Its 9am in the workplace: what are you doing with your time? If you're anything like me - and I'll wager you are - there's a good chance you are busy discussing with co-workers what they were up to last night.
This, of course, follows the assumption that 9am doesn't pose a particularly stressful time for you and your colleagues - which obviously isn't always the case - but run with this presupposition for just a second, and you might find it throws up one or two interesting ideas relating to the relationship between workplace stress and productivity.
The fact is, the primary goal of any organization is to create surplus profit, and to accomplish this goal effectively management teams across the globe have to establish an environment where people can work productively. Therefore, you could define productivity as an output/input ratio. In other words, if you were to express "productivity" as an equation it might look something like this:
Productivity = outputs / inputs (within a time period, quality considered)
As such, much has been documented about how workplace stress can affect productivity. According to some analysts, as many as three out of every four Americans define their work as stressful; while others argue that occupational stress is becoming a "global pandemic," especially in light of the ongoing economic crisis.
And, of course, stress is a factor in every one's life - particularly during major personal events such as marriage, divorce, death or buying a home. Subsequently, it becomes difficult for even the most professional employee to not let stress spill over into their work-life.
From here, baring in mind the aforementioned formula, the patterns are easy to predict. Stress, whether defined by the actual work you have to do or factors in your personal life that get you stressed-out at work, invariably leads workers to feel less productive and stifles creativity and peak performance.
But, assume you are among the one in every four Americans who doesn't define their work as stressful. Assume that work, for you, is the kind of job you could do - by-and-large - with your eyes closed.
Let's get one thing clear: we're not trying to suggest that stress and productivity are not intrinsically linked. Far from it, in fact; it is simply that - if you're really honest about it - stress often isn't as bad as you think it is, and you probably find that when you do get stressed you get more worked-up over things you wouldn't ordinarily admit to, and not those that traditionally feature as stressful factors.
In fact, you might find the most stressful time of your day comes 10 minutes before your lunch break - when you realise you haven't given much thought about what to tuck-in to for a midday snack. Chances are productivity falls right down at this point too - and is pretty much non-existent for the next hour as well.
What's more, evidence has shows that stress is not always a bad thing. According to findings from Robert Ostermann, professor of psychology at FDU's Teaneck-Hackensack Campus, stress can actually stimulate creativity and productivity and in a study by Ostermann from 1999, he wrote: "No one reaches peak performance without being stressed, whether an athlete, an office worker or a manager."
As such, by the time 3:30 in the afternoon comes around - and you realize you've done next to nothing since lunch - stress kicks in. You soon find yourself wrestling with a new idea, and the drive to get something completed before the end of the day.
Then, as the office wraps up for the day, productivity levels fall fast - with stress not far behind - and out comes the age-old workforce promise of "doing better tomorrow."
Yes, stress and workplace productivity are forever intertwined, there is no denying that, but using stress to your advantage - and not letting lags in productivity get you down - could be the key to dealing with the afflictions of the modern workplace
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