How urgency culture is impacting your health (and what to do about it)

As ‘Urgency culture’ becomes increasingly prevalent in our workplace, it’s not only impacting our stress levels and mental health, but it is having an impact on our ability to look after our physical health too. Here’s why…

Have you heard of ‘urgency culture’ at work? It became popular as a buzzword about year after the pandemic-induced mass migration to remote working.

Cast your mind back to when you worked in an office full time (side note: does that seem a long time ago?) Can you remember what happened at 5pm? Your colleagues started to filter out the office and head home. If you got a call from your boss after you had left the office, chances are it was for something business-critical and, if wasn’t dealt with, something was about to implode.

Now, in the work-from-home environment, we don’t have that same cut off, and as remote work is increasingly global in nature, we’re more likely to deal with colleagues around the world in different time zones. There’s an expectation that we’re always available, whenever needed.

Along with it, many people are reporting they are working longer hours now than when they worked in the office. Without a commute home, there’s not a natural cut-off time.

But urgency culture goes beyond the ‘always on’ expectation – it’s also an expectation that you will always respond. Do you notice yourself feeling pressured to reply to emails quickly? Do you get a message from your boss and you find yourself saying “sure, I’ll do that now” instead of recognizing that you have 10 other tasks that more urgent, business critical priorities than the one your boss just asked you to do?  

Layer on top of that: side hustle culture. In one survey, 43% of full time workers in the US said they had a side hustle*. Think about how wild that is – that’s almost half! For so many of you, any time you’re not at work in the day, you’re working on your side hustle, and of course by nature any start-up environment is pretty likely to be quite demanding too.

Is it any wonder we’re exhausted from constantly running from one task to the next all day and then all evening and weekend too?

This means we are spending more of our waking hours working at speed and under pressure, and even when we have down time, we aren’t using it to restore.

For many people, taking an hour to practice yoga is a way to decompress and unwind, but by going into the yoga practice with a sense of rushing, we are limiting the benefits we can gain from it.

Yoga and breathwork for me is all about slowing down and staying present. Think about what your practice would be like if you start the practice with the intention of getting it done quickly. If you want to check the box – tick! – so you can get back to other tasks, that intention permeates throughout your whole practice. It becomes rushed, tiring, and ultimately not restorative to your energy levels, which is the whole point!

6 ways that Urgency Culture is impacting your health

Here’s some other ways that urgency culture impacts your health – do any of these sound familiar to you?

  1. You allow the minimum possible time to rush to and from your yoga class
  2. You find yourself skipping savasana (relaxation at the end of class) so you can get on with your day faster
  3. You spend money on quick fixes – instead of doing the work to address the imbalances in your body, you buy gadgets and gizmos that claim to fix you up
  4. You book classes and every week cancel them at the last-minute when more work comes up
  5. You allow health issues to continue unaddressed instead of taking the time to book in to see a specialist like your doctor or a physical therapist
  6. You prioritise the most time-efficient forms of exercise instead of what is going to support your health and wellbeing most appropriately 

There are also many more subtle ways that have a mindset rooted in urgency culture can impact your health, particularly in yoga. In yoga, your mental focus can impact the level of muscle activation you feel, and the awareness of where your body is in space (called proprioception).

So, what's the solution?

1. Set boundaries on your time

If your working hours are 9am-5pm, set an alarm at 5pm and start to make it your default behaviour to log out at that time. I know that can be scary, especially if you’ve had a day of calls where you haven’t had chance to mark anything off your to do list! But when you start implementing this boundary, you start to make more efficient use of your time and question why you are sat on a call that could have been an email!

2. Re-create a commute

Add in a gap between the end of your workday and your evening. Even if you only need to walk from your desk to your sofa, go for a walk around the block, or if it’s a Friday, join me for an Instagram live yoga flow to help you switch off from your week (@alittleyogaspace)

3. Set parameters around your side hustle too

Remember that burnout is the fastest way to end a start-up before it’s begun! I learned a concept from Amy Porterfield on a training recently called “Tiger time”. She recommends that each week you set a period of time for your creative work and guard it like a tiger guards her cubs. Make sure the time you spend on your side hustle counts, and then give yourself a break!

4. Prioritise meditation

Meditation is one of the most powerful ways to create more mental space. Carving out 10 minutes as part of your daily routine is achievable for even the busiest people! Very quickly, you will start to see your thoughts calm, your perspective shift, and what I like to call ‘space’ appears. Space is the little gaps of stillness in your mind, it’s a place where inspiration, ideas and opportunity appear. The space we create in the mind is space for possibility and creativity – and it’s not possible without first clearing out some of the ‘junk’. A little like a mental declutter, if you will!

If you want to get started with meditation, I have a full guide you can download for free. You get a free audio recording that you can save to your phone and listen on the go, plus a PDF guide with answers to all of the most commonly asked questions that come up when you start meditating.

*”43% of full-time workers say they have a side hustle” source: here

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