Interview with Duncan Young
Imagine for a moment you’ve had an ideal day at work. Would it be brimming with positivity, vitality and meaning? Perhaps you feel good about what you’ve accomplished, avoided niggling distractions, genuinely connected with others, and navigated difficult conversations and problems with ease. How would your ideal day be?
Let’s face it, despite the growing body of research into how looking after your wellbeing can boost your engagement, productivity and happiness at work, the reality is most workplaces can make it hard to have your ideal day very consistently. But what if small ideal moments done often could improve your wellbeing?
“We all want to feel positive and enjoy our time at work,” explained Duncan Young, the head of Workplace Health and Wellbeing at Lendlease’s new global head office, when I interviewed him recently. “However, it’s impossible to avoid stressors in your workplace, so rather than trying to avoid these you need to have strategies that can help get your wellbeing back on track throughout your day.”
When it comes to navigating stress in the workplace Duncan suggested it’s important to get curious about the different types of stresses you’re experiencing and what’s causing them. For example, eustress happens when you feel a rush of excitement, joy or positive anticipation, it might be from implementing a new project, coming up with new ideas, or planning a launch of a new product. Whereas you can feel distress when you’re faced with things you have less control over, such as tight deadlines and feeling overworked and under-acknowledged.
In the short term both types of stress can improve your concentration, alertness and motivation to get things done. But distress, and sometimes even too much of the positive eustress, can leave you feeling exhausted and depleted over time.
Wearing monitoring devices like Firstbeat – as the Lend Lease leaders do in Duncan’s wellbeing programs – can be a powerful data source to help you understand how your small daily choices impact your levels of energy and your ability to recover from stress. Then with the data on hand you can start to construct more ideal wellbeing moments in your day at work.
So what might these look like?
Duncan suggests an ideal day would enable you to balance the stress you experience with thirty percent renewal time. For example, for most of us, this renewal could include seven to nine hours of sleep, thirty minutes of light exercise, a healthy breakfast, taking the stairs whenever you can, working in one hour bursts and then taking a short break, taking thirty minutes for lunch, having standing or walking meetings whenever you can, breathing deeply as you arrive home, and unplugging from technology by 10pm before you start your bedtime routine.
By making easy incremental changes in your day, you’ll be much more likely to find ways to fit them into any busy and demanding schedule, and over time these can add up to make a big difference. And by sharing your strategies with others, and listening to theirs, you’ll be more successful in trying and using new techniques.
“It’s important to remember, that no matter how well you plan or visualize your day not every day is going to be ideal,” advised Duncan. “So show yourself some kindness and self-compassion when things don't always work out the way you want them to.”
What are some of the most effective ways Lend Lease’s leaders have found to create these incremental wellbeing changes within their busy schedules?
Duncan shared three of their most popular activities for rejuvenation and renewal that you can incorporate into your own day as well. They include:
- Building your restoration and recovery asset - a good night's sleep is essential for setting yourself up well for the next day. You’ll be more likely to make better decisions, be easier to be around, move more, and make better food choices. Establish a bedtime routine that puts a good break between your waking time and sleeping time. Turn off your blue light devices – such as your mobile phone or iPad – at least half an hour before heading to bed, as these are a melatonin suppressor, and therefore can prevent a good night’s sleep. Do something to relax and quieten your active mind, such as reading a book, some yoga stretches, or meditation. And try to avoid caffeine drinks after 3 pm each day.
- Sitting less, standing more and moving often – find ways to engineer more physical activity into your everyday. Aim for at least thirty minutes of moderate exercise and 10,000 steps in your overall day, and a target of 7,500 steps in your workplace. It could be taking the stairs, walking to a colleague’s desk rather than sending an email, going for a brisk walk at lunch time, or standing up whenever you’re on the phone. And try to do cardio workouts in the morning rather than after 6pm, as this can help improve your sleeping patterns.
- Lifting your spirits - find ways to do something that can give you a bit of lift during your day or calm you at night to restore your wellbeing. It might be sharing a funny joke with others, singing along to your favorite tune as you drive to work, playing with your pets, or doing some diaphragmatic breathing or mindfulness-based practices. And spending quality time with those you love can release the feel good hormone, oxytocin to give your positive emotions a boost.
What changes can you make to create more ideal moments of wellbeing in your day at work?