While we all know how good a holiday feels, or how much more productive we are after a restful night’s sleep, demands on our workforce are at an all-time high. There is increased awareness about how regular rest boosts employee engagement, but despite this, recent research has shown that stress in the workplace is higher than it has ever been. In this article, we will share some of the latest scientific findings which prove how regular rest boosts employee engagement and productivity at work. While we may think of rest as a nice-to-have, it is, in fact, a key component of healthy and effective employees, who contribute to the success of your business in the long run.

The Impact of Stress on Company Outcomes

Stress and its effects on employees has received more attention from scientists the world over in recent years. It has been called “the number one silent killer” because of its impact on our health, performance, and company outcomes. However, despite this, most organisations still expect more input, commitment, and engagement from their staff. This is not to say that companies should not expect a lot from their staff; rather focus attention on reducing the harmful effects of sustained stress for the benet of the company as well as its employees.

Recent research done by The American National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety found that healthcare expenditure is 50% higher in individuals with high-stress levels. This means that high-stress workplaces increase their healthcare expenses by 50% every year because of the negative impact of prolonged stress on their employees. Another study, completed by Forbes in 2015, showed that 60% of absenteeism can be attributed to the side effects of psychological stress.

Some other negative effects on health and well-being include:

  • Increased cardiovascular illness
  • A lowered immune system which makes us more susceptible to illness
  • Increased irritability and reduced time invested in workplace relationships
  • Increased burn-out and mental illness
  • Increased mistakes and ineffectiveness
  • Reduced efficiency and problem-solving ability
  • Poor quality of work outcomes
  • Increased staff turnover
  • Increased absenteeism and prolonged disability leave.

In short, unmanaged stress can result in a dramatic rise in annual company costs. While we know that stress is inevitably part of all workplaces, company outcomes improve when more emphasis is placed on creating a healthy workplace culture that identifies, manages, and mitigates stress. Employee well-being and productivity increase in direct proportion.

Four Reasons Why Regular Rest Boosts Employee Engagement

In today’s working world, stress is an inevitable part of our working lives. In some cases, stress and burn-out are worn as a badge of honour, showing off our dedication and commitment to our jobs. People are rewarded with promotions based on the amount of time they put in outside of working hours. This is a dangerous culture to encourage as it creates a system based on unhealthy work-life balance and makes “time off” a reward for the time put in. The impact of this type of workplace culture is making people ill and is not, in fact, improving company outcomes – it’s increasing company losses!

In order to tackle the stress-addicted conditioning we’re fostering in our society, we need to start encouraging employees to take more regular rest breaks. We’ve listed some key findings which show how increasing the amount of regular rest boosts employee engagement in the long run.

1) Mental Concentration is a Muscle

John Trougakos, Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour and HR Management at the University of Toronto, explains that our brain is just another muscle, and, like our body, it gets tired after strenuous exercise. Prolonged mental concentration causes our brain to become exhausted and less efcient. It may seem obvious, but having regular rest boosts employee engagement because after a mental break we’re able to reengage with more vitality, creativity, and dedication than if we were in a perpetual mental marathon.

2) Regular Rest Improves Health

Stress causes many negative health issues and reducing it will improve cardiovascular, immune, and mental health. In addition, most of us work sitting down for large chunks of the day, and while it may not be possible to change this, taking regular movement breaks while at work can help to mitigate the effect that prolonged sitting has on our health. Most common health effects of sitting include:

  • Increased obesity
  • Increased general inflammation
  • Increased diabetes and high blood glucose levels
  • For every hour increase in sitting time, there is an 18% increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

In order to break this passive – but unhealthy – habit, we need to instill a workplace culture which encourages regular movement breaks, and empowers people to take regular rest intervals in their day to move, talk, exercise, or lie down. While this may seem contradictory to our usual working way, it will increase employee engagement and health rapidly and for the long run.

3) More Working Hours Means Less Productivity

While it may seem impossible for those who spend hours on end in front of their computers, a growing body of research has shown that the more hours spent working, the less productive we become. A study performed by the University of Illinois found that “all work and no play” dramatically reduces mental focus, creativity, and efficiency. Taking regular rest breaks boosts employee engagement by allowing for restoration of mental resources and energy needed to give our full attention to the task at hand.

4) Taking Time Increases Work Satisfaction

A recent article published by Harvard Business Review states the importance of taking time off to increase our happiness at work and outside of it. It is a well-known fact that a happy employee is more productive, engaged, committed, and effective than their unhappy counterparts. When people have time to cultivate their relationships outside working hours, they return to work happier, and when people have had enough rest and restoration between working hours, they’re better able to give their all. People who have this healthy work-life balance are happier, healthier, and more engaged.

In Conclusion: Regular Rest Boosts Employee Engagement

In the age of information, where stress is inevitable, it is the responsibility of organisations to find strategies to mitigate the negative impacts of stress on their employees, for the long-term benefit of all. One of the simplest ways to manage this is to instill a workplace culture that supports regular rest.

Whether it’s as simple as creating 15-minute movement breaks every few hours, or as big as including an employee wellness programme, encouraging your employees to take regular rest breaks will increase the physical, mental, and emotional resources they have to commit to meeting company objectives.

About the Author: Kerstin Jatho

Kerstin is the senior transformational coach and team development facilitator for 4Seeds Consulting. She is also the author of Growing Butterfly Wings, a book on applying positive psychology principles during a lengthy recovery. Her passion is to develop people-centred organisations where people thrive and achieve their potential in the workplace. You can find Kerstin on LinkedIn, Soundcloud, YouTube and Facebook.

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