It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint: Balancing, Strengthening, and Resting for Peak Performance

I am currently under a deadline for a book about a major healthcare client (more on that soon). During my research, I ran across data showing a trend toward higher burnout rates across various fields, including a staggering 90% burnout rate for primary care providers.

Given rising burnout and the adverse impact of burnout on employee health and productivity, leaders must set limits and help their teams do the same. Additionally, it’s essential to encourage re-creation (aka recreation).

Here are a few distinctions about rest and tips for leading an energized workforce:

Physical Rest

Physical rest is foundational to good health and effectual work output.

  • Encourage Regular Breaks: Implement scheduled breaks for people to relax or move around.

  • Promote Skills that Physically Revitalize: Offer stretching, yoga, Tai Chi, or breathing classes.

Sensory Rest

Reducing sensory input is critical in a world where stimuli bombard us.

  • Create Variable Workflows: Encourage team members to take quiet time during their day, especially after high-stress or high-volume periods.

  • Foster Quiet Zones: Designate quiet spaces where employees can go to escape the constant barrage of sensory input.

Emotional Rest

Serving others is honorable but can also be a source of emotional fatigue, especially for those who engage in high levels of interpersonal interaction.

  • Create Safe Spaces for Expression: Regularly check in with team members and provide forums where they can share their feelings and challenges without judgment.

  • Provide Access to Supportive Services: Offer employee assistance programs or other emotionally supportive services and encourage utilization.

Social Rest

Social interactions can either drain or recharge.

  • Assess Social Dynamics: Regularly review team dynamics and address toxic or “energy-zapping” behaviors.

  • Encourage Social Interactions: Facilitate voluntary team outings and informal gatherings to foster a cohesive culture.

Mental Rest

Clearing the mind is necessary for sustained concentration and preventing decision fatigue.

  • Promote Mindfulness Practices: Integrate short guided meditation or mindfulness sessions during the day.

  • Establish ‘No Interruption’ Zones: Set times during the workday when interruptions are minimized to allow for focused work sessions.

Spiritual Rest

Finding meaning and purpose in one’s work can significantly boost job satisfaction and personal fulfillment.

  • Support Volunteer Work: Encourage and organize group volunteer days or allow employees time off to pursue their volunteer interests.

  • Facilitate Reflective Practices: Whether through meditation sessions or providing resources for engaging in purpose-driven activity, help your team find meaning and fulfillment in their lives and work.

Creative Rest

Stimulating creativity and innovation involves stepping away from routine and allowing the mind to explore new territories.

  • Organize Cultural Outings: Arrange visits to museums, theaters, or creative workshops.

  • Encourage Creative Expression: Provide spaces or materials for creative activities like painting, writing, or building within the office.

For some, these suggestions may seem “touchy-feely” – what do you expect from a psychologist?

In truth, my highest-performing business clients incorporate elements of these rest dimensions into their workplace. Whether it’s nap rooms at Zappos or exercise offerings at Mercedes-Benz, leaders increasingly strive to counteract burnout by nurturing a balanced work environment that leads to sustained personal and professional success.

Related: It Isn’t “Small” Talk: How To Build Rapport With Customers and Team Members