Recess at the Office?
The Surprising Science on the Connection Between Movement and Productivity at Work
In one recent study, shockingly, half of workers admitted to falling asleep on the job. While cat naps at work might be encouraged by certain companies, almost 80 percent of workers feel falling asleep on the clock is unacceptable. Why are workers falling asleep at such high rates even when they feel it is improper to do so? Could physical inactivity be playing a role and if so, what can companies do about it?
Lack of sleep, of course, has been proven to negatively impact productivity and creativity, a real problem for employees and employers alike. An estimated 45 percent of people report they get too few hours of sleep; given this data, managers seeking to keep their employees awake and productive may feel they are fighting a losing battle. But, as it turns out, the encouraging of movement could be a key to keeping workers alert and focused in the office. Also, some experts believe that sitting in one position for long periods can sap your energy as your body equates stillness with going to sleep. And staring at a screen all day may also contribute to eyestrain, dry eyes and may further put the body in the mood for sleep.
Conversely, thousands of studies point to the benefits of having employees who are fit and active. More active people have been found to exhibit better focus and interestingly, a study conducted by Duke University found the number one predictor in determining successful life outcomes was the ability to focus. “This ability is more important than IQ or the socio-economic status of the family you grew up in for determining career success, financial success, and health,” according to the study. Exercise has also been shown to produce faster cognitive processing and more successful memory retention than inactivity. Keeping the body active promotes mental clarity by increasing blood flow to the brain, making activity vital to both learning and physical and neurological health. Taken together, research shows we should be doing more to boost our focus and simple movement is the easiest method to accomplish it.
Given all this evidence, how can employers help prevent employees from becoming desk potatoes? Simple, encourage movement.
- Encourage employees to take breaks every hour on the hour. It is not necessary to lift weights or be walking all day long to get exercise. Simply encouraging employees to take short breaks to move around can be beneficial. Several apps – such as LifeWorks, which helps boost corporate wellness – can help employers encourage movement as well as more old-fashioned solutions such as posters or email reminders and gym membership discounts.
- Incorporate movement into your meetings. Walking meetings are the new black. While you don’t have to go full West Wing walk-and-talk, making the meeting more active can help employees retain more information and cut down on extraneous information. Managers who encourage their teams simply to stand and stretch before and after meetings can create benefits for workers.
- Host movement-based team building activities. Get your team up and moving with fun movement-based team building activities. Host team games or participate in team-building exercises regularly to help your team bond and gain better mental clarity.
Movement and the increased focus and clarity that it brings can help everyone work through complicated problems and see issues in a new light; movement sparks creative solutions to problems and can dramatically increase team productivity. Incorporating more activity into your team’s day won’t only help boost the bottom line, but also the health and wellbeing of your team.