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Why Silly Distractions At Work Can Be Good For You

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On the JJ Barnes Blog, I check out research that shows having a silly distraction can actually improve your work ethic and mental health.

I work really hard, and for long hours, to keep our business running. I have to multitask, working on articles, creating graphics, answering emails, maintaining social media, while also parenting and keeping the house running. It’s a lot of pressure, and there is rarely any let up. I’m fortunate that I love it, and I have the best partner to work with, but it’s easy to sometimes feel incredibly stressed and overwhelmed by how much there is to do.

Therefore, when I saw that a silly and fun distraction could actually IMPROVE my ability to work, I was immediately interested.

Positive Distractions

According to new research conducted by an international team of researchers from WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management and Trinity Business School, positive interventions, such as watching a funny YouTube video that distract us from difficult tasks actually help to reduce our stress levels and overcome daily demands like dealing with annoying emails. In turn, this allows you to be more engaged, creative, and helpful toward your coworkers.

The research was led by Vera Schweitzer from WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management with co-authors Wladislaw Rivkin (Trinity), Fabiola Gerpott (WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management), Stefan Diestel (University of Wuppertal), Jana Kühnel (University of Vienna), Roman Prem (University of Graz), and Mo Wang (University of Florida). The researchers gathered their results by examining 85 employees over 12 workdays, who received a daily text- or video-based positivity micro-intervention.

So, next time you find yourself secretly laughing at a video to give yourself a moments res, you should embrace it. It will help you to recover from a stressful morning and prepare you to make the rest of the day a success.

The paper, entitled, ‘Some positivity per day can protect you a long way: A within-person field experiment to test an affect-resource model of employee effectiveness at work’, was recently published in the journal ‘Work & Stress’.

Vera Schweitzer

“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,” explained Vera Schweitzer, WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management.

“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.”

Dr Wladislaw Rivkin

“Today’s work environments are increasingly demanding, but we have limited understanding of what organisations and employees can do to prevent the stressful effects of self-control demands such as negative emails or unloved tasks,” explained 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, organisations could provide employees with recommendations about short funny videos via a daily newsletter or by posting a ‘joke of the day’ on the intranet. By doing so, employers can help mitigate the negative effects of self-control demands.”

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