Wellbeing in the Workplace:
Workplace wellbeing is important for business success. However it has become common in the modern workplace for people to work long hours, without sufficient rest breaks. This can lead to reduced productivity and fatigue. Research confirms that rest breaks enhance productivity and reduces fatigue.
Life moved at a slower pace in the 1970’s (when I grew up). The working day ended at 5pm and dinner was before 7pm. The telephone was not invited to dinner. Most people did not work on the weekends and the shops were not open on Sundays. The intrusion of never ending emails, text messages and social media was decades away.
My primary school principal had a mantra that he would recite to students at school assembly. In the summer and winter months we would listen to him quote St Jerome to inspire us to achieve:
Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Til your good is better and your better is best.
To be fair I do not think that my principal was actually suggesting that we should never rest. However it does seem like a sad premonition for the future and the emergence of the modern culture of busyness. Today it is considered a sign of importance and status to be busy. Rest has become confused with laziness. Unfortunately our culture discourages the natural balance of purposeful activity followed by rest.
Learning to balance work and rest
My mother was also a school teacher, but she gave me different advice for success. Her guidance for effective learning was as follows:
Take a break every 55mins, get up and move about for 5 minutes and then get back to work.
Researching rest breaks
In the interest of science I thought I should investigate my mother’s secret to success and found that research was on my mother’s side of the debate. A recent Melbourne study found that 3 mins of light intensity walking at work every 30 mins over a five hour period reduced fatigue (Wennberg, P. et al, 2016). The results suggest that short active rest breaks reduce fatigue and enhance workplace wellbeing.
Encouraged by my progress I continued with my investigation and another eureka moment followed. A study of factory workers found that adding regular short breaks throughout the working day did not reduce productivity. The workers usually took a 15 min morning and afternoon break and a 30 min lunch break. During the study an additional 36 mins of rest breaks per day were taken by the workers, (either 12 x 3 mins per half hour or 4 x 9 minute breaks every 51 mins). Productivity did not reduce with the additional breaks and leg discomfort decreased. (Dababneh, A. Swanson, N. Shell, R. 2001). Again workplace wellbeing improved without sacrificing work productivity.
Researching active workplaces
I continued to investigate where science stood on ‘moving about’ at work. Once again my mother’s simple wisdom was validated by science. A Spanish study investigated the program Walk@WorkSpain. It encouraged workers to replace 21 mins of sitting with incidental movement and short walks (+1400 step per day). They found that better performance was associated with being more active. The researchers reported that less sitting time during the work day improved performance, and reduced presenteeism (Puig-Ribera et al, 2017).
I am delighted to report that my mother’s advice to take hourly rest breaks and ‘move about’ has research evidence to support it. This simple advice not only improves work performance, but also improves workplace wellbeing.
Making an intention to take regular rest breaks at work is the first step. A research team from the Medical University of Vienna found that having the intention to have a rest break increased the frequency of rest breaks taken at work (astonishing). They also found that increased rest intention and frequency of rest breaks reduced fatigue and distress throughout the work day (Blasche G et al 2017). Another research study found that a half hour walk three times per week increased relaxation and enthusiasm at work (Thøgersen-Ntoumani C, 2015).
It is also important to create a work culture where rest breaks are encouraged. A UK study found that workers had a lower occupational step count if they perceived that taking breaks was discouraged by management (Sawyer, A. et al, 2017). As increased movement improves productivity and rest breaks reduce fatigue, discouraging rest breaks is counterproductive.
Making an intention to rest
To improve productivity when working or studying it is important to take regular rest breaks and increase incidental movement during the work day.
- In the morning and the afternoon take a 15 min break to relax and replenish your energy.
- If you are able (with the approval of your manager) to take an additional 5 min break per hour this may reduce fatigue at work.
- At lunch time take a 30 min break and resist the temptation to eat at your desk. If the weather is kind go for walk at lunch time. This helps you to let go of the morning stress and prepare for an afternoon of brilliance.
Work Life Balance
Rest is a basic human need for our bodies to maintain health and wellbeing. The balance of productive activity followed by rest enables us to perform at our best. To achieve your personal best you need to rest.
