An excerpt from Lauren Parsons book ‘Thriving Leaders Thriving Teams’.
To have great energy, the three most important fundamentals are (1) great nutrition, (2) energising movement and (3) sound sleep.
I often help leaders create a more energised workplace culture by focusing on these three things and the wide range of ways you can influence them. We still so many workplaces where people face the challenges of being:
- Poorly nourished.
- Less active.
- Lacking quality rest.
We’ve already looked at how to improve your nutrition culture in Part One and how to lift vitality in Part Two of this series. Now let’s look at how to improve your mood, memory and energy through deep restorative sleep.
LACKING QUALITY REST
“If we all slept enough, our healthcare burden would plummet, we would have better mental health and fewer suicides, our businesses would be more productive, global economies would be healthier, our roads would be safer, and our children would be smarter. Sleep is the best insurance policy you could ever wish for.” – Matthew Walker
Sleep isn’t just important. It’s essential. We often think of sleep as a dormant or inactive time, but the body is actually doing vital work while we sleep, setting us up for the day ahead. Remember that arriving at work without sufficient sleep is the equivalent of turning up drunk, or on drugs. If you have a workplace culture that negatively impacts on your staff’s sleep, then continues to drain them throughout the day, you’re in trouble.
The good news is, there are things you can do in terms of policies, procedures, rituals and habits, that can positively influence something even as personal as someone’s sleep quality. There are also great ways to revitalise during the day by building in intentional rest. Micro moments of pause, fun and laughter, allowing your mind to wander, and ‘non-naps’ (where you recline and rest for a few minutes without sleep) all allow you to recharge.
You may need to start by encouraging a paradigm shift, as most of us need to update our thinking when it comes to sleep and rest. Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less says, “Overwork is the new normal. Rest is something to do when the important things are done – but they are never done.” Deliberate rest is the true key to productivity, and will give us more energy, sharper ideas, and a better life.
It’s worth having everyone (including yourself) do a sleep audit and take action on the many variables that can improve sleep quality. Also, because your day sets up your night, you can encourage staff to practise habits that will directly improve their sleep (and therefore their performance) without them even knowing it.
HOW TO RECHARGE
IDEAS FOR LEADERS
- Make it easy for staff to implement the exercise suggestions given above. Staying active, especially during the early part of the day, promotes great sleep.
- Ensure staff have plenty of natural light in their workspace, or if not, that they get out in daylight at least once a day for a minimum of 10 minutes, ideally longer.
- Have outdoor meetings whenever possible.
- Have a rule that meetings run for 25 or 55 minutes, allowing a short break for those who have back-to-back meetings.
- Have a nap pod, nap room or quiet chill out space for people to rest and encourage recharging during the day.
- Provide quality decaffeinated coffee and caffeine-free herbal teas.
- Encourage staff to end the day by making a list of their top five priorities for the next day. This helps them switch off from work worries and creates a better transition to their down time.
- If your team work the same hours as each other have a team huddle for the last 10 minutes of the day. Have everyone to share a win from the day and their top focus for tomorrow.
- Be mindful of the timing of certain news. As a Managing Director once said to me, “No-one has the right to ruin someone’s weekend. Don’t send the bad news email on a Friday afternoon. Save it till Monday.”
- Make it clear how detrimental late-night working is and insist staff avoid emailing one another after a set time. (If flexible hours are important in your culture, set clear expectations that messages can be sent but shouldn’t expect a response until the other person’s normal hours.)
- Have staff disable their work email on their devices outside working hours so they can avoid the distraction.
IDEAS FOR INDIVIDUALS
- Take moments to build rest into your day. Give your brain a break. Do something fun and/or restorative.
- Revisit the Sleep Deep pillar from Chapter 7. (For your convenience, I’ve added those key actions here also.)
- Get black out curtains and sleep in a cool, comfortable environment.
- Set an alarm to wake and rise at the same time every day. If you’re tempted to stay up late ‘getting stuff done’, particularly on your computer, remind yourself you can do it first thing in the morning when you’ll be fresh and most productive.
- Get outdoors for at least 10 minutes between 11am-2pm (even on overcast days) and get daylight into the retina of your eyes.
- Turn off all overhead lights two to three hours before your sleep time. Invest in side lamps with low-brightness bulbs.
- Get your heart rate up during the day, but ideally avoid exercise within a few hours of bedtime.
- Avoid stimulants such as coffee, black or green tea or energy drinks, especially after midday.
- Avoid cigarettes and alcohol, which are also both stimulants.
- Remove all technology from your bedroom. If your phone is your alarm, plug it in on the far side of the room, or buy an alarm clock and charge your phone in the living room.
- Work out when you need to get to sleep (work back seven to nine hours from your wake-up time) and set a reminder alarm 30 minutes prior, reminding you to start winding down.
- Brainstorm your ideal pre-sleep routine. For example, dim the lights, bathe/shower, brush teeth, stretch, journal, read a book. Experiment to find what works best.
- Go to bed as soon as you begin to feel sleepy.
- If you wake during the night, avoid bright lights. Practise breathing and muscle relaxation techniques to get back to sleep.
- If that doesn’t work and you’re restless, get up and go into another room to do something relaxing with only soft lamplight. Once you feel sleepy again, repeat part of your pre-sleep routine then return to bed.
And if you’d like to improve your sleep quality and release stress and tension from your body, download this Progressive Muscle Relaxation Audio I’ve created for you.
Lauren Parsons is an award-winning Wellbeing Specialist with over 20 years’ experience, who helps leaders boost both staff wellbeing and productivity. Named both ‘Keynote Speaker of the Year’ and ‘Educator of the Year’ in 2023, she is a sought-after speaker, coach and consultant.
TEDx speaker, author of Thriving Leaders Thriving Teams, and Real Food Less Fuss, founder of the Snack on Exercise movement and host of the Thrive TV Show.Based in rural Manawatu with her husband, 3 children and a menagerie of animals, Lauren travels regularly and specialises in helping organisations create a positive, energised team culture, where people thrive. Get your complimentary copy of her eBook “5 Keys to a Positive, Energised, High-Performance Culture.”
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