Putting in long hours and never leaving your desk during the day has traditionally been viewed as one of the paths to promotion by many employees. By doing this, you are proving to your employer that you are committed to the company and prepared to work the extra hours when required.
While your dedication may be demonstrated by these work behaviours, you may also be unknowingly selling yourself short for the promotion in other areas such as productivity, creativity, stress management and conflict resolution.
Over the past two to three decades, large amounts of research globally have been undertaken to establish the relationship between work and an individual’s health, and conversely, how an individual’s health and wellbeing affects their performance and productivity at work. From this research, it can be clearly seen the health of an individual has a strong influence on obvious measures such as absenteeism and productivity as well as more discrete measures such as problem solving and emotional stability for handling stressful or conflict situations.
In recognition of this, many leaders of global companies, or even leaders of countries themselves such as past President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, have credited their productivity, success and leadership to prioritising their health across four particular aspects; exercise, nutrition, sleep and having time for yourself.
Hannibal Baldiwn, CEO at SiteZeus, a location intelligence technology company with an impressive portfolio including Subway and Gloria Jeans Coffee, has attributed exercising “…religiously for the past 12 years” for his “daily attitude, work potential, and outlook on life”. In 2014, Barack Obama was quoted during an interview highlighting the importance of prioritising exercise into your day, “You have to exercise…Or at some point you’ll just break down”. Regular exercise is known to improve your mental health and emotional stability, increase your overall cognitive functioning and helps to prevent or manage chronic diseases, all resulting in greater work performance.
Research shows your nutrition plays a large role in your health, wellbeing, energy levels, immunity and protection against chronic diseases; all of which can affect your performance at work and productivity. Arianna Huffington, entrepreneur, writer and co-founded of The Huffington Post, eats a healthy diet to help fuel her throughout the day and support her creativity at work, often starting her day with “fresh fruit, poached eggs and two hots of Bulletproof coffee”.
The New York Times bestselling author of The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin, has previously stated her number one habit to maintain her health, energy levels, mood and writing performance is ensuring she gets enough sleep each night. Rubin said, “I see a huge difference in my analytical capacity, my creativity, and my productivity based on how wide-awake I feel. It’s hard to turn out the light before I finish that chapter…but now I’m zealous about getting enough sleep.” Research has shown sleep deprivation, even short-term, is associated with significantly decreased cognitive and memory function, and an increased risk of poorer health such as weight gain and chronic diseases; which will affect your work.
Prioritising Time for Yourself
Taking time for yourself during work to refocus, and outside of work to enjoy your family, friends and hobbies is essential for health and wellbeing. During work, frequent short breaks and set breaks such as lunch are important to revitalise your brain for optimal productivity. Dan Hogan, CEO of Medalogix, a health-care technology company, says his secret to keeping mentally agile is taking breaks, “…I play a quick game of catch or build a Lego house to give my brain a breather”. Outside of work, it is important to establish some work-life balance which will benefit yourself, your family and your work. Jim Moffatt, chairman and chief executive of Deloitte Consulting LPP, wrote in his article for Forbes magazine, “By taking a break from the day-to-day operations, not only was I spending some much-needed time with my family, but also I was able to focus on the bigger picture…”. Having sufficient time for yourself is essential to gain new perspectives, encourage creative problem solving and refresh your brain so that you are able perform at work.
Working longer hours is an expectation of any job when deadlines need to be met and can show dedication to your work, however consistently working overtime can result in compromised health and poorer performance and productivity. When aiming for a promotion, prioritising your health like other successful CEO’s and leaders will help give you the upper hand by ensuring you are performing to your highest ability, properly managing stress and demonstrating effective conflict resolution skills when required. Tiffany Dufu, chief leadership officer to Levo, and author of Drop the Ball: Achieving More by Doing Less? previously summarised her principles of health for success at work, “I have my four ‘go-to’ habits: go to the gym, go to lunch, go to events, go to sleep”; words to consider when trying to improve your performance at work.