As I’ve detached myself from the corporate world (or at least, engage with it from my corporate wellness perspective), I’ve been able to look back and reflect on the many, many things I believe are wrong with the corporate world. Here’s are the five things that make me want to cry when I look back at the life I used to lead, that of corporate professionals. I've added in a few solutions as well, if any of these are resonating with you...
1. Poor Health
This is so easily seen in the gray, washed out faces of many of those in the corporate world. I can’t remember the last time (if ever) seeing a corporate professional with glowing skin, sparkling eyes and radiating a natural energy. Nowadays, people comment on this to me all the time.
What do I put this down to? Changing everything in 2-5 below.
Alcohol and cigarette abuse. The corporate world is a breeding ground for using alcohol and/or cigarettes as a counter to the high levels of stress. How to relax and switch off after a stressful day? Glass of wine. How to have a break from staring at your screen? Take a cigarette break.
These are coping mechanisms. And coping mechanisms are much needed for in today’s corporate world. However, we all know these are not healthy nor long term solutions, and they also feed into a spiral of all of the issues at 2-5 below.
In addition, attitudes to exercise seem to fall into two camps (mainly):
No exercise at all (and an associated guilt complex)
HIIT workouts or spin classes, with no general movement during the day
Our bodies weren’t designed to be sedentary for 23 hours of the day then suddenly blasted at full capacity for 1 hour. One hour of exercise will not undo twelve hours of sitting at a desk. It’s the small steps (literally) incorporated into day to day life that make the difference.
Cut down on alcohol slowly, in a way that makes it sustainable.
Find non-alcoholic ways to socialise - go to an exercise class, a talk, an art gallery.
Walk as much as possible.
Wiggle around in your chair as much as possible
2. Lack of Sleep
This is one of the most commonly complained about issues. By all means carry on trying to survive on four hours sleep - maybe you are part of the 1-2% of the population who can do this (according to Dr Tara Swart).
The human body is not designed to survive on four - five hours sleep. Anyone who says otherwise is fuelled by caffeine and destined to have stroke by 55.
I blame long working hours and a need to “still have an evening” after work for this one. It’s very hard to switch off when you hit the pillow if you’ve been solving a complex issue over email 15 minutes early. It’s very tempting to stay up two hours later to at least say you’ve watched two episodes of Game of Thrones rather than worked your entire evening.
I know my attitude in London was: “if I’ve worked an twelve hour day, I’m damn well going to take another six to enjoy myself with friends” (I've been in treatment for a dysfunctional liver for six months now...).
Start making sleep a priority. You’ll get more out of your day.
If you want time to yourself, take it in the morning before work.
Wind down slowly before bed - give yourself a full hour of switching off.
Dim your lights, play calming music, drink camomile, light candles, read a book.
3. Poor Diet
I remember sitting in the office kitchen watching a partner (who I imagine is well on his way to an eventual heart attack) consume two thick cut bread sandwiches from Potbelly in no more than ten mouthfuls. I can still picture him forcing lumps of the stuff down his esophagus.
Really, is sending that email so important you’re not even going to take time to feed yourself properly?
Our bodies are designed to eat natural foods, at leisure, whilst interacting with others. Not highly processed, artificial food stuffed into mouths at our desks with no time to even chew it properly.
What’s more, the more the body becomes reliant on the highs and lows of sugar and carbohydrates, coffee and diet coke, the more it craves these. Every dip triggers the need for an instant sugar or caffeine hit to trigger another high.
A balanced, healthy diet, with proper time to sit, chew and notice what you’re eating will give you much more energy, consistently. You’ll be better at your job. You’ll have the energy to bond with people, to exercise and to do the things you love.
Avoid processed foods - there’s too many healthy options available now to find any excuse.
Take your own snacks into work - nuts, fruit, veg crudites.
Cut out sugar as much as you can. Start slowly.
Take a lunch break with friends or colleagues.
Cut out caffeine after 2pm.
4. Relationship Issues
One former colleague in London actually stated in her leaving speech that by leaving her job she hoped she would find time to finally find someone. She was 34 and most of her friends were married. Pass me a tissue, seriously.
It’s a pattern that seems to be occuring more and more often - a correlation between corporate professionals and people staying single for longer. I think there are a number of reasons for this (and you’ll need to catch me over a matcha latte (almond milk) to hear how an exit from the corporate world improved my love life).
As for those already in relationships, I see people prioritising work drinks with near strangers over going home and spending time with their loved ones. I’m not saying it’s conscious and I’m not saying there are no valid business development reasons for this. But it’s an interesting observation.
With all the talk about “quality time”, we’ve sacrificed “quantity time”. Can you really hone seven days of a relationship into a three hour date night once a week?! Does your child turn around and say “no worries about missing three hours of play time Mummy, that five minute story time was totally worth it”.
Notice your current patterns.
Cry a bit.
Shift your priorities and observe the results.
5. No time to do things you love
“But I don’t have time”. Time is our only completely controllable commodity. Time is the only thing we’re guaranteed in life. WE choose how you spend every minute of every day. If we "don’t have time", we’re simply not finding time for that thing.
Miraculously, people find time to stand in a Starbucks queue, scroll Instagram, or winge to a colleague for twenty minutes. Well that’s twenty minutes you could have spent reading, running, playing with your kids... or sleeping for that matter.
Changing my language from “I don’t have time” to “that is not my priority for that period of time” was a huge wake-up call for me. Despite working as a corporate lawyer, I managed to ride five times a week. Why? Because it became a priority. I said no to late nights, rearranged early morning meetings and got up at 6am.
Remember all the things you love and how happy these make you.
Start scheduling small manageable chunks of these into your week.
Work out what you might need to cut down on to free up the time.
Why did I feel the need to write this?
Yes, this article is fairly hard hitting for me. And I'm not saying it applies across the board.
But it contains some very important messages that I believe are simply being ignored.
Ignored even when a colleague is admitted to hospital from work induced exhaustion. Ignored even when someone has put on 10kg. Ignored even when kids are adopting every attention seeking behaviour they can think of to get some time with their parents. Ignored even when people are having the same arguments with their spouses, week in, week out.
I’m putting this out as food for thought. If you disagree, I’d love to hear from you. But I’d remind you that the things that trigger the biggest reactions in us, are the things we resonate with the most.
If you’d like to start making some changes in YOUR life, contact me for a free initial consultation. No obligation, I’d simply love to hear from you.