As I mentioned in my last article, happy people are 31% more productive, have 37% higher sales and are 300% more creative than their less satisfied counterparts, as shown by Sonja Luybomirsky, a leading researcher. Obviously, happiness is good for business. Corporate managers, small business owners and entrepreneurs who pay attention to employees’ well-being—and their own well-being—give themselves a distinct advantage over the competition.
Traditionally, in the American marketplace, businesses give employees incentives to work harder, rewards like trips and bonuses that have monetary value. We’ve developed technology to increase the output of workers—cell phones, communication apps and databases, to name a few. These tools have increased output, but they’ve also created an “always on” society that blurs the distinction between work and personal time. Although fostering happiness among workers seems as easy as creating monetary incentives to reach goals, the truth is those incentives are not effective in a knowledge-based economy.
This “always on” society in which customers and employers expect 24-hour accessibility and response has a major side effect, which is the number one cause of unhappiness: unrelenting stress. And one of the biggest causes of stress is the distraction caused by the very technology created to enhance productivity.
When you are working to complete a task and your phone rings or dings with multiple text messages, your body responds. The sympathetic nervous system pumps hormones into the bloodstream, stimulating the “fight or flight mode,” the biological program that keeps you from being eaten by a lion. The hormones that cause the “fight or flight” response can circulate in the blood until the sympathetic nervous system relaxes. One event can lead to the presence of stress hormones in the body as much as 36 hours later! Just imagine how the stress from all the disruptions during a day can take a toll on the body.
Smart managers understand that helping to eliminate disruptions will keep employees focused on the tasks of the day. It turns out that effectively managing disruptions also will lead to happier, more productive, more creative employees. There are two types of disruptions: external and internal. Obviously, external disruptions are people and events, like the demanding clients and intrusive technology mentioned above. Internal disruptions are thoughts and feelings and those can be harder to manage than external disruptions.
It turns out that there is a lot you can do to manage the stress from disruptions before it occurs and get back on track effectively when it does happen. How can you take control of your internal environment? Everyone is different and will respond differently. It’s best for you to experiment and find out what works for you.
Studies have shown that it is more effective to schedule multiple short bursts of calming techniques throughout the day, rather than one longer session once or twice a week. Working for 60 to 90 minutes followed by a 5- to 15-minute break seems to work best for most people.
Here is what you can do during those 15 minutes to calm the central nervous system—and make yourself happier, more productive, more creative and earn more money. (Why would you not at least try it for a week?)
- Grab your phone and do a guided meditation from Headspace (make sure the phone is in do-not-disturb mode!)
- Get out in nature and take several deep belly breaths.
- Walk around the block or do other moderate exercise (I dare you to do burpees in your office).
- Call a friend whose energy lifts you up.
- Listen to music.
In the go-go world of business, there is a tendency to believe that money is the end game. In this period of social distancing, many people have the time to look at their lives, see where they aren’t content and make changes. Smart businesspeople will pay attention to the happiness of their employees and come up with ingenious solutions to help manage distractions. It is just good business.