Highly sensitives and the workplace

I am highly-sensitive.

If you’re reading this, you may be too.  Welcome!

I’m not sure how much you know about the topic of high-sensitivity. I am still learning more about it each day, but it was a huge relief to me the first time I heard this was real.  It’s taken me many years to believe it is true, to accept it as one of my traits, to stop trying to change it and now to even love it.  It is my superpower.

As I continue to learn more about high sensitivity, I will share it with you.  For now, I can tell you it is a normal trait, found in 15 to 20% of the population (*) with high sensitivity to the sights, sounds, emotional cues, and other stimuli around us (**).   According to Dr. Elaine Aron, research shows our brains function a little differently than others by reflecting on information more deeply (*).

For me, this means I get drained by multi-tasking and have never been great at it.  It means open plan offices feel more airy than cubicles, but at the same time having so many others working around me with the accompanying smells of food, telephone conversations, good and bad moods etcetera, can be endlessly distracting and exhausting.  Long commutes in packed train or underground carriages are overwhelming. 

I am aware these environments can be a source of irritation to many people, but for highly-sensitive persons (HSP) they are a greater source of distress than those who are not highly sensitive.  Does this sound like you?  To confirm if you are an HSP, Dr. Elaine Aron has a self-test you can do here.

Being an HSP also means that I see things others may not see.  I feel things others may not feel.  Navigating life this way doesn’t make me weak, it shows strength.  However, I no longer put myself in places and situations that will be too challenging to my sensitivity unless I have a very good reason to do so.  If I do, I will take care of myself before, during and after.  I am tired of pretending I am like everyone else.

You see, after many years of working in busy offices and coming home completely wiped out, I have made it a priority to honour my sensitivity.

·         I now work from home and plan my schedule with moments of quiet time

·         I take breaks to walk my dog and get away from my computer during the day

·         I only visit very crowded places for short periods of time and avoid them as much as possible

I know not everyone may have the opportunity to work in this way, but if this all resonates with you, what can you do to soften your work environment?  Wearing headphones in open plan offices and at airports, negotiating travel time to avoid rush hour, finding the quietest place in the office to work, taking short breaks in nearby open spaces and avoiding unnecessary meetings are some measures which helped me.

The truth is, if your work environment is too harsh for your temperament, it may be time to consider finding a new place of work, one where you feel more comfortable and your sensitivity is not as challenged, maybe even celebrated!

Work is where you spend most of your days after all and how you feel at work will have an impact on your wellbeing.  So if you are an HSP:

·         Have you been mindful about choosing your current work environment? 

·         Do you know what your ideal work environment looks like?

·         If so, are you staying true to the ideal work environment for you?

·         And if not, how can you begin to change this?

As an HSP, I can help.  Book a complimentary call with me to find or create the best work environment for you here.

*Elaine Aron (https://hsperson.com/)


Photo by Matthieu Joannon from Unsplash