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Study: Working Later Can Make You Less Productive

by Hanna Brooks Olsen
creativity

Adding further proof to the pile of studies that laud the positive impact of taking time away from work, a study from the University of Zurich has found that employees who are allowed to take plenty of time to recover during work shifts are more productive — and that those who work later and have less time between work don’t get as much done.

The study, which asked participants about how rested they felt after various amounts of time between work, found that taking time away from work helped workers get into a “flow”, which helped them produce more, and more quality, work. Those who did not take enough time away from work had a more difficult time hitting their stride, and thus, tended to take more time to complete tasks.

“If employees have the possibility to recover well from work, they will experience more flow at work, which may actually help improve their performance on the job,” said Dr. Maike Debus, one of the co-authors of the study, told the Huffington Post in an email.

Taking time away to recharge and recover from work — which also means not answers work email and allowing your brain to “idle,” a necessary component for a rested mind — also has impacts on creativity; that same inability to get into a “flow” has been found to hinder creative thinking at times when the most emphasis is put on it, like during scheduled brainstorming meetings.

It may seem counterintuitive in a work culture where the 5pm stakeout seems like a common practice, but there’s a rapidly growing body of work that point to the fact that time spent not working can actually make the time you do spend working more meaningful and efficient. In fact, studies like these — which show that longer work hours and more work days don’t equate to a greater degree of output — have spurred market innovators like Richard Branson to call for an end to the 40-hour workweek.

However, cutting down the workweek in favor of longer weekends doesn’t seem like it’s going to become commonplace any time soon. So, in the meantime, just tell your boss that you’ve got a hard stop at 5pm, and that you’ll think about whatever she needs done first thing in the morning.

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Hanna Brooks Olsen

Hanna Brooks Olsen is a writer and editor for CreativeLive, longtime reporter, and the co-founder of Seattlish. Follow her on Twitter at @mshannabrooks or go to her website for more stuff.