19th August 2021
by Charlotte Wilson
In an ‘always on’ world, it can be hard to switch off. Something made even harder by the pandemic and the fact that many of us are now frequently working from home for the foreseeable future. That heady mix of guilt (for still having a job), anxiety, stress, and a sprinkle of confusion as to WTF is still going on, mean that since we’ve all entered a more flexible relationship to where we work from, our hours sat doing that work have now skyrocketed. And we can’t stop.
Good for business, right? Well, not necessarily. At face value getting more time out of employees who now no longer worry about a commute, face-to-face meeting chit-chat and set lunch breaks, seems like a win-win. However, the reality is that people are now finding it even more difficult to switch off. According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics 83% of respondents said they spent no time during the day relaxing. Plus, research shows that when downtime is neglected, the mind simply cannot function to its true potential, causing both friction within the workplace and affecting the bottom line – business growth.
Whether you’re triggered by the term ‘woke’ or not, there’s no denying that in 2021 we now know that the most common mental health issues at work are stress and anxiety. So much so that the HSE indicated that nearly 1 in 4 of us will suffer a mental health problem throughout our lifetime. Often, these are manageable and short-lived, but nonetheless, people have a responsibility to themselves to be delivering the best work they can, while in the best mental shape that they can be. Or else, what’s it all about really?
A happy workforce means a healthy business, and as we navigate a whole new landscape that Covid-19 looks set to leave behind, just how important is it to make sure staff are taking the downtime they need to produce truly great work? The short answer is – very.
What’s going on?
Why are so many employees neglecting downtime in 2021? Well, we can assume that since we’re all seeing a lot less of our colleagues in person, it is hard to gage how well people are actually coping. This makes a manager’s job a lot more difficult when trying to ascertain who needs a bit of TLC when it comes to taking care of their wellbeing. Plus, for employees, it’s hard to tell how much anyone is even noticing work patterns. Are employers aware of the extra hours being put in? Do they care? Do they now expect a 40% higher workload until the end of time? It’s a jungle out there and there’s always the very real danger of feeling like you have more to prove because you’re not sat in the office, coupled with the fact that you might start feeling resentful for all the extra time you’ve found yourself giving.
So, what’s the answer?
Don’t skip breaks
Often, if people are stressed or overwhelmed with a workload, they’ll skip their lunchbreak. Being confined to your desk for 8-12 hours straight is not conducive to success. In fact, taking regular breaks is critical in enabling employees to work to the best of their abilities. In an ideal world, everyone should be taking a 15–20-minute break away from their desk every 2-3 hours. This is a proven way to keep energy and concentration levels up and is a lot more appealing than the alternative – burnout and sick-days having to be taken.
Be tough on downtime
The sole purpose of downtime is to give the mind some time off. That means switching off. Completely. Now, we know that’s easier said than done, but it doesn’t mean we can’t all try a little bit harder to give our brain the respite it needs to create something magical. If employees have been engaged in a long meeting, they’ll naturally be drained, therefore enforcing a short break after such tasks is essential in ensuring the best returns for productivity and cultivating a more focused and stable workforce.
Work smarter, not harder
It is a tale as old as time, the longer you appear to be working for the harder and thus more productive you must be. Right? WRONG. Studies have found that working longer hours in counterproductive and very closely associated with higher instances of mental illness, strokes, and heart disease. An additional survey found that productivity in employees drops considerably after they work a 50-hour week. So, be sure to promote a workplace culture that values action and results over physical presence and overtime hours worked. The former leads to a healthier workforce and business success, the latter often to inefficiency and a culture of anxiety.
All in all, it’s clear that downtime can spark creativity and imagination and increase a more enjoyable workplace culture and environment. Something that, after the year (or so) we’ve all had is more important than ever.
If you’re ready to give your creativity a boost, why not chat to us about your next campaign? We’d love to hear from you!