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Our work lives spilling into our dreams isn’t a new phenomenon, but it is something that’s been affecting UK employees more than usual whilst working from home, according to new research.

The study, by online printing specialists instantprint, surveyed 1000 UK workers who’d made the transition from office working to working remotely earlier this year, aiming to discover common dream narratives, the weirdest work-related dreams and whether these dream patterns have any real-life implications.

Over half of us (52%) are dreaming more than ever in lockdown, with 3 in 4 respondents claiming to have experienced a harrowing work-related nightmare.

When asked about the impact these nightmares are having on their real-life decisions, 1 in 5 remote workers admitted to wanting to quit their jobs due to an increase in negative dreams.

As well as an increase in dreams, the survey also found that specific dream themes were commonly cropping up – some more embarrassing than others! – including being unprepared (17%), a regular day at work (17%) and showing up late (11%).

The UK’s Top 5 Most Common Work-Related Dream Themes

  1. You’re unprepared for a task – 17%
  2. Just a regular day at work – 17%
  3. You never arrive or get lost at work – 15%
  4. You’re trapped at work – 11%
  5. You show up late for work – 11%

When asked who the most common figures were in their weird work dreams, the overwhelming majority said their co-workers (47%).

Managers and the owners or directors of companies featured in 11% and 12% respectively.

Gaining a substantial 22% of the vote, employees also found themselves dreaming about their clients and customers.

Romance is also at top of the agenda when it comes to WFH dreams, with 27% of respondents dreaming about a budding romance with a co-worker and 13% with their managers.

To uncover the reasons behind this increase in work-related dreams, the team at instantprint turned to Dr Sarah Jane Daly, a senior lecturer in social psychology from The University of Huddersfield.

Dr Daly suggests:

The pandemic has impacted on many people’s feelings of employment security and safety. Anxieties and concerns about potentially losing jobs and being unable to pay the rent/mortgage, putting food on the table, and paying for Christmas, trouble many on an almost daily basis.

“This, alongside the threat of ourselves or loved ones contracting the Coronavirus all contribute to anxiousness and worriment playing out in our dream states.

Dreaming provides us with the space and time to process and play out our subconscious fears, to problem-solve and work through our subconscious issues.

Dr Sarah Jane Daly’s Top Tips to Stop Weird Work Dreams

  1. Boundaries

One of the things that can support us psychologically to switch off from work-mode is to make clear delineations between work and non-work. Setting clear boundaries is one way in which to do this. Constructing realistic, workable, weekly, timetables with regular as-it-were ‘clocking-in’ and ‘out’ times can facilitate this.

  1. Self-care

We lead busy lives so it is essential that when work is finished for the day, we do something for ourselves. It is important to actively shift our attention away from thinking about work by doing other things, such as, taking some exercise, walking the dog, knitting, reading, or just taking a bath.

  1. Limit technological devices

In the modern age our mobile devices are often never more than a short arm stretch away. Turning mobile phones/lap-tops off and setting a cut-off point after which we do not look at/respond to emails/messages – particularly in the hours leading up to going to bed is more likely to result in better sleep quality.

  1. Prompt your dreams

Reading a book or spending some time thinking about a particular pleasant memory or event that you would like to revisit in your dream is more likely to result in desired dreams. Forming a mental image or looking at photographs are other ways of potentially shaping the content of your dream.