A recent study in the UK has revealed that almost a third of the workforce is just too tired. It seems we are in the middle of a perfect storm, where workplace-created stress and anxiety is interfering with natural sleep patterns. This is a serious problem. In a massive time of change and uncertainty for the UK the impact not only on productivity but on wellbeing is fundamental. We need our workforce to thrive; in fact we need everyone to thrive. A situation the UK government at last recognises with its increased funding on mental health support in the NHS.
A cycle of stress
In an effort to boost business, managers have looked to their staff to do more and to produce more, which is often connected to longer working hours. Of course there are times when a business needs to crank up production to meet commercial needs, but when expectations of output(s) need to be raised, it’s better if the business is already supporting their people to be more.
There are some studies that show productivity is not directly linked to time spent at work. In Sweden they have been experimenting with a six-hour work day. But we would say improving work/life balance is not an external thing, such as how much time you spend at the workplace. It’s more of an internal thing, such as; ‘do I feel happy doing what I’m doing and in the way that I’m doing it?’ If not, it can be exhausting and the source of stress, anxiety and a lack of sleep, which in turn produces more exhaustion, fatigue and stress.
The key is to break this cycle from the outside via better management structures and leadership, but also from the inside by empowering and supporting your staff’s own ability to energise, be calm and revitalise.
So what can be done?
If lack of sleep is the symptom then let’s work on the root cause. You can either change jobs, change careers, or change yourself. You will find the latter is probably easier to do.
The first thing you need to do is relax. Learning to relax is a core skill. Relaxing is not something that just happens to you – you have to work at it. Being relaxed is not lying on the sofa with a glass of wine watching The Big Bang Theory – that’s just chilling. Learning to relax and be still (both physically and mentally) is a whole body-mind intervention. It’s not something that many of us are taught at school but it’s so important to our health and wellbeing – and now seemingly our work and the future of the UK.
At beanddo, we teach a very deep and powerful relaxation technique call Nidra. It comes from yoga science and literally means ‘sleep’ but it’s a conscious sleep, meaning it gives all the benefits of a deep refreshing sleep but you are consciously engaged in doing it. There is a huge amount of research now available revealing how this simple technique helps re-energise the body right down to cellular and particle level, while also tackling chronic sleep disorders. Use it in bed and you will find deeper sleep is possible.
We know that sleeplessness is caused by an overactive and ruminating mind. Ironically, choosing to go to bed provides unforeseen mental and physical space to allow the mind to go over and over again the events of the day. So the second thing you can do is change your relationship to what your mind is doing, allowing a bit of distance and space.
The key to this is modern meditation and after a while you will find that the mind will gradually begin to settle down by itself and the thoughts, problems and cares of the day will fall into the background. This naturally-occurring change of perspective dramatically improves sleep disorders. So many of our clients and collaborators tell us the first thing they notice after undertaking one of our programmes is that their sleep improves dramatically. Again, there is a wealth of information and research going on to support this. And strangely, if you meditate regularly you will find you require less sleep because the sheer exhaustion and energy consumed by the nervous system previously begins to diminish.
The art of making happy work
You don’t need to force this to happen, it happens naturally. So our advice is learn to relax and with practice you can switch on a relaxed state at any time of the day because you’ve created new connections and conditions in the body-mind to allow it to happen. It’s like learning to ride a bicycle; it’s a full body-mind skill. Then as your meditation practice grows you’ll also notice that the mental state associated with meditation practice can also be switched on any time during the day. Even at your busiest time you can work in a relaxed, fully-engaged, fluid way – this is the art of making happy work.
If you’d like to learn more about making happy work, take a look at our modern meditation programmes.