Our health is the most important thing we have. Our health is something that we as people, leaders, colleagues, employees and employers should hold as our highest priority. It is not enough to offer a wellness allowance, there must be room for wellness, reflection and recovery during work hours.
My work causes me both stress, anxiety and feelings of not being enough. And how is it right that I need my private time to compensate for that? I believe that my work hours should include everything I need to be able to do my job in the best possible way. For me, this means that I need space between meetings to process what has been said and time to prepare for the next meeting. I need time alone for my thoughts and reflections to be able to work out the best solution to a problem, create a good setup for the next meeting, or think about how to handle a situation.
As a leader, I owe those that follow me to think before I act. I owe them to be prepared for a meeting, to reflect on situations before I make decisions and think trough how I will handle a conflict. I also need space to learn new things, to read about research and new methods of leadership, team and psychological safety. This is important for me to be able to do my job, in the way that I want to do it.
I also need time when the brain can recover and turn off all impressions and thoughts. Where I have the opportunity to connect to my body that carries me through my work day. For me, it is yoga, which I often practice at lunchtime or before I go home. For you it might be a walk in the park, a horse back ride, a run around the nearby lake or to walk your dog. The important thing is that you know exactly what you need to have a sustainable work situation. Regardless, we all need recovery as part of our work day to be able to get through it, and the next day, and the next.
One of the biggest reasons today for sick leave is stress-related and it is often caused by our work load. It’s time to change our view of what work hours are. Does it really matter how many hours you spend if you achieve what’s expected and feel good at the same time?
There are several successful examples of 6-hour workday and the last I read about is 6 + 2 at the social service in Sundsvall. There are six hours of “delivery”, where they deliver a service and meet clients, and 2 hours where they reflect, train, recover, educate and create the conditions for the next day to be able to deliver again. A very good example of a successful recipe for creating a sustainable work environment where employees feel good, mentally and physically, where they develop and most likely want to stay.
Don’t give away your health to a company that only has numbers in interests. Choose a company where there is conditions for lasting an entire work life. Where it is a priority to take care of your health. Without it you wont be able to work anyway. It is the most important thing we have.
Isabelle Svärd, Agile coach
Recovering from being burned out in 2015.