Shona's Headspace - The Rat Race

September 16, 2011

Shona's Headspace - The Rat Race

I had a meeting in Canary Wharf this morning.  It’s been a really sunny day today and the air has been really fresh.  But I can’t say the same for all the suited and booted folk walking with me off the tube.  I don’t want to paint everyone with the same brush of course, but there was a significant number of exhausted looking people around.  No amount of expensive aftershave, sharp tailoring and coffee cups clutched to lapels could take away the fact that a lot of people looked like they had just finished running a marathon…and it was 9am.

Office culture can be draining - so why do we ignore the signs of overwork?

So it got me thinking about the working culture in the 21st century, in particular, our attitude towards it.  Something seemed to happen, and I guess I noticed it in the 80’s, that kick started a generation into overdrive.  It was all about the power suits and power lunches.  It was all about the, ‘Sorry darling, I’ll be late tonight…again’, and it’s no surprise that ‘coffee on the go’ was born around about the same time.  I don’t think I would be out of place suggesting that in a number of offices, it has become a bit of a game of who can put in the most hours, who has the most stamina and who can keep on going without cracking! 

But this is absolutely fascinating if you think about the objective.  If the objective is to be the most productive, efficient, focussed and creative person at work, then this approach would seem to be completely at odds with the goal.  Take an Olympic athlete.  They would never dream of finishing a training session and then saying to the coach, ‘No come on, let’s keep on going, I’ll do another 10 miles!”.  Crazy talk.  They stop, they eat the right food, they get the right massage, they wrap up warm and they rest.  They give their bodies and mind a chance to recuperate, naturally reenergise and rest.  That’s what peak performance is all about.  Achieving a balance.

So I wonder why the attitude towards how to deliver peak performance seems to change when you move away from the training field to the city pavements?  Where are all the business athletes nurturing their most important asset – their mind?  I know many would say that there is not enough time in the day to take a break, what with everything that needs to get done.  But I would hazard a guess that as up to 46.9% of the day can be spent in mind wandering (Harvard), 10 minutes focusing on your breath and rebalancing should be a pretty viable option don’t you think?

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