Workplace Intolerance

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One of the methods to determine a food intolerance works as follows: following a strict diet plan, the food or the suspected ingredient is completely avoided for 14 days. After 14 days, you are allowed to eat it again. If there is an intolerance, the body will massively react to it – usually even more intensely than before the diet.

This method came to my mind, when I saw the amount of articles currently reporting that many people find it difficult – if not impossible – to return to work after the long period in the home office or short-time working.
I see parallels with the test I just mentioned – which is why I call this phenomenon “workplace intolerance”.
In my opinion, similar things are happening in the body – perhaps less on an organic level but more on a psychological one – but nevertheless with the same degree of discomfort.
Some people were able to look at their work and working conditions with some distance for the first time in years due to the involuntary withdrawal from work.
Some realised that they didn’t want to do this any more – and quit their job.
Others enjoyed the fact that they finally had more time to live – and don’t want to give up this piece of quality of life.
And still others are simply afraid that they can no longer withstand the pressure of the hamster wheel – or simply don’t want to – now that they have been able to experience a somewhat decelerated life with more self-determination.
In short: after the hamster wheel withdrawal, the body reacts much more strongly to the prospect of getting back on there than it did during the time on the hamster wheel.

On a smaller scale, this phenomenon is also known as post-holiday syndrome. After a long holiday, many people find it difficult to “pick up speed” again at work. Some already have a stomach ache on the return journey at the thought of the first day at work.
Crazy… Shouldn’t it be much more the case that we are freshly recovered and happily looking forward to finally getting going again, meeting colleagues, making a difference?
Isn’t the absence of this anticipation perhaps a sign that there are more aspects of my work that make my stomach ache than those that fulfil me?
The strange advice from the experts is, “Just do it, it’ll go away after a few days.”
To me, that’s like telling someone who gets massive physical discomfort from eating bread rolls after 14 days of gluten withdrawal, “Just keep eating, your body will get used to it again.”

Sure, our body can get used to anything, even pain. But what signals am I sending myself if I ignore my needs to the point of damaging my health? (And where will that end up in the medium and long run?)
I am aware that it is easier to do without bread rolls than without the job that pays my bread rolls … I’m not talking about quitting right away. But I hope that we – both as employees and employers – will be better able to look behind the symptoms and perceive them as signposts for what needs to be changed in order to increase happiness and well-being = productivity.

If the described phenomenon of workplace intolerance sounds familiar to you, then it is best to approach the matter step by step. 1:

  1. Notice and take seriously that you have this feeling – it’s OK.
  2. Don’t get caught up in the “it’s-all-so-awful” drama, but think about what you want to do with the insight you can gain.
  3. What exactly is causing this feeling of intolerance in you? What are you afraid you might have to give up or do again?
  4. What changes would you like to see in your work/your workplace to make it more “compatible”?
  5. Who would it be helpful to talk to in order to express your concerns and needs?
  6. What could be your plan B if the intolerance remains?

Since experience shows that it can take a while to find a setting that brings joy instead of frustration, it is also helpful to look at the current situation from a more accepting perspective (e.g. “I promise to work on changing my situation. Until I find something better or know what I want, I’ll make the best of the current conditions.”).

Be kind to yourself, continue to explore which setting you feel most comfortable in – and can work most successfully in. Hopefully you have a few more years ahead of you – make sure they are happy ones.

You are precious – take care!