The average person at work is relentlessly busy. You’ve heard this line before: the modern and interconnected world means we can never switch off, meaning we’re constantly doing something, and it is slowly killing us. It’s the fashionable way of running a business and behaving at work, and it is called hurry sickness. But guess what? The truth is, you need to slow down to get more done in the workplace.
What gibberish is this you ask? How can I get more done by doing less?
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Let’s deep dive into what I mean by Hurry Sickness
Bruce Daisley, in his book “The Joy of Work” (affiliate link), describes an example of the lift at work. He asks us not to reach for the “close door” button after selecting our destination. He also asks us not to look at our phones. Instead, he suggests for us to just wait, patiently, for the doors to close in their own good time.
How uncomfortable would that make you feel? The thought of doing nothing? It is natural for it to feel uncomfortable because it is not what you would normally do. Typically, as soon as the lift arrives, you jump in it and hit your floor button, followed immediately by the close door button. Once the lift arrives, and the doors don’t open fast enough for your hurried state, you find yourself hitting the call button again just so everyone knows how busy you are.
Often though, just like with the pedestrian crossings in downtown New York City during peak times, the close door buttons don’t do anything. They play a nice little sound, a placebo, to act as an appeasement to our aggravating need to get something done. Daisley refers to this as hurry sickness in action, a result of the systemic overstimulation in our lives causing uneasiness and restlessness within us when we aren’t getting something done.
The anxiety caused by this hurry sickness is very real. In the UK, half of all time off is connected to work-stress-related illnesses. This is a massive problem for not only the individual worker’s health but the health of the business they work for too. Hurry sickness is making us ill and it is making the companies we work for ill too.
How to counter Hurry Sickness
If you found yourself engaging with this topic, you might already have a sense that something needs to be done to stop the constant feelings mentioned above. That would be through the practice of mindfulness. This is essentially what Daisley asks us to do in the lift example above. To pause, clear our mind, and wait.
There are a few ways I would recommend to counter hurry sickness:
By practising mindfulness at work we can create mental space. With this newfound mental space, we can focus more and get our work done to a high standard. Mindfulness has a plethora of benefits, including stress reduction, reduced rumination, better memory, improved focus, and a reduction in the likelihood you’ll react emotionally to bad situations. Some studies point to other benefits such as enhanced self-insight and an improved immune system, among many, many others.
Mindfulness can be introduced to your workplace on an individual level – by practising mindfulness in our everyday lives, carrying out yoga sessions, and of course by performing mindfulness meditation. It can also be introduced into the workplace by the company itself. Various wellness programs can be introduced such as healthier food during meetings, wellness speakers, and financial education classes. Don’t just wait for your company to enact these, however. Make sure you are always suggesting new ways the company you work for can improve the well-being of its employees. If they need convincing, just tell them about all the sick days they can avoid!
Realisation and optimising workloads
I think the best way to counter hurry sickness is the realisation that constantly being busy does not equate to achieving more. Take this to heart and consider what you are doing, the importance of it, and the impact it has. If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing right. But what if the job isn’t worth doing? How many follow up emails do you need to send? Do you need that catch-up with a colleague right now or can you do it later in the week and bundle several topics together?
A big takeaway is that you shouldn’t see the gaps in your diary – or other people’s diaries – like the time when you aren’t working. Time spent not doing anything but reflecting can be beneficial. This brings me nicely on to our next point.
Creativity and Innovation
There are many ways we can drive efficiencies in our work weeks, not only free up time but to allow us to be creative. That’s right, taking time to do nothing and reflect boosts creativity! Creativity leads to new ways of thinking and new ways of tackling your work. Innovation is something that the majority of companies love. It leads to cheaper and faster ways of doing the same thing that took ages before and 3 people to complete. Being creative and innovative at work also makes us feel more accomplished. You can come home with a sense of accomplishment knowing you have done truly good work which is different from your standard fare.
Always be on the lookout to drive new efficiencies at work to save yourself and your team time. This will more often than not take the form of technology adoption. In an recent example I can give from my working life, we started to use the Microsoft Office built in features to send many personalised emails at once instead of copying and pasting them a hundred or more time. We literally saved hours every week.
You might never have heard of hurry sickness before this post, but now you know how serious it is. If you want to reduce the stress you feel at work then try to follow the above steps and see if you benefit like I think you will. Slow down to get more down and make this mindful approach the new fashionable way to do business. Have you already taken such an approach in the workplace? Do you readily feel the effects of hurry sickness? Let us know in the comments below and help us and others get a better understanding of the condition.
Don’t forget to check out “The Joy of Work” by Bruce Daisley (affiliate link) for many more great tips to improve your working situation and start to enjoy your job again!
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