2020 uncertainty leads to spike in weird workplace dreams for more than half of UK

Weird workplace dreams

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 while working from home, according to new research.

  • During lockdown, 75% of all work-based dreams are reported to be a nightmare.
  • 1 in 5 admit to wanting to quit their job following a workplace dream.
  • Being unprepared revealed as the most common dream theme.
The study, by online printing company 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, a regular day at work, and showing up late (11%).

The 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%

The top work-related characters and themes featured in these dreams

  1. Co-workers ? 47%)
  2. Managers (11%) and directors ? 12%
  3. Clients and customers ? 22%
  4. Romance with a coworker or manager ? 11% and 13% respectively
?The pandemic has impacted on many people?s feelings of employment security and safety,” says Dr Sarah Jane Daly, a senior lecturer in social psychology from the University of Huddersfield.

“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 worry 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,? she says.

How to manage weird work dreams from ruining your sleep

Dr Daly shares four tips to help manage work from spilling into your dreams.


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.


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.

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.

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.

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