How employee wellness affects productivity: four fundamental pillars

*It's nice to start articles with a short statement because it gives you an idea of what are we going to talk about, and it makes you think about how this statement is linked to the topic of the article. This time, we have two statements:

IMO, four fundamental pillars to being productive at work start with wellness: Sleep, nutrition, fitness, and mindfulness. Jeff Weiner, CEO at LinkedIn

"Diet, exercise, and sleep have the potential to alter our brain health and mental function."
Fernando Gómez-Pinilla, a UCLA professor of neurosurgery and physiological science

 

Healthy employees help business owners improve productivity in a variety of ways, from better attendance to increased productivity. More and more studies reveal the interest that companies show in implementing programs with the focus on employee well-being. These programs may include flexible working hours, flexible desks, remote work opportunity, fitness programs, etc. Investing in employee well-being means investing in their productivity at work. Increased productivity will positively affect the company’s overall performance.

To be more specific, there are many different factors that could affect an employee’s productivity, but what we mostly hear employees complaining about recently is that they do not get enough sleep and time to do much beyond working. How does this affect companies? Well…

Less sleep means being more tired

While doctors recommend that eight hours of sleep are necessary each night, according to a recent survey conducted by CareerBuilder, only 1 out of 4 employees reaches this goal. Less than 1 in 5 workers (17%) sleep between five and seven hours, and about 6% of workers sleep less than 5 hours every night. It's important to mention that sleep deprivation not only affects employee productivity but also business. Based on the same survey, 60% of employees declare that sleep deprivation has affected their work in different ways:

  • 27% stated that it makes them less motivated
  • 25% stated that it makes them less productive
  • 19% stated that it affects their memory
  • 13% stated that it makes them ask for more time to complete a task (missing deadlines)

All aforementioned statistics are strong reasons for a company to focus even more on providing employees with programs that allow them to have as much time as they need to rest and feel ready and motivated for work every  day. But of course, it is not always about time, it is also about setting practices which aim to help people align work responsibilities and tasks with their personal life goals. If there is a “red line” between personal life and work, then people will always face difficulties finding a balance and enjoying their time away from work.

Why? Because forcing yourself to not think about a certain issue only makes you think about it even more. Research says that 60% of employees believe that thinking about the next day at work is what keeps them up at night.

If you do not want employees to stay up at night thinking about work, then ensure they are happy with their work and encourage them to have positive thoughts about work! Make them enjoy their time at work through job enrichment. Set clear responsibilities, clear timelines, clear process, and even more clear expectations. Make the job content meaningful. Finally, provide them with the opportunity to help them make time for their families, friends, and peers to enjoy things outside of work as well.

You are what you eat

What's fascinating is that whether you can stay focused or not is pretty much decided by what foods enter your brain. According to Business Insider, we control how we release glucose into our blood and brains. Some foods release glucose faster than others, and the released glucose from some foods lasts longer than from others. Therefore, it is up to us how much glucose we get at anytime, but it also depends on the amount of time we have to spend preparing, cooking, eating, relaxing, and enjoying.

  • Adequate nutrition can raise your productivity levels by 20 percent on average. (BI)
  • The ability to resist temptation and do the right thing instead of the fun thing has a lot to do with the body’s glucose levels. (Forbes)
  • The wrong foods at the wrong time can seriously throw a wrench in anyone’s workday. (Ashley Stahl)

To summarize, the amount of glucose we give our body is directly related to our productivity at work. If we consume foods that do not provide us with the necessary amount of glucose or with the correct type of glucose (for how long it will keep our brain awake), then we will not have the necessary power and energy to perform at our best at work; but by paying attention to what and when we eat, we can have full control of our productivity.

Take the necessary time to eat what your body needs. It will help you be productive, and it will help your company to perform better as well. At some point, we are what we eat!

People who work out are better workers

Just a simple search “work out and productivity” on Google is enough to come across different studies which show that workers who engage in regular physical activities perform better in their job compared to workers who don’t. This is in terms of quality and quantity of work as well, and this can dramatically help a company’s bottom line. A study, recently published by the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that “workers with poor health habits display subpar work performance more often than other workers.” It may sound prejudiced, but this study which surveyed 10,600 workers in Europe found that obese workers were 66% more likely to call in sick for 10 to 24 days than normal-weight workers and 55% more likely to take more than 25 sick days. The reasoning behind this is that weight plays a critical role in whether an employee has a fundamental health issue which could result in sick days. On the other hand, if you search for examples where exercising was positively related to lower productivity, the chances of finding one does not exist! At least, not scientifically proven ones...

