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Increasing Productivity in the Workplace is a sNap?
07-03-2012 / By:
Last month the Wall Street Journal did a study of the happiest nations on earth. Denmark topped the list, with all of the Scandinavian nations placing in the top 10. Not surprisingly, the Scandinavian nations were amongst the nations with the fewest number of people working long hours at their jobs. But does happiness directly correlate to productivity?
Conventional wisdom suggests that a shorter workweek would lead to less work getting done, thereby leading to a decline in revenues and profitability. Intense focus on your work calendar from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. is the secret to success according to a lot of managers and executives. It appears as though science is turning conventional wisdom on its ear.
A Tired Brain is an Inefficient Brain
There is a classic episode of The Simpsons where Homer gets his dream job for a company called Globex. He’s put in charge of a small team of workers, and in order to improve productivity, he decides to put hammocks in the office so his team can stay well rested. While Globex turned out to be run by an evil genius hell bent on world domination, only to be foiled by a James Bond type character and a team of commandos, Homer was onto something.
Recent studies by neuroscientists are showing that taking regular breaks throughout the workday actually improves creativity and problem solving abilities, thus improving productivity.
Nathaniel Kleitman is the physiologist that first discovered REM sleep and connected that to dream cycles. During the course of a night’s sleep our brain goes through several different stages of sleep on 90 minute cycles. According to studies, our brains go through similar 90 minute cycles while we are awake, meaning that focus and energy tends to fade after about 90 minutes. Essentially, our brains simply shut down.
It’s recommended to take a quick break every 90 minutes to refresh and recharge your brain. Get up and move around. There are even apps that you can use to remind yourself to take these breaks until they become a routine part of your workday.
Other Tips to Maintain a Rested Brain
Meditation — You don’t need burning incense and sitar music in the background to effectively meditate. You can use the morning commute on the subway or take a ten minute break at your desk during lunch to close your eyes and push all thoughts out of your mind. It has been shown in studies that people who meditate regularly show an increase in grey matter in their brains, have increased connectivity between regions of the brain and even show signs of resistance to the effects that the aging process has on the brain.
Daydreaming — If you’re preoccupied with a major project like moving your company’s database into the cloud, perhaps leaving your head in the clouds can help you ultimately improve your productivity. For a few minutes each day, think about anything BUT work. Whether that be winning the lottery or the new car that you’ve had your eye on, by not thinking about the projects and problems you face at work, you are giving your brain an opportunity to recharge and developing your creativity. This will ultimately lead to creativity in dealing with issues at work.
When in Copenhagen…
There is a fine line between taking short breaks throughout the day and wasting excessive amounts of time checking social media profiles and doing online shopping. The latter is clearly not going to lead to increased productivity.
While it’s not likely that the U.S. workday is going to mirror Denmark’s workday anytime soon, it is important to allow yourself and your employees intermittent moments of relaxation during the course of your busy day.
photo credit: myyogaonline via photo pin cc