Want to Be More Productive at Work? Science Says Focus on Your Health

Productivity has long been a desired quality, but in recent years it has become a buzzword in the workforce thanks to a reinvigorated focus on the health of the mind and body. There are two general approaches to increasing productivity:

  1. Using technology or processes to streamline and expedite your tasks
  2. Improving your mental and physical health to accomplish more

While harnessing the power of technology to cut down on your tasks is all well and good, focusing on your health to work smarter instead of harder can have better results over the long-term, both in and outside of the office.

Need more convincing? Multiple studies agree with the latter.

Healthy Body, Health Mind

According to research from the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO), employees who eat healthy all day were 25% more likely to have higher job performance, and those who eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables four or more times per week were 20% more likely to be more productive.

Furthermore, employees who exercise at least thirty minutes, three times per week were 15% more likely to see higher job performance. Along with being more productive and performing better at work, absenteeism was 27% lower for those healthy-minded employees.

Your physical health isn’t the only contributor to increased productivity. Mental health plays a key role, as well. Using your vacation hours and giving your brain a rest can help you accomplish more at work when you’re on the clock. A study by Project: Time Off revealed that employees who don’t use their paid time-off are 23 to 27% less likely to receive a promotion, and 78 to 84% less likely to receive a bonus or raise compared to those who do take time off.

When you don’t take time off from work, it’s easier to experience feelings of burnout, more stress, and less creativity. A break from work can help you experience a better night’s sleep and improved clarity for when you do return to the office. Take time off and be more productive at work? It’s a win-win for everyone.

Simple Changes You Can Make Today

You don’t have to give your life a complete overhaul to improve your productivity. You can start making small changes right now to start seeing an improvement in your work habits and efficiency.

Sleep at Least Seven Hours Per Night

Beyond feeling sluggish and experiencing impaired performance, a lack of sleep is associated with an increased risk of developing obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, mental distress, and other chronic conditions. Nonetheless, the CDC reports that one in three Americans doesn’t get enough sleep.

Aim to get seven to nine hours of sleep per night. For a better night’s rest, stick to a consistent sleep schedule and avoid the harsh lights from computers, televisions, and mobile devices a few hours before heading to bed.

Exercise Regularly

Starbucks President Michelle Gass runs, Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour plays tennis, and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella plays cricket. Read any interview with a powerhouse CEO or thought leader and they will likely mention exercise as an important part of their daily schedule.

Working out for at least thirty minutes several times per week can help you boost your brainpower, improve your self-esteem, stay competitive with yourself and others, and reduce anxiety and depression.

Add More Fruits and Veggies to Your Diet

What you eat significantly impacts your productivity. Overloading on carbs and sugar can lead to an energy crash, while a healthy bowl of oatmeal in the morning can keep you fueled until lunch. If you’re naturally not a healthy eater, start by improving your breakfast, as it sets you up for success for the rest of the day. Opt for whole grains, such as oatmeal, or proteins, like eggs.

If you’re already a healthy eater, start incorporating healthy, energy-fueled snacks into your diet. A handful of almonds and walnuts or a veggie smooth can save you from the three-o’clock slump.

Take Time Off

Give your brain a chance to recharge, whether it’s for ten minutes or ten days. Making your brain work eight hours per day, five days each week, fifty-two weeks every year makes it difficult to stay inspired, focused, and motivated in the office.

When you’re at work, take short five or ten-minute breaks every few hours. Take a walk around the building or stretch your legs. This is good both for your body and your mind. Don’t forget to use your paid time-off, even if it’s for a mental health staycation so your brain and body have a chance to rest.

Talk to Your Doctor

If you’re eating healthy, sleeping well, and exercising regularly but still feel your productivity is lacking, you may consider speaking with your doctor. He or she may be able to recommend some changes specific to your health and body.

You may also want to get to know your DNA better so you can give your body the type of foods and exercise it needs. Through genetic analysis, you can uncover the genetics behind your eating habits and find out if your body is more suited toward endurance or strength-based exercises.

Talk to Your Employer

More and more businesses are investing in employee health, and nearly 90% of companies have some kind of corporate wellness program. Speak to your employer about opportunities for encouraging better health habits in the workplace, such as stocking the break room with healthy snacks, offering a corporate gym membership, getting standing desks, or promoting mid-day breaks.

When healthy employees can result in better work performance and increased productivity, most employers are all ears to these types of suggestions.

See Your Productivity Soar

Making tweaks to your diet and focusing on your mental and physical health won’t just make you feel better; it will help you work more efficiently, stay more focused at work, and boost your productivity. Remember, no one lifestyle fits all, so consider your body’s unique makeup and explore what foods, schedules, and exercises benefit you most and help you feel your best.