Don’t Ignore: Structured Rest

Are you still feeling that ‘new year’ strategic freshness? Or has it well and truly worn off now?

Either way, there’s something I want you to keep front of mind as you make plans for the upcoming quarter and year – and that’s 4 simple letters: R E S T.

One of the most common challenges for my clients in 2022 was staff burnout. The combination of a COVID hangover and a busy year led to high turnover, low buy-in and a general feeling of “We’re just so over this!”.

Deep down, we all know that rest is important, but between ‘hustle culture’ and the glamourisation of work – it’s so easy to feel like if we’re not sprinting all the time then we’re falling behind. Or as my current gym-jam puts it:

“No sleep, no rest
If that’s what it takes to be the best
No sleep, no rest
Must stay driven, I can’t relent”

-Looking Down the Barrel of Today – – Hatebreed.

While we’re talking about the gym, any gym-goer worth their protein powder knows that muscles are built through the combination of pushing iron and Zzzz’s.

Man sleeping on the gym floor.

“EAT. SLEEP. TRAIN. REPEAT” is the mantra. You micro-tear the muscle by putting it under load, then you rest to let it repair bigger and better.

However, it’s not just our muscles that grow, repair and improve while we rest.

It’s also our brains.

The neuroscience has been pouring in over the last 5-10 years. Our ability to learn, adapt & focus, as well as remember and regulate emotion are all highly dependent on our ability to sleep and rest.

But rest doesn’t create change alone!

It’s the combination of dedicated work with a healthy amount of rest that ‘completes the cycle’. Biological change is made through periods of active work, then active rest.

Now, of course, our organisations aren’t biological creatures. But they are full of people who are. So change leader – here’s your first challenge for the year:

If we assume that true change requires both conscious activity and conscious rest, what does that mean for your own change programs?

How can you proactively build in rest for your teams, staff and processes?

Despite its many flaws, this is something that the Scaled Agile Framework for Enterprises (SAFE) builds in rather well – after 3-4 periods of hard work, they have a dedicated period for reflection, rework, and fortification.

It doesn’t have to be complex (you probably don’t need fancy sleep pods), but it seems that rest does have to be there. Plus – as an added bonus, you may well find your staff happier, more connected, and more effective.