Want to improve motivation at work? Take a walk…

Unsophisticated as it might sound, just walking is one of the best things you can do in the working day to improve motivation at work.  A new study shows that a few walks a week taken in the lunch hour have considerable benefits on mood, making people more energetic, enthusiastic, relaxed and confident.  This will be particularly good news for companies that have discovered, through using WeThrive, that their staff could do more if they took occasional breaks from the screen. The problem is employees often feel too overwhelmed with their workload to take breaks and employers don’t necessarily do anything to discourage these overworking habits.

We know that regular breaks are vital to staying motivated and clear-headed, but managers increasingly report that people are reluctant to take them, preferring to spend their time in the office checking social media, if they’re not working right through. Here’s 3 ways employers can encourage staff to take more breaks and in turn increase motivation and productivity in the workplace:

1. Just let them know you care

The first step is to communicate that you actually want your employees to take their breaks. You can do this in the next 121, company meeting or make it more personal by dropping by teams to discuss how many breaks they are taking and why you would like them to take more.

2. Educate the wider business

Based on the survey results from 1,000 of WeThrive clients we discovered that the majority of employees felt they only had the ‘headspace’ to do their job well 51% of the time. With that in mind, how is working through breaks going to help?

If employees don’t take real breaks away from their desks, they don’t get to do the periodic mental housekeeping that we need to do to clear the head.  Then they lose enthusiasm for work as the day drags on, and end up having a worse time than they could have done for the rest of the day – getting less done, making more mistakes and generally feeling cross about life.

3. Incentivise lunch or offer discounts

There’s more detail on the Scientific American site, but the take home message is that businesses and managers should encourage employees to walk at lunchtime, according to Dr Cecile Thøgersen-Ntoumani, not least because it is expensive to put in a gym and most of the workforce won’t use it anyway.  As well as enhancing mood, regular activity is linked with greater creativity and a reduced risk of depression, and if people are already depressed it can also improve their symptoms. It is also one of the few effective ways of staving off Alzheimer’s.

A great way to do this is to offer lunch time incentives, such as free weekly food or discounts to surrounding eating establishments. Not only will you boost morale with this perk, it will mean the employee feels validated in having an actual lunch break.

Less breaks results in lower productivity

There are so many benefits to encouraging breaks, not only for the employee but the business. While every business has unique challenges when it comes to their working culture, there’s one thing for sure. Overworked, hungry and tired employees are highly unlikely to be motivated and productive.

Want to know more about the issues impacting productivity in the workplace? Try WeThrive for free and discover what it can tell you about your people. That’s enough reading, maybe take a walk to clear your head, and while you’re out have a think about your teams?


Posted by Piers Bishop on February 18, 2015

Piers Bishop, Co-Founder and organisational psychologist at WeThrive has contributed his expertise to over a hundred WeThrive blogs, webinars and whitepapers. Piers is passionate about using psychology to understand what really motivates employees. You can reach out and connect with Piers on LinkedIn.

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