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It’s time to reimagine the role of rest in our daily lives, as it plays an essential role in our health and wellbeing.

In a recent podcast, Ezra Klein interviewed Judith Shulevitz, whose book The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time explores the Sabbath and the idea of rest. While their conversation considered rest in a number of contexts, it made me think about the role of rest in our working lives and living in a culture where rest is not valued.

So often with my clients I will talk to them about what they do to reset or recharge after finishing a hard project or at the end of the day. We might chat about what they do to restore at the end of the working week. However, the notion of rest itself is seldom part of workplace discussions.

The notion of rest itself is seldom part of workplace discussions.

In this podcast, they considered: “What if you spent a full seventh of your life operating at a different speed of time?”

And what really stopped me in my tracks (because, let’s face it, I was listening to this podcast while doing something else) was: “How would this impact on the quality of interactions with others?”

So many of my conversations in workplaces involve instances where things have gone wrong. Maybe from a project point of view, but more often from a cultural or people point of view because people have reacted and not responded to events in the workplace. We’ve all been there and we have seen this happen – a sharp comment or perhaps a stinging email.

Changing Speed

When I chat to people afterward and ask, “How did you think that would end up?” inevitably, they know that their actions were only going to lead to them landing in hot water but they describe feeling like they were not able to stop. This begs the question – would these workplace interactions be different if we had some practice operating at a different speed?

Is it because we don’t rest? We don’t practice pausing or stopping? Is it a learned skill like everything else, where we need to practice it to get better at it? So, when we have a routine, rhythm, ritual built into our life that acts as a reminder for us to rest regularly, we actually get better at stopping or perhaps pausing when we need to? For example, in our working lives, when we need to be able to stop or pause before we act to prevent things from blowing up.

I think if you just change one life, you are making a difference.

I want to emphasize the word rest here as opposed to relax. We all say to each other, “Did you have a relaxing weekend or holiday?” But how often do we ask, “Did you have a good rest over the weekend? or “Was your holiday restful?” Where does rest fit into our busy lives?

Where is our permission to stop and rest? More importantly, do we even know how to? In my MAGIC Framework, we talk about the ‘Ground Rules’ that help us to keep upright in a world that often feels topsy-turvy. Perhaps in your workplace you can open up the conversation and get people to set some ground rules for themselves that incorporate rest into their lives?

I recently did this with a group of people who work in a very challenging area. I was interested in how eager they were to unpack what real rest looked like for them, clearly differentiating between what this means as a truly restorative practice rather than a quick fix. I was also surprised at how people were able to easily identify what it meant for them but also recognized that these practices were not part of the regular routines or rhythms.

Learning to Rest

Is this a conversation you could have with your team? Allow people to sit with this as a viable option. We know we have to name things before we can make them happen. Perhaps instead of that resilience workshop you have planned you could have a workshop about how you can prioritize resting?

There are going to be lots of people at your workplace who are going to resist this, because it is such a foreign concept to most people in a world where being busy is valued, but like most workshops I run, I think if you just change one life, you are making a difference.

Prioritizing rest could significantly improve the quality of interactions.

For those skeptical of such discussions, think about the impact on interpersonal dynamics. As Klein and Shulevitz discussed in the podcast, prioritizing rest could significantly improve the quality of interactions. This might be something that you see as valuable for your workplace.

We know that 50 percent of a manager’s time is spent dealing with conflict. So rather than get the mediators in after things have gone south, perhaps you can get on the front foot and get your people to set some ground rules that incorporate rest into their lives.

From this place, they might be more capable of responding rather than reacting to workplace dynamics. We are all wanting work to work differently, to work again, and this might be the change you need.

Sharon Darmody

Contributor Collective Member

Sharon Darmody is an occupational and organizational therapist and coach, author and Co-Founder of Strive Occupational Rehabilitation. She has served on the Australian Rehabilitation Providers Association and is widely respected in the industry as she brings over 25 years of experience. Her new book, ‘Work your MAGIC’, is designed for leaders at all levels to help teams and individuals rediscover what makes work, work again. Find out more at https://www.sharondarmody.com/

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