What would you do with an extra day off per week?That's the question I asked on LinkedIn a few days ago as I shared the BBC article on the four day working week trial which outlines how popular and beneficial the move has been.
In the article, Faye, one of the staff at Citizens Advice in Gateshead who took part in the scheme explained how helped her. She talks about the extra day giving her time to "recover and recuperate". It's little surprise that we all feel the need for that. As a more familiar post-pandemic normality began, it brought one slight problem.
You can only quash emotion for so long before it pops up to the surface like a cork in water. We finally have the time and space to start processing the trauma and emotion of what we have all experienced. A recent conversation with my vet illustrated the point.
She told me she had been fine all the way through the pandemic and had been able to deal with the various challenges. It was only now that she was struggling to keep going. She went on to share the story of going to the pantomime with her children for the first time in three years. They all sat there wide-eyed with excitement as they waited for the performance to begin. As the curtain went up, the tears flooded down her cheeks and it took our conversation for her to realise why she had cried. She was mourning the lost memories that they would have made if times had been normal. She isn't alone.
We all need time and space
We need time and space to recharge and recover in every sense which may well explain why many are re-evaluating their work-life balance and doing less.
According to recent research by Westfield Health via HR Grapevine, almost half of UK workers (46%) are close to the brink of burnout and 59% of those surveyed said that mental health is a key driver behind their desire for a new role. No wonder employees are consciously opting to do the bare minimum as the phenomenon of Quiet Quitting phenomenon continues apace. For some, that will provide enough time and space to process and rebuild their working lives and wellbeing. For other, worries about the cost of living, a desire for job security, and the inability to find a suitable alternative has led to what RotaCloud has dubbed "Resenteeism" - the feeling of staying in a job despite being fundamentally unhappy. This feeling of resentment can spread to their workplace, the organisation, and colleagues and take them on an unfortunate journey to becoming a saboteur at work (see this blog post on the topic). As we have all realised, you can’t pour from an empty cup. So what can we do to recharge our energy levels?
Here are three ways to improve your mental and physical well-being.
1. Spend your energy wisely
We are all encouraged to think about how we spend our time. Rarely however do we spend time thinking about how we spend our energy every day. We just simply push and push until the cup is empty. If you spend time noticing how you feel when you are doing different tasks over the next few weeks, you will gain some insights into the changes you need to make so you can stop feeling so worn down by work. Once you know what needs to change, you can use what you have learned to help you get more out of your days and feel more energised. Here are some questions to help so you can have more in the tank for enjoying life after the challenges of the last few years.
We all have tasks we love doing. They light us up and make us feel energised and happy. For me, it's coaching, creating content, and designing materials. Yours may well be completely different. To find out, ask yourself:
"What lights me up?" Once you have a list, ask yourself: "How can I do more of that?"
Similarly, we all have things that drain us. For me, it's heavily packed schedules where there's no time to regroup between often pointless meetings where the agenda is more to do with ego than impact. Again, yours may well be completely different. To find out, ask yourself: "What drains me?" Once you have made that list, ask yourself: "How can I do less of each of these?"
It may be that there is something missing which would make a world of difference to how you feel at the end of the day. In my case, it can sometimes be not having enough music during the day. As George Eliot wrote: "Life seems to go on without effort when I am filled with music," so I am working on scheduling it into my day. To find out what the equivalent is for you, ask yourself: "What am I missing that would increase my energy?" Once you have a list of all your answers, you can start to reprofile what you do so it works for you and not against you. Of course, that may mean talking about changes you would like to make in your next performance review so that your employer gets the best from you.
Once you have identified how to spend your energy, now you can start to look at how you spend your time effectively.
2. Make your day work for you
As well as being energized or drained, our bodies all have different circadian rhythms and preferences. Understanding whether you need to be up with the larks or working when the owls are hooting will help you to work with your natural energy rather than against it. As long as it fits with your work requirements and the demands of life outside work, you can alter your working day to fit your preferred working time
You might want to take this one step further and test out the Pomodoro technique. Make a list of activities that can be accomplished in 25 minutes or so. Then work in timed segments of 25 minutes each and take a five-minute break after each segment. Apparently, the most effective approach is to do four cycles of 25 + 5 and then take a longer (tea) break, before you start again. Once you finish each cycle, you can increase your feeling of well-being by making a note of what you have achieved. This will give you a quick hit of dopamine, the happiness chemical. For some, this provides a great energiser and gives a great sense of accomplishment and being in flow at the start of the day. For others, the sense of being timed drives them mad! Only you will know what works for you.
While hybrid working had been a boon for many, working from home also means that we only have a very short commute at the end of the day to the kitchen! There is a downside to this for our brains, If other people are around, we don't get the same time and space to let our brains sift. This tends to happen naturally in the office as we walk or travel between meetings in the office or pop out for lunch. A really simple way to help our brains take a break from always being on is to have a micro-break of a minute or two between activities to take a grounding breath. Here's how:
Let your weight sink into your chair, with your back resting against the back of your chair, and make sure your feet are firmly touching the floor, and your hands are in your lap.
Now put one of your hands approximately two inches below your tummy button ready to breathe in from that point.
Focussing on that point, let your tummy expand as you breathe into the count of three, counting as you go.
Now breathe out to the count of five, letting go of the tension from the top of your head, and down through your shoulders, back, hips, thighs, and legs, feeling safe, secure, and grounded, as your feet connect with the floor.
Do that twice more, get up, and stretch.
Notice how you feel now.
3. Explore changing your hours
If following your natural energy, working in defined segments, and microbreaks still don't help, a change of working pattern may be the answer. Most organizations offer some form of flexible working hours and it may possible to work condensed hours so you do five days' work over four longer working days.
Failing that, if it works from a financial perspective, moving to part-time hours will give you the time and space to recover. Then all you have to do is answer that question: "What would I do with an extra day off every week?
May be it's just about time for you, or maybe, that's about doing some volunteering or learning something new so you can move in a new direction as you begin to change your story. But that's for another day.
If you are looking for more inspiration, why not listen to Carolyn's Change Your Story podcast, available on all major platforms and via the Career Alchemy website.
We hope it helps you to escape from the weekly grind and create a working life you actually love.
© Copyright Carolyn Parry/INSPiRARE 2023. All rights reserved. Third-party content acknowledged,
ABOUT THIS BLOG
Designed for professionals, the Career Alchemy blog mixes news, career trends and philosophy with "how to" advice to help you achieve happiness and success in your working life, no matter how much the world of work is changing.