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Taking back the controls….

I came across a very good example of power of positive control recently when a friend of mine based his Psychology thesis on the subject matter of individuals with life-threatening illnesses who had decided to either supplement or replace their conventional medical treatments with holistic therapies. One US woman had used holistic therapies in the past to sort out medical issues with her kids, so when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer, she wanted to use complimentary therapies to supplement the standard medical treatments her doctors were providing. For her, it was the logical step forward. However, her doctors were a bit shocked that not only did she want to implement these holistic therapies in her cancer treatment but she actually wanted to be a participating member in her treatment and not just a passive recipient of it. Needless to say, she achieved what she set out to do and survived to tell the tale but not enough can be said about the effect her positive thinking and proactivity had on her survival.

Being in the driver’s seat in any aspect of our lives can be a liberating experience, but what about at work where we spend the lion’s share of our days? For most of us, work is not a choice, it’s a necessity in order to earn the money we need to run our lives. Work is where we have to be and where we do things that we’re told to do by our employers – surely one can never be ‘in control’ in such paid servitude – or can we? What if work was awesome? That was the title of a Guardian article in December 2014* that a friend put me onto and it was indeed an eye-opener. (Link attached below)

Employee sickness is incredibly costly to any business. Published figures in 2014 stated that in the UK alone 131 million days were lost due to staff sickness, with more days lost to back, neck and muscle pain than any other cause** (another reason to massage regularly with your Kneader!), so keeping staff healthy is good business. Increasingly, companies are focussing on the holistic body and mind wellness of employees by providing in-house exercise, nutrition, meditation, massage, medical care etc. But there is more.

There has been a gradual shift in corporate thinking away from the traditional autocrat ‘carrot and stick’ approach and towards employers involving employees in the running of their own jobs, i.e. structuring days to have a basic amount of hours for employer-dictated tasks and then leaving the rest of the day for whatever the employee thinks worthwhile, which can include leaving when the day’s tasks are done (even if that’s before 5pm). It all started in the fluid atmosphere of Silicone Valley and was so successful that all sorts of statistics, articles, books and seminars have sprung up supporting such forward thinking – Daniel Pink’s ‘Drive’, which is about the psychology of what motivates us, being one such business best-seller.

Giving employees more control means that they feel more involved and valued and this results in higher rates of productivity, cohesion, commitment and staff wellness than ever before. Removing the regimented aspects of traditional 9-5 jobs also breaks down the barriers of ‘work’ vs ‘life’, which is a brave new world indeed. But we must remind ourselves that there is a difference and make a concerted effort to ‘unplug’ ourselves from the work-day grid when we are not in the office.

The Evening Standard recently had an article on this very thing in which Adrianna Huffington, the founder of the highly successful ‘The Huffington Post’ talked about how, after a health scare in 2007 in which she passed out in her office from exhaustion, she had to learn to truly ‘lean out’ and deal with her burnout. The result was her writing a book called ‘Thrive’, which addresses the dangers of one’s office life and personal life having no division. Technology today means that our office can follow us everywhere in the form of our smart phones and Adrianna is advocating severing the lines of 24-hour technology and reclaiming your life through mindfulness and healthy living. Her very sensible top tips for this are not a million miles off the ones I suggested in my recent ‘It’s all in your mind’ blog and they are:

  • sleep more
  • add 5 minutes of meditation to your day
  • let go of something that you no longer need
  • start a gratitude list
  • have a regular time at night when you turn off your devices (and no devices in the bedroom)
  • focus on the rising and falling of your breath for 10 seconds
  • pick an image that ignites joy in you
  • forgive yourself
  • read more for pleasure
  • don’t be afraid of failure

It’s a brave new world and a proper balance needs to be found – is it combine work with life for more fluidity or maintain even stricter boundaries between the two? It’s a tough call but, either way, more and more we, as individuals, will be in that driver’s seat and in control.

Be well and be happy….and massage more because it feels great AND it’s good for you!

* http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/dec/22/what-if-work-was-awesome

** Sickness Absence in the Labour Market, February 2014, Office for National Statistics