Trend Buckers

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With increasing regularity in society’s faster-paced work environments, many disciplines are publishing articles about employee burnout. More so in the private sector, industries are resourcing workplace wellness programs to counter stress.

Organizations with these programs are realizing significant returns on investment with less absenteeism and medical costs.

Examples include employing chief wellness officers and offering services such as organic farm food stocks, musical instrument lessons and pottery painting. These examples might be a bridge too far for those working on the taxpayers’ dime, but a few simple actions can improve wellness each day. Whether the following recommendations are new insights or reminders, the goal of this piece is to assist in bucking flourishing workplace trends to decrease stress.

The first concept is the power of a short respite. As the fount of great ideas often flows during down time such as vacation, the same goes for daily breaks. Jacquelyn Smith’s article “14 Things You Should Do on Your Lunch Break Every Day” posits, “America has become such a work-obsessed society that we tend to shun the notion of taking a break.” A lunch break “provides renewed energy (and) makes the rest of the day go more smoothly” and can give “an invigorating boost to your afternoon by doing what you enjoy.” Those who have spent time overseas will likely agree there is value to workplace cultures in other countries where a mid-day break is a standard, especially since it is well-documented they tend to be healthier and less-stressed. Relative to breaks and contrary to what is often practiced, employees should stay home and rest when ill for a faster recovery.

Another less-than-newfangled idea is to get organized. Simplifying spaces by reducing clutter can save time and decrease stress. Do the math and consider the time wasted over one year when spending just 10 seconds per day looking for a misplaced item or sorting through clutter. An associated huge timesaver is better file and email management. Consult the many existing sources for recommendations, but strive to “touch” paperwork and emails only once.

The third concept is the importance of continuous forward progress. Don’t discount the ground that can be gained fitting in small chunks of work during down-time, making the return back to work less hectic. For example, gain peace of mind by chipping away at that mountain of emails on an occasional weekend while sitting in front of the television. Doing so puts you in a better position to focus on other priorities come Monday.

Finally, and most basic of all, breathing habits are an easy target area for enhancement. The article “As Easy as Breathing?” by Julie Deardorff describes how “instead of drinking in a deep belly breath,” stress drives people to unhealthy practices such as shallow breathing or holding breaths. Further, Ingrid Bacci offers in “The Art of Effortless Living,” that “we’re addicted to anxiety” and instead of taking a recommended four to six breaths per minute, “most people breathe at a rate of frightened animals.” Prolonged use of these techniques is not as easy as it sounds, but work to energize with deeper, slower breaths.

Nigel Marsh stated, “Design your life or someone else will.” The ideas provided above will hopefully be useful toward improving life design and buoying resilience on and off the clock. In general, recall the wisdom of Ovid in that “a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.” Best wishes on the journey to increased wellness, production and quality.