Practice, practice, practice

At the core of the Stress Less Take 5 is the concept of ‘practice’*.

I used to misunderstand the word: I thought it meant ‘do something you are bad at until you are good at it’. That’s one meaning, or at least part of one, but the other meanings are equally important.

Another meaning of the noun is ‘the application of an idea or method, as opposed to theories’. Too often in workplaces we talk about positive team culture, about listening better, using email less etc etc but then we go back to our desks and fall back into the same routines. It was important to me that we apply the ideas, not just talk about them.

Another meaning relates to habit: noun ‘the customary, habitual, or expected procedure or way of doing of something’ and verb ‘carry out or perform (a particular activity, method, or custom) habitually or regularly’. what we call ‘team culture’ is really a collection of habits…many of which are informal or unwritten. To really impact a team culture, managers need to be conscious of what habits the team have developed, and steer them towards habits that will generate the desired culture. If you say you want people to manage work/life balance but enable a culture where people are expected to respond to emails any time of the day or night, you’re never going to get the team culture you want.

I set the pilot at 3 months in the hope that time will help people can get past the initial awkwardness, and allow them to feel some benefits of practising behaviours that are known to reduce stress and improve well-being. I’m conscious that it took me longer than that to grasp some of these ideas and put them into action though.

I hope to build on the gratitude practice over time to encourage reflective practice that is more nuanced. Reflection can be a luxury in a modern office: we are very busy learning new technologies, juggling competing priorities and ‘doing more with less’, so we leap from task to task, ever forward, never a backward glance…which means the same issues arise, again and again, because we’ve failed to learn along the way.


*For the purposes of this post I’m going to use the US form, where noun and verb are spelled the same.

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