DUBLIN — Most office bosses consider distractions a productivity-killer, but new findings from Trinity College Dublin suggest we could all benefit from a few more silly moments during the typical workday. Scientists report short, positive interactions that distract us from difficult work tasks, like a funny YouTube video or quick chat with a colleague, help reduce stress levels.
Very few people genuinely enjoy every single aspect of their day-to-day job. There’s often at least one or two annoying or especially difficult tasks to tackle. This research indicates short, silly distractions over the course of the workday can mitigate the stress caused by such assignments. Consequently, employees are usually more engaged, creative, and helpful toward co-workers when they can find the time for a few distractions here and there.
Researchers came to their conclusions by analyzing 85 employees over the course of 12 workdays. Examined workers each received either a daily text or video-based positivity micro-intervention.
“Our study shows that experiencing feelings of positivity throughout your workday can help you to remain effective particularly when daily work demands require you to invest a lot of self-control, that is, regulatory resources to control your temper,” says Professor Vera Schweitzer, researcher at WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management, in a media release. “Trying to stay calm after reading an annoying email, for example, is typically quite depleting for employees. Consequently, they might struggle to demonstrate self-control throughout the rest of their workday, which, in turn, would hamper their engagement, creativity, and behavior toward their colleagues.
“This is where positivity comes into play: Watching a funny video increases feelings of positivity. Such positive emotions allow employees to protect their regulatory resources even after dealing with resource-consuming self-control demands. In turn, this positively affects their effectiveness at work,” she continues.
So, the next time your boss reprimands you for cracking a joke or watching a video at your desk, remind them that silliness helps subdue stress – and that’s good for business.
“Today’s work environments are increasingly demanding, but we have limited understanding of what organizations and employees can do to prevent the stressful effects of self-control demands such as negative emails or unloved tasks,” explains Dr. Wladislaw Rivkin, Associate Professor in Organisational Behaviour, Trinity Business School.
“Our research shows that short positivity interventions can help employees make the best of their day and that employers and employees should consider incorporating more positivity into the workday! For example, organizations could provide employees with recommendations about short funny videos via a daily newsletter or post a ‘joke of the day’ on the intranet. By doing so, employers can help mitigate the negative effects of self-control demands.”
The study is published in Work & Stress.