More executives are giving up their cell phones and laptops and enrolling in survival courses to improve performance at work. Newly launched Spartan Survival says it has seen a sixfold third of bookings since the pandemic as company leaders seek a “reset of the mindset”.
More and more teams, many now working from home, are also “connecting” in classes specifically geared towards treating pandemic brain fatigue. The increase is recorded by Spartan Survivalwhich runs bushcraft and survival courses at locations in Cholmondeley, Cheshire.
They also oversee an elite course in a secret location in Scotland that offers challenges similar to those featured on survival TV programs loved by millions of viewers. Within a year, attendance at the Cheshire course has gone from 10 a month to 60 a month.
Almost a third of the participants are women and Spartan now offers courses for women only. The demand for elite training has also risen sharply. Leaders who take courses are put through their paces by accomplished elite military veterans who act as course instructors, passing on their insights and skills to participants, teaching various military techniques and survival skills along the way.
Ian Huntington, Spartan Survival co-founder and its chief instructor, commented that course participants would quickly find they could develop skills that they could transfer back into their daily work life.
He said: “Those who do business They often come to our classes with their heads full of things they need to do and tasks they feel they need to get done. But once they arrive, we make it clear that they need to take a break from all of this and instead encourage them to focus on just four things: shelter, fire, water and food. Many are reluctant to hand in their cell phones. And some look nervous as they set out to spend two or three days alone in the wilderness with no equipment, with the only task on their to-do list being survival.”
“But by the end of the course, they went through a total reset in their minds. Everyone who joined later reports how much it helps to improve their performance when they are back at work. Our courses are also very popular with groups of colleagues who are no longer based in the same place. It’s clear that the pandemic has transformed the work environment, and many companies now feel detached from working from home, although it has its pluses. But by taking a course, people can work side by side again in a challenging environment and it creates a stronger bond and team spirit.”
The surge in the number of businesspeople signing up for survival courses comes as experts warn that UK businesses have yet to reach the levels of employee fatigue caused by the pandemic. According to Gartner researchers, one of the most important consequences of the pandemic and the shift to remote working has been the impact on employees’ mental health and well-being. That’s what their research revealed British staff 62 percent more likely to feel an increase in their workday and that 42 percent now feel emotionally drained from their work. Staff are still struggling to recover from the burnout they have suffered from the events of the past two years.
Sir Cary Cooper, professor of organizational psychology and health at Manchester Business School, said the success of Spartan Survival underscores the importance of workers taking time out from the office.
He said: “We know in the UK that the main causes of long-term sick leave are stress, anxiety and depression. Not only in the UK but in most developed countries this is the main cause of long-term sick leave. People are under more pressure than ever, feeling more insecure at work, worried about the cost of living and so on.”
“Anything that helps people who are feeling this pressure to have some time away from the constant bombardment of technology like emails, zoom meetings will be very helpful. Having some contemplative time away from work can be very useful for putting things in perspective and re-energizing.”
One who has experienced the benefits of the course firsthand is Roy Shelton, Managing Director of leading UK technology company Connectus Group. Roy took one of Spartan’s elite courses and says it helped bring about a “transformational” change in his business performance.
He said: “I did the course because I needed a break from everyday business life and also from everyday life in general. I needed time to think about our next business moves, our next stages of growth, and how all seven companies I’m involved with could evolve and work together. Being there every day doesn’t leave much time for strategic thinking and planning. I also needed time to myself. Lockdowns have been tough for everyone and adopting new ways of working and learning can potentially be more difficult for businesses, employees, founders and even families. The course gave me space to think, time to focus and taught me the power of sequential reasoning. It was transformative.”
Jan Chillery, a partner at Chester-based law firm Aaron and Partners, said the course has also provided her with key skills that she can transfer back into her working life.
She said: “Putting my phone down was unexpectedly therapeutic and made me focus more on the moment. It’s a great team building experience that colleagues will be talking about for years to come. The skills you gain from this aren’t unique to bushcraft, although these things are surprisingly satisfying to learn. It’s about solving problems, thinking through unusual challenges, improving communication and fostering positive attitudes.”
These comments were echoed by Chris Chapman, Director of Hull-based Elite Stoves, who recently attended an Elite course at Spartan.
He said: “The way I felt mentally and physically when I finished was like nothing I’ve felt before. If I could bottle this feeling and sell it, I’d be a rich man. I’m much more relaxed, level-headed and know which direction to go. A week after returning from Scotland we have just signed a new lease on a store in Hull which will double the size of our store. it’s all thanks to the discussions and work Ian and his team have done with us and the time I’ve spent reflecting on my life, family and work. It really changed me for the better.”
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