After a particularly busy period, having spent weeks on end in other countries in Africa, I was emotionally and physically exhausted. The stress of facilitating culture change processes in large corporations, having to deal with the “sometimes hidden” agendas of others and sorting through the quagmire of the politics that seem to characterise the upper levels of management in big companies had started to wear me down – I was in need of a break. On top of this, the mental acuteness needed to understand and handle cultural nuances sensitively, coupled with industry-specific requirements, had begun to tire the brain and I was becoming less productive, more lethargic and emotionally vulnerable. A holiday had now become a necessity – a hot-water spring mountain resort became a suitable location and provided a context for the family to unwind and relax.
Rest and relaxation is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Rest is necessary to allow stress to subside. Most people experience stress as part of their respective work and family responsibilities, perhaps in unhealthy doses at times. Facing the challenge of meeting tight deadlines, having to make critical decisions, dealing with complex family and other relational issues and even having to manage the complexities of household demands – all these stress-producing activities start taking their toll on our physical, mental and emotional well-being and start hindering our ability to perform at optimal levels, make necessary progress and achieve our goals. Small doses of stress can be good for us – motivates us to action, gets our minds thinking differently and helps us to start networking with key people to find the right solutions for whatever we are facing – but chronic stress reduces the body’s ability to resist infection, maintain vital functions and retards the brain’s ability to think rationally. Chronic stress can also lead to depression, anxiety and irritability. No-one really likes being around someone who is constantly depressed, so this, in turn, could lead to isolation and loneliness. Clearly, too much stress is unhealthy.
Planning times of rest into our lives, like a two week holiday for example, have the potential of arresting the stress cycles that often plague us. We emerge from a restful vacation ready to take on life and its issues again, having gained perspective on our problems and having had time to relax with family and friends.
Corporations have their parts to play in creating a healthy environment in which people can work, especially so, as too much stress reduces productivity, leads to people being continually on sick leave and heightens the possibility of friction in the workplace. Some ideas could include:
- The establishment of a wellness programme, perhaps with a wellness counsellor on call to consult with staff wanting to improve overall health, eating habits, relationships, fitness, etc.
- The encouragement of planned leave spaced evenly during the year and ensuring that leave is actually taken and not “saved”
- The creation of a small gymnasium and shower facility on the property to encourage exercise amongst all staff
- The establishment of a small crèche facility on site if many of the staff have small children – this gives parents “peace of mind” if the facility is well managed
- Ensuring that “staff to work that needs to be done” ratios are appropriate for the specific requirements of the industry, for the health of the staff and the on-going profitability of the company
Life is stressful – we all need rest and relaxation to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Making time for downtime is essential to energise body and mind and to give one emotional respite from the complexities of living in our rushed and demanding world. Company leadership should be assisting employees to make this a reality.