May I suggest a new mantra for the future: Good, Better, Best, Rest.
Wellness Coaching can assist you to reduce stress both at home and at work. As a result it is able to help you to improve your health and wellbeing. If you have a reduction in workplace stress this can also help you to perform better at work.
A wellness coach also supports you improve your work life balance. If you have ongoing coaching it can help you to include self care tasks into your daily life. If relaxation exercises are done daily then it is then becomes a healthy habit. Self care activites can also be done at work to improve your workplace wellbeing. If your health and wellbeing get better, then you are more likely to achieve both your personal and work goals.
You are welcome to make an appointment for a workplace wellness coaching meeting. This helps you to make an action plan to reduce workplace stress and enhance your wellbeing.
In addition I also offer stress management and workplace wellbeing workshops in Melbourne. If you would like me to offer a wellness workshop in your workplace, please contact me for more information.
You will receive a $50 discount for your first Wellness Coaching session if you mention that you have read this article.
Mobile: 0412 737 309
About Robyn Frank
In my early twenties I became interested in natural medicine. As a result I studied massage and aromatherapy. A few years later I opened my private practice. Later I began to work as an Aromatherapy Consultant in Aged Care facilities.
In 1998 I was offered a role as an aromatherapy lecturer for the Australian College of Natural Medicine. It was here that I was awarded an Academic Blue Award for Excellence.
The next step was to study Life Coaching and Essence of Life Coaching was established in 2005. In my coaching work I combine my wellness experience with my coaching skills. As a result I specialise in stress management and wellness coaching. In addition I also offer career coaching and business coaching for wellness business owners.
I support people to make simple lifestyle changes. This helps them to achieve their goals and improve their quality of life.
Note from the author:
The article: Good, Better, Best, Rest by Robyn Frank is not a replacement for health care or therapy. It is important to seek individual health care if you have health problems. Talk to your doctor or a qualified health practitioner if you have problems with your health. It is important to seek individual professional assistance if you feel you are unable to cope with stress or are living with a mental illness. Talk to your doctor or a psychologist or counsellor if you feel that you need assistance.
Persons reading the article Good, Better, Best, Rest by Robyn Frank must be 18 years and over. They must also be capable of taking responsibility for their own physical and mental health and their own life choices.
According to the National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health (US) (2017):
Relaxation techniques are generally considered safe for healthy people, although there have been a few reports of negative experiences such as increased anxiety. People with serious physical or mental health problems should discuss relaxation techniques with their health care providers.
Blasche, G. et al, (2017). Effects of Rest-Break Intention on Rest-Break Frequency and Work-Related Fatigue. Hum Factors. 2017 Mar;59(2):289-298. Retrieved from the Internet on the 4th of January 2018 from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27760865
Dababneh, A. Swanson, N. Shell, R. (2001). Impact of added rest breaks on the productivity and well being of Workers, Ergonomics, 2001 Feb 10;44(2):164-74. Retrieved from the Internet on the 4th of January 2018 from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11209875
National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health (US) (2017). Relaxation Techniques for Health, Bethesda: US Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from the internet on the 4th of January 2018 from: https://nccih.nih.gov/health/stress/relaxation.htm
Puig-Ribera et al (2017). Impact of a workplace ‘sit less, move more’ program on efficiency-related outcomes of office employees, BMC Public Health. 2017; 17: 455. Retrieved from the Internet on the 4th of January 2018 from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5434625/
Sawyer, A. Et al (2017). Perceived office environments and occupational physical activity in office-based workers, Occup Med (Lond). 2017 Jun 1;67(4):260-267. Retrieved from the Internet on the 4th of January 2018 from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28339829
Thøgersen-Ntoumani C, (2015). Changes in work affect in response to lunchtime walking in previously physically inactive employees: A randomized trial (Abstract). Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2015 Dec;25(6):778-87, Retrieved from the Internet on the 4th of January 2018 from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25559067
Wennberg, P. et al, (2016). Acute effects of breaking up prolonged sitting on fatigue and cognition: a pilot Study. Retrieved from the Internet on the 4th of January 2018 from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4769400/
© Copyright Robyn Frank, 2018.
Image of Robyn Frank by Breeana Dunbar Photography.