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Sustainable wellbeing: We need to shift guilt to pride

I recently attended a panel on sustainability in wellbeing with some great leaders in the industry. A point that stuck in my mind was, 'to have a sustainable wellbeing culture we need to shift our mindset from guilt to pride.'

We know the importance of looking after our wellbeing, yet often we feel guilty when looking after our own wellbeing during work hours. It stems from years of hearing that ‘time is money’ and seeing bad examples of leadership that penalise any behaviour that isn’t short of burnout. Things have shifted. But despite us encouraging our peers to look after their wellbeing or management encouraging you, these feelings of guilt still remain.

smiling employee in workplace, taking pride in her wellbeing

What does this look like? It can manifest in different ways. Such as hiding the wellbeing activities we do, marking our calendar with ‘meeting’ instead of ‘run’ or claiming you were on another call instead of on your daily digital detox walk or nap. It also manifests by us feeling guilty and profusely apologising when a preplanned wellbeing activity clashes with an unplanned work meeting.

Instead of feeling guilty for not being able to make a work meeting due to a scheduled wellbeing activity or your working hours; shift your mindset from apologising to one that states it proudly. For example, “I’m really sorry I have to spend time with my daughter *insert over-explanation* but I’ll *insert promise that stretches you even further to make up for it*” to “I will not be able to make this meeting because I am spending some time with my daughter. *or wellbeing priority*”

To shift the culture each and every one of us needs to lead by example. One area I still see a lot of guilt is with a workday nap. This is usually presented through hiding your nap or by not sharing it and pretending you were doing something else. What many of us don’t see is around 80% of people admit to napping at work, it is already the norm. Potentially the most consistent wellbeing activity any workforce does engage in. As science proves what thousands of years of human experience already taught us, workplace napping is slowly starting to shake its stigma. Napping during the day makes us more effective all-round.

Job Performance

A recent survey found that nappers were more likely to be in a managerial role and to have received a promotion in the last year compared to non-nappers. With 53% of nappers receiving promotions in the last year, compared to only 35% of non-nappers, and 55% of nappers worked in a managerial role, compared to 41% of non-nappers.

This is no surprise when you start to count the hundreds of research studies that have found napping improves productivity, creativity, interpersonal skills, mood, motivation, ability to deal with conflict, decision making… The list goes on.

We should not feel guilty for wanting to be better at our work, yet we hide it when we take a nap to improve our performance.


At least 18% of work-related incidents are due to fatigue. It is not hard to find many high profile disasters where fatigue is attributed as the main cause: the Space Challenger explosion, the Chernobyl disaster and the Exxon Valdez oil spill to name a few.

We hope your organisation never experiences a disaster like that. But what about the incidents in your organisation that are untrackable? A decision that throws the project off track for months, a bug that reduces subscription renewals, a tweet that gets the company ‘cancelled’, a trade executed with an extra 0 at the end or a clause misinterpreted on a contract. You get the idea.

The challenge with fatigue is that we are not able to judge how fatigued we actually are, often these incidents are put down to oversight and the true cost of fatigue is never fully understood.

We should not feel guilty for taking pride in our work, yet we hide it when we take a nap to improve the quality of our work.

Diversity and inclusion

These quotes from real people speak for themselves:

‘Since developing health issues it's very difficult to be out for the day without a place to nap’.

‘Having access to a Rest Space was an absolute Godsend! In my first trimester, I was naturally exhausted. Travelling and working long office hours was tough and I wasn’t ready to share my pregnancy; we had waited 6 years!’

‘I have been advocating for ‘rest breaks’ for people with ME since 2014’.

‘I really needed space to recollect myself in privacy, or make up for the sleep disruption I had during my menopause’.

Although most employees will really need a space to rest at least a few times in the year, there are employees where having a private space to rest in the work environment will transform their experience and allow them to truly be their best at work.

We should not feel guilty for managing our personal circumstances, yet we hide it when we take a nap to improve how we get on with the day.


Our body and mind are very active when we sleep, we go into repair mode. This makes napping great for physical and mental wellbeing. A cat nap reduces stress, boosts happiness hormones and reduces cortisol levels. A nap allows us to put some emotional distance from events and view them more objectively. A nap helps manage burnout and anxiety.

Napping helps our physical wellbeing too. Studies show that napping 3 times a week can reduce the likelihood of heart disease by up to 37%. It also helps improve our self-control and levels of ghrelin (hunger hormone). This can be hugely beneficial for employees trying to manage their health. We often reach for sugar and high processed foods when instead we could have a short nap.

It is important to note that napping isn’t a substitute for a good night's sleep. It can be a vital tool for employees that are not able to have a good night's sleep because of children, stress, working hours and the myriad of reasons beyond their control. For those with great nighttime sleep, it just makes them even better.

We should not feel guilty for managing our personal circumstances, yet we hide it when we take a nap to improve our wellbeing.

Some tips on how to frame your nap at work:

‘I was taking a nap, which is great because now I can really get stuck in this piece of work’

‘I will be having a nap then, we can schedule the meeting for after when my creativity will be on top form.’

‘Let me sleep on it and get back to you after my nap’

Now that you have a better understanding on how napping is benefiting you AND your company it is time to turn the guilt associated with napping to pride.

It's just bad business not to have a rest culture at work.


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