Relax – and be more productive

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relaxThere are many industries (investment banking to name one) where putting in 14 to 16 hour workdays is treated like a badge of honour, not the mark of inefficiency that it truly is. We’ve all been there, it’s 6pm, you know you should be going home but there’s just one more job to do and it won’t take long…

More and more of us find ourselves struggling to fit all the demands of work, and its wreaking havoc on our productivity and health. Most of us are guilty of at least one of these habits:

– Checking for e-mail before you’ve got out of bed
– Skipping breakfast
– Eating lunch at your desk
– Working late at least once a week, usually more
– Checking your e-mail whilst on annual leave

Sure, the occasional skipped breakfast isn’t a big deal, but it’s the habit forming behind this that can have long term consequences for your 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 study estimated that sleep deprivation costs UK companies £12.6 billion a year in lost productivity.

Unfortunately the bottom line is the work is almost infinite, whereas time is not. So what steps can you take to ensure that when you’re at your desk you’re engaged and making progress? Well for starters a general rule is to work fewer hours. Spending more time at work means you’ll have less time for sleep, and sleep deprivation is the ultimate killer of productivity. Ask a new parent if you don’t believe us!

There are other steps you can take to increase your output:

Daytime naps – If you’re lucky enough to be able to catch 40 winks during the day this will dramatically improve your alertness and ability to focus.

Take more holiday – Frequent vacationers are not only more happy and productive, but much less likely to leave your organisation than those employees who are chained to their desks all year round.

Get up and outside – Even a long walk at lunch will do you the world of good, and gives your brain time to chew over those complex problems that you can’t quite grapple with at your desk.

Longer term we hope that companies will begin to shy away from the 40 hour work weeks but until then give some thought to whether all the hours you work each week are truly necessary.

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