal and external stakeholders.

I'll be the first to admit I need time to reset, and you may too. We need to be better at protecting our time and our energy so that we can show up as the best version of ourselves for those that we serve. So, let's permit ourselves to say "Yes" to a No Day.  Who's with me?

We're here to help you unwind and recharge! Dive into "Mindfulness with CMSA":
Case Managers work hard. Make sure to take time to focus on your mental health — Take a break, breathe, and rediscover your balance! Multiple episodes available. Pick the one you need or watch them all!

Bio: Dr. Raine Arndt-Couch, DSW, JD, LCSW, CCM has over 15 years of experience in clinical social work, medical case management, national healthcare policy, and leadership roles across healthcare practice settings and with diverse populations. She currently serves on the CMSA National Board of Directors and as Senior Manager of Social Programs for Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plan operating in Los Angeles and San Diego counties. In her role, Raine provides leadership and operational oversight of the Plan's CalAIM Enhanced Care Management, CalAIM Community Supports, Community Health Worker benefit, and Long-Term Services and Supports for Medi-Cal beneficiaries. Raine is a proud social worker who is passionate about the integration of medical, behavioral, and social care in health care delivery as a means to achieve health equity. She earned both her master’s in social work (MSW) and Juris Doctorate (JD) from the University of Hawai'i at Manoa and her Doctorate in Social Work (DSW) from the University of Southern California.