Working in a professional environment can be tough. There’s a lot of stress on employees to make sure that they’re doing their job well all the time despite the fact that these pressures can actually result in poorer performance. Fortunately, more employers are recognizing that periodic downtime during the workday is a great way to have happier, healthier, and more productive workers.
You’ve probably seen this yourself — when you’re less stressed, you’re more able to offer creative solutions to problems in meetings. And research backs that up: engaging in activities that meet your mental, emotional, and physical health needs can work wonders for your professional life.
If you’re still concerned about the stigma around making use of workplace down time, take a look at these four common work habits that are actually good for you.
Talking to people
Simple efforts like saying hello when you walk into the office in the morning can make a huge difference in the long run. Quick greetings can help brighten people’s days, and more importantly, build and strengthen workplace relationships. It can also help you during your day to day work duties. You will know who to go to for help on certain projects because you will learn what their expertise is and feel more comfortable approaching them for help.
Don’t just stop with “Hello,” though. Make an effort to get to know your co-workers as people and as professionals. Have a conversation about work or life around the watercooler. Get out of the office with a group during lunchtime and talk about anything but the job. Get to know each other on a more meaningful level than just "the guy I pass by in the office every morning" and you'll reap the benefits of closer and more productive work relationships.
Because not only will social interaction enhance your job satisfaction, but it can also improve your interpersonal communication skills. You'll be able to better communicate with your boss and colleagues during your next project, and teamwork will be a lot smoother and less frustrating.
Watching online videos
Watching videos at work may not be as bad of a work habit as it was once made out to be. A recent study indicates that nearly 64 percent of workers watch videos at work. While some may see this as burning time or costing the company money, others are starting to recognize the value in this work habit.
Watching the occasional video has also been proven to help viewers boost their energy and tackle tough tasks. Guilty pleasures like watching cat videos can actually be beneficial work habits because they lower stress hormones and make workers more productive. A little break in the middle of the day to see something that makes you smile can lift a bit of stress off your plate and help you get back to your productive ways.
Of course, it’s a good idea to be considerate of how much time you’re spending watching videos at work, but a little downtime has been proven to be good for you. And do make sure that your boss won't object to this behavior. A video of a puppy bouncing through snow may help you de-stress, but the fallout of getting caught "slacking off" will just bring it all back.
If you feel it appropriate, have a quick chat with your boss about the benefits of watching a video or two between tasks. If they say it's ok, go a step further by setting up a chatroom in Slack or whatever messaging service your team uses that's just for these types of goofy videos. That way, everyone can benefit and it'll be with the consent of the person in charge.
Check out this infographic for further data on the growing trend of at-work video consumption.
Taking a walk
Don’t give in to the illusion that you need to be chained to your desk for a solid eight hours to get things done. Stepping away from your computer screen for a few minutes of physical activity offers a ton of benefits for a pretty small amount of effort. It’s a habit that’s more than worth the time it takes, and can actually help you become more productive over time. And don’t let cold weather during the winter put you off – grab a warm coat and a co-worker. There are no excuses!
Walking is great for your mental health and has been shown to improve overall feelings of well-being. For some people, walking fosters a sort of meditative mindset, helping them handle difficult workday tasks. Beyond that, tests have shown that people who take walks regularly are actually more creative and better at capturing complex ideas and solving problems.
So the next time you feel stuck in a rut at work, get up and go for a brisk walk. Bring a pen and notepad with you just in case inspiration strikes. By the time you get back to your desk, your blood will be pumping and you'll be thinking a bit more dynamically than had you sat and struggled for the past 15 minutes.
Making time for personal breaks
Taking breaks throughout the day is one of the best work habits that you can develop. Breaks stave off boredom and other mental blocks that lead to unfocused, sub-par work. Research has shown that deactivating and then reactivating your brain with personal breaks allows you time to recharge and increases your overall productivity.
Breaks can also help you make new connections and solve difficult problems. Regular breaks allow your brain to reorient how you’re thinking about something. When you’re focusing on a specific task, other channels of your brain are blocked, which may prevent you from approaching a problem at a new angle. Taking a break opens up some of these other channels, helping you find creative solutions.
One study recently showed that most employees feel consistently guilty about taking breaks, yet 41 percent also feel burnt out from working long days. Many employers have started encouraging more breaks by providing healthy snacks, offering break rooms, and creating more comfortable spaces for employees to use on their breaks. Some even offer gyms on location, which, aside from the obvious health benefits, can help workers take a break that feels healthy and productive.
Developing positive work habits is crucial for long-term success in the workplace. While many employees say that they’re too busy to set work aside, or that they feel guilty about using work time for non-work tasks, more studies are proving that taking time for personal and social development is one of the best things that employees can do to become better workers overall.