March 2012 Archives
Want a productivity boost? Try exercise. Don’t have time? Make time, while you’re at the office. And if you think your boss won’t approve, share this latest research.
A recent study showed that employees can use work time for exercise or other health promoting measures and maintain the same level of productivity, or higher at work. Employees who spent 2.5 hours a week being physically active were more satisfied with the quantity and quality of their work, reported increased work ability and took less sick time than employees who did not engage in physical activity.
By using work time for exercise, employees can also improve their work-life balance because their workout time isn’t squeezed into already busy personal/family time. Also in a recent study, for employees who were more physically active, job burnout was less likely to develop into depression. In this study, the best benefits were achieved by people who exercised 4 hours a week.
Some exercise is better than none though, so don’t beat yourself up if you can only fit in 20 minute workouts three days a week. It’s better to have a little regular exercise than to crash and burn on a workout routine you can’t maintain, or avoid it completely. Schedule your exercise breaks on your calendar so you have the time in your day reserved and can schedule work meetings around it. If you plan to exercise mid-day, try taking a class like Pilates where you are less likely to work up an intense sweat. This way you can just change your clothes and get back to work, fitting in more intense cardio or sweat sessions over the weekend.
There are many shortcuts you can take to fit a good workout into a 30-minute break. What works best for you will depend on your personal preferences, commute and what’s available at your workplace. The physical activity you are able to fit in can be shaped around whether you have an onsite gym (or one close by), a safe place to jog or if your organization offers fitness classes onsite.
You could try fitting your workouts in first thing in the morning, either before commuting to work, or after your get to the office. Not only would you avoid the crowded locker room during lunchtime, but you could also accomplish your exercise goals first thing in the morning, which is a huge morale boost. Or, you could leave the office 30 minutes early to fit your workout in before you go home – but this is harder to stick with because of those inevitable things that come up. Whatever you decide, here are a few tips for how to get the most out of those 30 minutes.
- Pack a well-organized gym bag the night before
- Keep an easy snack and filled water bottle in your gym bag so you can munch on the go and stay hydrated
- Do everything you can to get ready to exercise while you are walking to your gym/workout class. Example: Take off and store your watch in your gym bag, put your hair up, grab your ID badge and prime your iPod
- Try dry shampoo instead of washing your hair, or try washing your face and slathering on deodorant instead of taking a full shower to save time
- Pack a healthy lunch the night before so you know you have a nutritious lunch waiting for you when you’re done with your workout
If your manager is still not supportive of employees taking time out of the workday to exercise, you may want to suggest that s/he make time for it themselves – in another recent study, exercise was shown to buffer the negative effects of supervisor stress on their relationship with subordinates, and weaken the link between stress and abusive behavior toward employees. Not only can physical activity improve employees’ health and reduce the organization’s healthcare costs, but it can also empower employees to be more productive and improve manager-subordinate dynamics.
Devoting time during regular work hours to exercise can lead to higher productivity – even without adding extra time at the end of the day. This is because exercise fuels your brain and helps you be more productive. Employees who make the time for regular physical activity in a way that makes the most impact for their personal fitness level will reap the benefits. Managers who encourage employees to be healthy while at work and allow those who are interested to slip away for a jog or weight lifting class will likely find employees return to work energized, focused and more productive overall.
In February, to celebrate Valentine's Day, we asked our readers why they love their jobs and featured some of the submissions on our social media pages. Here are some of the positive aspects of work that our Twitter followers raved about...
Do you love your job? Tell us why!
I was recently surfing through the wonderful world of the Internet, and discussions of “stress” seemed to be everywhere. For example, Medical News Today reported that during a recession, stress increases by 40 percent. An enormous number of Australian workers (81 percent) believe that it is getting more difficult to balance work and non-work demands, which is a major stressor. And in this day of struggling companies, it’s great to learn that mergers and acquisitions tend to send employee stress through the roof.
Now these may all seem like disparate, unrelated issues. After all, one of the sources is from the U.S., one is from Australia, and one is from Canada. But, the problem is growing, and employers and employees need to start paying attention to these issues.
Think about some of the major stressors workers are experiencing:
- Financial stress stemming from the economic downturn – and add to that the rising cost of gasoline.
- Continual job insecurity as employees are inundated with news accounts of downsizing and rumors inside their own organizations that layoffs may be coming soon (if they haven’t come already).
- Increased workloads that come from budget and staffing cuts – employees are being asked to produce more with fewer resources (oh, and don’t let quality suffer, either).
- Increased time at the office (to accomplish the increased workload), leading to friction between work and non-work schedules.
And yet, stress continues to remain one of those issues that falls to the back burner over and over again in most organizations. They often pay lip service to stress by offering “stress management programs” or “wellness activities” designed to make workers more resilient or help them develop effective coping skills. But the problem is that many organizations are developing workplace cultures that are antithetical to effective stress management and well-being. Telling someone they need to practice deep breathing or time management while continuing to foist more and more job responsibilities on them is a bit ludicrous. You send mixed messages when you tell people to make work-life balance a priority and then send them half a dozen emails after hours and expect a response when they are off the clock.
And this is the inconsistency that organizations and employees need to change. It isn’t enough to pay a high-priced consultant to come in and deliver a stress management program or to offer onsite fitness centers (especially when workers’ schedules are already overloaded).
Instead, if organizations truly want to get a handle on the negative consequences of workplace stress, they need to start by changing the culture of the organization. Conducting surveys of workers to identify the next flavor-of-the-month program is insufficient. Senior leaders and managers need to encourage candid dialogue with employees throughout the organization so they can improve the reality of day-to-day life within the organization. They need to give more thought to proactive approaches to reduce stress (such as redesigning work or implementing more effective tools), rather than focusing strictly on reactive approaches to stress. And most important, they need to spend time thinking through how their own behaviors are working against the messages they are trying to convey to employees.
If stress is going to be effectively addressed by an organization, the goal has to be to create a culture, structure, and strategy that are in alignment with that goal.