How dreams impact workplace behaviour and productivity

A new study links dreams to workplace attitudes and actions and reveals a new approach to improving productivity and resilience in the workplace.
By: | August 30, 2023

At the intersection of dreams and work behaviour, a new study from the University of Notre Dame has uncovered a relationship that could reshape the approach to workplace productivity.

Titled A Spillover Model of Dreams and Work Behaviour: How Dream Meaning Ascription Promotes Awe and Employee Resilience, the study suggested that when individuals establish connections between their dreams and real-life situations, it profoundly influences their attitudes and actions at work, ultimately enhancing their resilience and productivity.

Led by Casher Belinda, Assistant Professor of Management at Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, the study challenged the conventional notion that dreams hold little relevance to professional life. Instead, it highlighted the power of attaching meaning to dreams, which triggers feelings of awe—an emotion that can impact how individuals tackle work-related challenges.

The study draws on data collected from around 5,000 full-time employees reporting their morning-of dream recall. The connection between dream recall, meaning ascription, and work behaviour persisted even when sleep quality was considered, underscoring the psychological impact of finding significance in dream experiences.

Belinda emphasised that dreams occur across all sleep stages and are impactful regardless of sleep habits. However, the most vivid and potentially meaningful dreams occur during the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep phase. To harness the benefits of these dreams, the study recommended prioritising sufficient and high-quality sleep. This can be achieved by using sleep-tracking devices that monitor REM sleep.

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Moreover, the study suggested keeping a dream journey, which enhances the retention of meaningful dreams and fosters connections between dream content and waking life experiences. These connections, when integrated into daily routines, could contribute to improved emotions and productivity.

The study also extends to workplace implications as it proposed promoting the “awe experience” among both managers and employees. Apart from dreams, other factors such as exposure to nature, art, music, and interactions with senior leaders can evoke awe and subsequently enhance productivity.