Could Taking a Break Be the Most Productive Thing You Do?

What is your work environment like and how do you feel while you’re in it? Even those of us who are in the most laid-back kind of work-space will still feel the grip of stress at work. The level of stress felt and how well or otherwise we cope with it is of course dependent upon the individual, but if it does reach a point where it becomes overwhelming, the research is clear on what happens to your productivity…

Think you’ll be ok to muddle through?

StressYou can certainly try, but several studies on the subject indicate that it is unlikely you’ll be anywhere near as productive as you could be. A 2010 study published in the International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management proved the relationship between increased stress and reduced productivity, as did a study on the effects of stress on bank workers published in the same year.

According to the American Psychological Association, in the US alone workplace stress is costing $300 billion annually with lost productivity and sick days being the key costs. Work stress has been reported to be at ‘epidemic’ levels with increased job uncertainty, coupled with performance pressure.

If this sounds like you, what can you do?

If you work for a supportive company that offers programs for managing stress – great! Take advantage of those programs – (employers: studies have shown that workplaces who provide stress management and wellness initiatives can improve their productivity significantly). If you would like some techniques that you can follow yourself, take a break and have a look at these:

Clear your space

Do you have a cluttered work-space? Researchers at UCLA found that just looking at clutter can spur the body’s production of stress hormones. This means that even if your job is not particularly high-stress, if your work environment is messy, you may experience stress.

Find a way to reduce interruptions

Whether you set a clear policy for when you’re unavailable, or turn off your phone and email when you really need to focus, finding a way to minimize interruptions will help your stress levels significantly. Researchers in Germany found that interruptions to workflow significantly decrease feelings of satisfaction with your own performance and leave you with feelings of not getting things done. Spend some time organizing your diary so that interruptions (in human or electronic form!) can be kept to times that you designate.

Reset your mindset

Researchers from Yale University found that your mindset about stress plays a significant role in how you cope with it. They found that those who shifted to a more positive view of stress (for example, seeing it as something that could be beneficial), rather than seeing it as a negative coped better and had better productivity levels. They also found that mindset could be changed with as little as watching a 10 minute video on stress.

So, could taking a break and practicing some stress management techniques be the most productive thing you do today? You don’t need to spend a long time on them, but taking that time-out to reset and manage your stress will probably allow you to be more productive than if you simply continued to push through…

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