Workers everywhere are exhausted and in need of rest. Burnout is a major pressing issue facing the global workforce, with research from Leader Labs 2023 Workplace Report revealing 54.4% of team members report feeling burned out at work. According to Global Consultants McKinsey, 61% of Australian workers say they sometimes feel burned out.
This is a trend that we have seen increasing in the work that we do with executives, leaders and teams within organisations. Since the start of the pandemic we have had a particular concern about leader burnout and latest research seems to support this concern, with 68.8% of leaders stating that they are currently burned out and 1 in 5 are looking to leave their current employer within the next 6 months as a result.
Studies have demonstrated the essential role of rest in both mental and physical wellbeing. It offers numerous advantages, including bolstering the immune system, stress reduction, mood enhancement, improved decision-making, heightened creativity, and enhanced work productivity. However, the greatest challenge seems to be people knowing how and when to rest well, and translating that understanding into action.
We can look at rest and recharging in many different ways — it could be physical, social, spiritual or psychological. It can also be passive or active. Passive rest is exactly as it sounds, non strenuous mentally or physically (hello Netflix and the couch, or reading a book if that’s more your forte). Active rest involves moving our bodies but not in a way that is too strenuous therefore inducing a stressed state, think of this as a fast paced walk, leisurely bike ride or light weights session in the gym.
No matter which type of rest you prefer, both carry the benefits that can help us maintain a healthier work-life integration and prevent us cramming all our self-care into the weekend’s 48 hours. So what rest practices can you easily incorporate into your daily life?
1. Micro Breaks
Micro breaks are short, strategic pauses during work that enhance productivity and wellbeing. To take a micro-break, step away from your task for a few minutes. Stretch, breathe deeply (two of my favourite techniques are the physiological sigh and box breathing), let your eyes relax by staring at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds or look out to the distance, let your gaze soften and widen, or go for a short walk. Try to engage in micro break activities regularly throughout the day. You can use your alarm on your phone to help you schedule them if needed.
Yes, remember lunch? Use your lunch break to get outside, take a walk, or engage in a hobby you enjoy. If you work at a desk, stop eating lunch at it!
3. Set boundaries and disconnect
Our wellbeing hinges on our ability to delineate where our work starts, and stops. In the digital age, it is easy to be connected to work 24-7, but this negatively impacts our wellbeing. Dr Nedra Tawaab, an expert on boundaries, states that setting work boundaries means establishing clear limits on how and when we engage with our professional responsibilities. It involves designating specific work hours, resisting the urge to check emails during personal time and communicating your boundaries clearly with line managers. Try it.
4. Prioritise sleep
Prioritise a consistent sleep schedule, aiming for 7-9 hours nightly. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Create a dark, cool, and quiet sleep environment. Reduce screen time before bed, avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime, and engage in relaxation techniques.
5. Set a morning routine
Start with exposure to natural light to regulate circadian rhythms; this means getting outside and viewing sunlight for 10 minutes on a sunny day, or 15-20 minutes if it’s overcast. Consider this an opportunity to move your body and walk or practice mindful eating and drinking. If you don’t incorporate movement into your sunlight exposure, follow this with exercise to enhance mood and focus. Mindful breathing, gratitude, and intention practices can promote mental clarity and resilience, setting a positive tone for the day. Remember, these practices can take as little as 2 minutes.
6. Get physical
Physical activity is classified as ‘active recovery’ and carries two fold benefits of keeping mentally and physically fit. Incorporate regular physical activity into your daily routine. Moving your body can boost your mood and energy levels.
7. Mindfulness meditation
Practice mindfulness meditation to reduce stress and enhance your ability to stay present in the moment. If you don’t have a mindfulness meditation practice there are great apps such as Calm or Headspace available, or even free YouTube videos.
8. Cultivate a space between work and home
Have you ever taken a bad day at work home with you? How about rushing in the door still on a work phone call or quickly pulling your emails up? Our personal time at home should be treated as precious, Dr Adam Fraser has an effective process called “Third Space” that helps us intentionally transition between work and home. It involves a three part process of reflecting on the day that was, resting through the use of breathing techniques, and resetting by asking yourself: Where am I going next, and how do I want to show up?
Cultivating a strong rest practice requires an element of self-awareness and exploration of what works for one person may be draining to another, so take some time to really reflect on your daily routine by asking yourself: What do I currently do to rest? Are there more passive or active rest practices on my list? What rest practices do I engage in during my work day?
You never know what newfound habits you’ll discover