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Corporate hangover habits that are hard to kick when you start your own business

Corporate hangover habits that can be hard to break when you change career to start your own business

Do you have hangover habits from your corporate days or previous career?

I’m not talking about the hangovers that followed the one too many large glasses of wine in the John Lewis bar or local pub (which as it goes, seemed to happen pretty darn often back then…)

No, here I’m talking about the habits and conditioning that I picked up in my two decades of working in the corporate world.

These are habits that end up deeply ingrained, and when you start working for yourself you can find them hard to break.

I had a job even to recognise these habits when I first started my business.

Now of course, there are also a lot of good things that you take away from the experience, but I'm not here for that today...

Today I want to talk to you about my biggest 'hangover' from my corporate days, and what I've done to address it.

So here goes.

Wearing the presenteeism badge of honour

When I worked in Finance, lunch was grabbed on the go - it would be 20 mins between meetings to grab a sandwich, which was most often consumed 'Al Desko'.

It seemed like you were rewarded for the longer you could spend at your desk or in meetings, toiling away.

The later you worked at night, the better an employee you were. Presenteeism was worn like a badge of honour, even though it was never openly discussed.

And with senior managers setting the example - staying late and answering emails into the early hours - there was little you could do but follow suit if you wanted to get on.

Personal wellbeing was definitely at the bottom of the pile. It wasn't even a consideration.

I never really went in for this, but I felt the expectation fully on my shoulders.

I also felt the judgement that came with not falling into line.

After returning to work after having my son, I went down to reduced hours and then I’d really set my stall.

Presenteeism was a huge thing and you had to be seen to be working, doing or creating the whole time.
This pressure to work and be 'doing' all of the time (and be seen to be doing) was the biggest hangover I took away from my corporate days. It still creeps up on me occasionally.

On the plus side, getting a cup of tea definitely classed as a 'doing' activity and it was a welcome break to an otherwise unremarkable day that was filled with back to back meetings and spreadsheets, so we drank cups and cups of the stuff.

I was also a lovely opportunity for connection and to catch up with one another.

I still love the little lift that a good cup of tea brings to my day. A happy habit for me and not one that I’ve managed to kick.

Anyway, enough about tea...onto what I've done to recode some of my corporate conditioning to unleash my creativity!

Recoding my corporate hangover habits

Exercise and wellbeing is a non negotiable

When I worked full time in Finance, going to the gym was just another thing to add to the long list in an already 'hamster-wheel-esque' day.

In my early days of Corporate I NEVER exercised for the fun of it - I exercised purely to burn off the energy from those aforementioned large white wines and to keep my weight in check

And, I’m a bit ashamed to admit that...but it’s true.

There was no joy in the gym for me, just guilt for paying the membership and not having the time / energy to do it.

And because the work day was long, I did only what time allowed and built exercise into my routine, such as a twice daily speed walk from Vauxhall to Victoria.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to recognise the link between exercise and my energy, and how significantly it affects my overall outlook on life.

I've come to realise that exercise is the foundation for everything.

Now, I know this sounds so stupid, because it’s so bleeding obvious and people tell you all the time…but I don’t think you can truly believe it until you can actually feel it for yourself.

When exercise became less about fitting into my jeans, and more about filling up my energy cup, I didn't need any extra incentive to do it - and now I won’t compromise on it because it supports my business.

Taking the time to properly move your body should never feel like luxury - because you can’t create from an empty or unhappy tank ( or this is my experience, at least).

As I edge closer to peri-menopausal age, I know this one is going to become even more important - and I’m hoping to be on the front foot with this one.

So many traditional working practices seem so counterintuitive to all of the research on peak performance. I hope more employers are making this link and actively encouraging their people to take time out of their day to move - please tell me they are! But based on my husband's working habits, I’d say we still have a long way to go yet.

Which leads me nicely on to...

Honouring natural rhythms

When you work in a busy commercial environment, there is an expectation that you can just keep churning out work hour after hour and day after day. One things gets done and then it’s immediately on to the next with little or no breathing space between projects or tasks.

I’m not knocking this, it’s just the nature of working in an office where there’s more work than people. It’s a symptom.

When I set out working for myself, I naturally started working to this robotic pattern because it was all I’d ever known.

Do, Do, Do, then look up to see what’s next.

After a few particularly taxing projects though, I realised this way of working wasn’t necessarily the way to do my best work, so I needed to find a better way. To adapt.

The robot needed recoding.

Everything in nature ebbs and flows, just as the seasons, and so does your energy.

You will have a natural rhythm which is why you might feel completely zonked the day after a big outpouring of mental effort / creativity.

I had to fight against my corporate conditioning on this, but I’ve now learned to lean into the flow and take time to replenish with the ebb. Because being in output only mode when faced with an ebb is like swimming upstream.

Honouring your rhythm helps you to capitalise on the creative inspiration when it comes calling for you.

And, most importantly perhaps - I’ve learned not to feel guilty about taking some down time.

...because the rest is also the work.

That’s all for this post, I hope you’ve found it interesting and I’d love to know if anything resonates with you. Do you have any corporate hangover habits of your own?

And with all of that in mind, I’m off for a swim!

With heart,


I'm a brand designer, photographer and Wix website specialist based in Dorset

About Lucy:

I'm a brand designer, photographer and Wix website designer based in the UK. I help wellness & creative businesses build their brand and online presence through photography and web, brand & human design, so that they can create positive ripples in the world.

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