Smoking is one of the filthiest and unhealthiest habits that have formed in the human race. Ironically though it has developed one of the healthiest byproducts from a work-place performance and productivity point-of-view.
I don’t know how many times I have shaken my head seeing the same person outside having a smoke break for the 5th or 6th time for the day. I wonder what their boss thinks and also how much money they would save if they didn’t smoke?
The one thing that I admire about the filthy habit of smoking is the psychological and physiological wellness byproducts that occur because of it:
- Taking regular 5-10min breaks from focusing on a computer screen or a task every 60-90minutes.
- Getting up, moving and walking to a space where smoking is allowed.
- Breathe control commonly used when smoking with long and deliberate slow breathes.
- Day-dreaming and switching off work that occurs when smoking.
- Social aspect of chatting with another smoker.
- De-stressing component of controlling your breath and switching off your work.
These are all very healthy activities for your mind and body, to improve productivity, performance and reduce burnout, but they are as a result of a habit that has many major negative effects on a person.
Now, I need to be very clear that I am 100% against people smoking, and think it should be banned from society. I had one puff of a cigarette when I was a teenager, and I never had another one in the rest of my life. Personally I can’t stand the smell, it had an effect on me as an asthmatic to be around it, and I struggle to see how people make the choice to destroy their lungs and exponentially increase their chances of attracting cancer.
So the big question is:
What can we substitute for the filthy habit of smoking that will provide employees in the workplace the same psychological and physiological benefits as noted above?
I have thought about this, spoken to colleagues, asked former smokers and none of them can find a substitute that is as effective at combining all aspects of byproducts listed above. Using a mobile phone, having a coffee, going for a walk, reading a magazine or doing meditation don’t create the same effect.
So the challenge is for you to either find the ultimate solution or commence small activities that can gradually improve your productivity and performance.
Before we go onto techniques to improve your workplace productivity and performance, I would like to highlight some of the negative aspects of smoking and how they easily negate the positive benefits they get from the activity of taking smoking breaks:
- Mood swings
- Smelly hair and clothes
- Unhealthy teeth
- Smokers cough
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol
- Erectile dysfunction
- Type 2 diabetes
- Blood clots
- Early menopause
- Poor vision
- Dull sense of taste and smell
- Lung cancer
- Constricted blood vessels
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Loss of appetite
- Yellow fingers
- Cervical cancer
- Wrinkly skin
- Problems with pregnancy and new born implications
- Higher rate of mouth, throat, bladder, blood and kidney cancers
I know from experience that I perform at my best when I take regular breaks, and have lunch away from the office, with friends, have fun and discuss non-work topics. What is interesting is that studies show only 20 to 33% of employees take a lunch break, and of those who take a break many still eat at their desk while working.
Research has shown that the more hours that elapsed before a break the less energized and the more symptoms of poor health. It has also indicated that breaks are most effective when they are taken before they’re needed. It all comes down to planning, just like a marathon runner who develops their training plan with a balance of workouts and recovery.
Taking a break recharges the batteries, so to speak, prevents long-term stress and burnout, which have negative effects on your health and performance. Breaks can replenish the psychological costs associated with working hard, improve work performance, and boost energy.
The positive effects of taking regular, short and frequent breaks include:
- More stamina
- Fewer aches & pains
- Less headaches and eyestrains
- Higher job satisfaction
- Reduced emotional exhaustion
- Increased concentration levels
- Improved motivation
- Enhanced energy
- Reduce fatigue
- Increase productivity
- Improve mental acuity
- Increase alertness
Sometimes a little distraction is good for your brain. Psychological detachment, by shifting our focus, helps us to directly reduce work demands that are causing fatigue and to naturally recover. It also prevents us from getting bored and losing focus on the tasks that really matter.
The following activities are great for detachment:
- meditation to clear the mind and focus on relaxation
- physical activity to increase blood flows to the areas of the brain that are necessary for focus or attention
- learning something new or playing a game to improve confidence and boost motivation
- help out a colleague as it helps social connectedness, feel comforting and positive
- Set a new goal and think about the future to see the bigger picture and re-evaluate life in a positive way
- Fun and the influence of humour on persistence behaviour
Without any downtime to refresh and recharge, we’re less efficient, make more mistakes, and get less engaged with what we’re doing. Taking a few deep breathes, stretching and standing, and taking a 20 second gaze break are simple activities that allow you to regain focus and to improve your energy so you can complete the task at hand.
In the next article we will take a look at productivity boosting activities and break methods that you can use during your breaks to recharge.
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