In the Disney version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, we see a septet of little people who sing as they go to work. It quickly becomes apparent that here is a group of people that is happy to be going to work. So happy, in fact, that they sing a song on the way there. I’m sure you’ve heard it before: “Hi-ho. Hi-ho. It’s off to work we go.” Their sense of enthusiasm is almost catchy. But what happens when you go off to work and you haven’t received enough rest the night before? Imagine yourself in the following hypothetical scenario….
Your alarm goes off Monday morning. After having stayed awake too late the night before, you sigh and slam the snooze button. After drifting back to sleep you awake 15 minutes later in a panic, realizing that you need to be going and aren’t going to make it to work on time unless you move quickly. You manage to get out the door on schedule, but as you drive to work you’re still Sleepy and have to fight to stay awake. Reassuringly, you tell yourself that if you can just make it to work, then you can make yourself a cup of coffee and all will be well.
After arriving at work, you discover that no one has started the pot of coffee, and since your company doesn’t believe in welcoming the 21st century by purchasing the best thing since sliced bread, a Keurig machine, you start opening cupboard doors in a frenzy, anxious for a shot of caffeine to keep you going. But as you stand there in disbelief, with all the kitchen cupboards staring wide open back at you, you begin to feel Grumpy. Who forgot to purchase more coffee beans with the coffee fund?!? As you stand there, fuming, in walks Sue, the administrative assistant, with a bouquet of tulips and Queen Anne’s lace, blathering on about how it’s Jill’s niece’s high school graduation and wouldn’t this look nice in Jill’s office. Seriously? you think to your self, I couldn’t care less about her niece’s graduation, and as you open your mouth to gripe about the current coffee fiasco you feel a tickle forming in the back of your nose. With dread, you realize that in your rush to make it out of the house you forgot to take the allergy medication your Doc prescribed for you and now you’re becoming Sneezy.
But rather than take responsibility for your current predicament and realize that if only you had bothered to get enough rest, you would have remembered to take your allergy medication during the peak of pollen season and had time enough to drink your cup of Joe. But no. Now you are finger-pointin’, eyeball-poppin’, steam-blowin’, one-leg hoppin’ MAD! As Sue goes on about how the bouquet reminds her of wallpaper she once saw in a Better Homes & Garden magazine, you somehow manage to take a few deep breaths (but not too deep because of the flowers) and navigate your way back to your office despite your tear-blurred vision. Once at your desk, you take a couple of anti-anxiety pills to help you calm down. Despite running late, being tired, going through caffeine withdrawals, and suffering from a flare-up of your allergies, within a few minutes you’re beginning to feel quite Happy.
You open your Outlook so you can check your emails and a reminder window pops up with it’s cheery jingle. It informs you of your 09:00 conference meeting with the staff. This is the same conference meeting where you are expected to brief the staff on the advantages of cloud commuting…er, wait, that’s not right. It’s cloud computing. Gosh, why can’t I think? Must have taken one too many of those pills, you realize with a sense of detachment. Oh well, who cares if you’re acting Dopey? You quickly link a video from your saved files that you plan to show at the beginning of your presentation to start off on a light note, and then head down the hall.
As everyone settles into their chairs in the conference room, you open your slideshow presentation. Clicking on the link, you begin to play the video. In the darkened conference room, feeling a lack of sleep and the effect of the pills, all you want most is to lay your head down and rest. But you’re jolted out of your reverie by the sound of snickering and barely contained laughter. Your boss’s face is contorting from a mixture of anger and the attempt to hide his amusement. You realize something’s not right. And as you look at the screen, you realize in abject horror that you linked to the wrong video. Instead of a video on cloud computing with fun, little drawings of clouds and geometric shapes to illustrate the concept, you see yourself in a reindeer costume at last year’s family Christmas party doing the Macarena. With your face as bright as Rudolph’s nose, now you’re just plain Bashful…
While the above scenario is a harmless story that I made up (and no, I have not done the Macarena in a reindeer costume), the sad truth is that a lack of sleep and an inability to focus may be the cause of some 274,000 accidents in the workplace each year. One study estimates that “insomnia is linked to about 7 percent of all costly workplace accidents and errors, and 24 percent of the overall cost of the mishaps overall [sic]. They estimated that the cost of the mishaps related to insomnia is $31.1 billion.” 1 You may not have insomnia, but sleep is critical to our overall well-being physically, mentally, and spiritually. Even the ancients were aware of this. For as the psalmist writes, “I will both lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, Lord, make me live in safety” (Psalm 4:8).
So the moral of the story is: Please, do yourself and your coworkers a favor and find some time to rest. After all, it may be the spiritual discipline you require most.
1 The HealthCast.com. “Study Links Insomnia to $31 Billion in U.S. Workplace Errors”. http://www.thehealthcast.com/general-health/study-links-insomnia-to-31-billion-in-u-s-workplace-errors/. Accessed 10 April 2013.