I remember the days when August was a slow and quiet month in Malta, with people enjoying the sea and having a shutdown from work, but over the past years, things have changed, and many of us are slowing down without switching off completely. With the disruption of our natural patterns of work and rest according to the seasons outside, we’ve lost our ability to detach and decompress from work and interactions.
When we rest, we allow our brain to recover and process all the information and distractions that we are bombarded with on a daily basis. Some of the improvements we can see are improved mood and concentration, attention span and creativity. These periods of rest help us to keep potential mental and physical health problems away. If I may paraphrase a popular saying – 60 minutes of rest a day keeps the doctor away.
One of the modern beliefs is that if we are doing nothing productive, i.e. work, we are wasting our time. Nothing in nature is performing at high speed all the time. There are fast periods followed by slow ones.
Another common reason is the fear of missing out. We function in a very competitive environment, and we are kind of addicted to the feeling of being involved in many things at work and in life. This gives us a sense of productivity, control and the importance of our ‘personal brand’.
A common topic with my clients at senior leadership level is how to rest productively, and what stops them from taking a full break. One of the most valid reasons for them to keep checking their emails during holidays is the amount of work they are going to find once they are back. They often describe it as a shock! So, they prefer to keep checking and sometimes replying to emails during family holidays to mitigate the potential backlog once they are back in the office. How productive is their rest then?
Be a role model. Think about the example you will be giving to your team. A high-performance team will need challenges and inspiration, but will have to rest as well, and be ready for the next season or a new target to reach. As a leader, you are responsible for setting the right culture – we work hard but we rest well. This is the strategy of every successful sports team. By giving this example, you will normalise the practice of detaching from work for a longer period, and will reduce the chances of burnout and absence from work.
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And how to encourage the rest of your team to embrace it too.
This does not entail slowing down your productivity, but it concerns setting boundaries between personal life and work.
Growth is an ongoing process that business leaders have to work hard towards and be patient with.