The benefits of exercising go far beyond getting into clothes from five years ago. Exercising increases the blood flow to your brain. It keeps you awake and it “sharpens your awareness.” A study conducted by Jim McKenna showed that after exercising, work performance was higher than usual. People who exercised were better at time management and at approaching things from different angles.

Most of us think that after exercising we may feel exhausted and drained but what happens is exactly the opposite. Exercising enhances our body’s ability to transfer glucose and oxygen throughout our body and brain, thus increasing our energy level. It improves our brain’s function according to John Medina, author of Brain Rules.

Mindfulness, a fashionable activity

How many of you hear the word “mindfulness” and associate it with the word “productivity”? No one, right? At least not if you hear it randomly and not while we are talking about productivity.

Mindfulness is usually associated with words like calm, relax, chill, slow down, or be in the moment. So, many of us think that when we talk about someone practicing mindfulness, we think about someone who does nothing but listen to his/her breath go in and out. But, in reality, being mindful only means being aware of and in control of our thinking, instead of letting our thinking control us.

Many studies and experiments show that investing in mindfulness training could lead employees to higher levels of productivity. This happens because by taking time to control your thinking, you are able to create a clearer image of your thoughts and set priorities and structure the way you are going to deal with these thoughts. According to The Huffington post, mindfulness helps you be aware of what you are doing now. You can orient your attention and avoid being distracted. In return, this will help you “finish a task more quickly and accurately.” Mindfulness helps you make better decisions that are not biased by your emotional state because it helps you focus better, plan more effectively, and reduce stress. Therefore, your mind will only be focusing on thoughts related to the decision you have to make, and there will be little place for destructive thoughts.

Some statistics provided by Inc. and based on different scientifically proven research show that:

  • Mindful leaders mean happier employees
  • Mindful people tend to be more creative
  • Mindfulness can lead to better teamwork
  • Mindfulness is related to higher quality relationships
  • Mindfulness can lead to more empathy

Of course, nothing should be taken as absolute! There are plenty of examples of people with unhealthy lifestyles who used to be very productive. For instance, take Van Gogh or any of the stories of entrepreneurs who started a business from “the garage.” Some of the most productive years for those people involved plenty of alcohol, sleepless nights, use of drugs, etc. It always depends on the person, and it always depends on the way your brain is used to functioning. But, generally speaking, and based on researchers, people who sleep enough, eat properly, work out, and are involved in mindfulness sessions tend to be more productive than people who are not.

How can you contribute to employee wellness?

First of all, realize and accept that employee wellness matters; and it does not matter only because we are humans and we have to show empathy, but it also matters because it is related to your business “wellness” (performance).

Second, ask them what practices they think would help them be more productive. Collect their feedback and try to find practices that would better meet the preferences of most of them if not all. Consider their opinions because when you talk about company performance, you also talk about employee performance. It is first all about them, and then it becomes about you (the company).

Third, keep investing in employee well-being. Do not just set or implement a few practices and programs and then abandon them. If you replaced your classic office tables with treadmills two years ago, it does not mean that employees still love the idea of working while walking or standing up! Preferences change, trends change, and we change. Ask regularly for their feedback and improve your programs. Be innovative and show them that you care about them and strive to perfect the programs you offer.

Four, offering cozy offices does not mean that people have everything they need to be productive. Everyone is different. Recognize individuality! Cozy offices may positively affect some of the employees’ productivity, but some of them may need more than that, and you want EVERYONE to be satisfied and happy. Offer them remote work options (not very often, but include it in your policies), gym membership discount, bonus days(hours)-off, flexible hours, snacks and food, and mindfulness training. These are only some of the benefits that you could offer, but of course, it always depends on the company culture and on what your people want.

Finally, promote these programs! Put some effort to convince your employees to participate in mindfulness training or eat proper food at the right time. At the end of the day, any of the above you decide to do will affect not only the workers but the business as well. Be smart! Think differently!

About the Author

Nikola Tore
Travel Addict • Tech Lover | Talent Acquisition • HRM • CX • LinkedIn • Freelancer | HR Content Writer
22
85