The People Pro® Blog

Want to be More Productive? Relax.

By Barbara Bartlein

Think for a minute about your typical workday.  Do you jump out of bed, grab your cup of coffee and go?  Is your day packed with endless meetings, phone calls and lunch at your desk?  More and more of us are finding that we are losing ground with the multiple demands on our time and energy.  

Paradoxically, the best way to get more done may be to spend more time doing less. A new and growing body of multidisciplinary research shows that strategic renewal -- including daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office and longer, more frequent vacations -- boosts productivity, job performance and, of course, health.

In a study of nearly 400 employees, published last year, researchers found that sleeping too little -- defined as less than six hours each night -- was one of the best predictors of on-the-job burn-out. A recent Harvard study estimated that sleep deprivation costs American companies $63.2 billion a year in lost productivity.

Longer naps have an even more profound impact than shorter ones. Sara C. Mednick, a sleep researcher at the University of California, Riverside, found that a 60- to 90-minute nap improved memory test results as fully as did eight hours of sleep.

Daytime naps have a similar effect on performance. When night shift air traffic controllers were given 40 minutes to nap -- and slept an average of 19 minutes -- they performed much better on tests that measured vigilance and reaction time.

The modern day workplace recognizes and rewards those who seem to put in the most time rather than those who work strategically.  Smart companies are taking a look at these expectations and reviewing the research.  Google, for example, has napping pods for their workers to take a break.  Northwestern Mutual Insurance has walking paths.  

How can you improve the culture at your workplace?  Take a look at my new book, Energy Suckers-How to Deal With Bullies in the Workplace.

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