hplogoLuis Casado, Marketing Director, HP LaserJet & Enterprise Solutions, GTMU Imaging & Printing Group, EMEA, explains how breaks, networking with colleagues and the office environment can have a positive impact on productivity. It really is the small things that make a difference to our working day; not only that, they can also make a positive difference to the bottom line.

This is the finding of a range of academic research and highlighted by a pan European survey commissioned by HP’s Imaging & Printing Group (IPG) to gain insight into the unusual and unacknowledged ways small and medium businesses (SMBs) generate value during the working day.

The survey was commissioned as part of HP’s ‘Laser Jet Pays You Back’ campaign, highlighting the – often unacknowledged – value that HP’s LaserJet printing range has been bringing to SMBs across the globe for over 25 years.

HP’s research – covering 11 EMEA countries – revealed the return on investment (ROI) behind a range of practices and actions that businesses typically wouldn´t associate with value creation, such as a trip to the gym (with 37% of respondents associating an ROI with this activity), the journey to and from work (47%) and, even, the presence of potted plants or flowers in the office (55%)!

HP’s pan EMEA research on workplace efficiency
In today’s economic climate some employers are finding it a challenge to provide employees with traditional motivators such as bonuses or yearly salary increases. Understanding what motivates and helps employees perform efficiently on the job can assist employers in finding ways to maintain productivity even in challenging economic times.

According to the research, in terms of taking a break, it’s the type of break that makes the difference. Results show that the short breaks taken throughout the workday are the most effective with respect to the generation of workplace efficiency. Whether it is the morning coffee break or the way they spend their lunch hour, employees revealed that break activities taken during the work day to be 79% more effective in terms of ROI generation than such activities performed outside working hours.

The survey also revealed a strong correlation between the ability to network with colleagues and workplace efficiency. Overall, respondents to the survey felt that lunch hours with colleagues (60%) were three times more productive than lunch hours alone (20%). The same could be said when evaluating responses about going out with or without colleagues after work. Going out with colleagues after work is 57% more efficient (in ROI terms, at least) than going out alone!

According to Dr. Michal Bashshur, Industrial Organizational Psychologist and assistant professor at Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Spain, the simple act of going out with colleagues gives employees the opportunity to disengage and express discontent with their job, which facilitates resource recharging and buffers stress.

In many respects, it really is the small gestures that count. EMEA respondents find that a comfortable chair is just as important as a functioning PC – 91% responded that both items made them somewhat or significantly more efficient at work. In terms of the benefits in the workplace, employees find that their immediate surroundings have more of an impact on productivity compared to the office location. For example, fresh coffee and (64%) and potted plants/flowers (55%) contribute more to workplace productivity than an office location in the vicinity of shops or restaurants (38% and 34% respectively).

Reducing the risk and increasing productivity
Dr. Bashshur, goes onto explain that increased personal resources and levels of discretion while performing our workday tasks can decrease the potential of emotional exhaustion .

“Each person is built with limited personal resources that allow them to complete their daily workday tasks,” says Bashshur. “If employees are not able to recover the psychological resources lost, they can experience reduced energy levels and find it increasingly exhausting to perform their daily tasks, leading them to eventually burnout.”

One solution is simply to take a break! Even taking a short break from work, to have a cup of coffee or lunch with (or without) a colleague can help restore depleted personal resources.

“Taking a break that allows you to mentally disengage from your job can aide in reducing fatigue and buffering stress. When employees feel good in the workplace they are more likely to engage in organizational citizenship behaviors (OCB), such as providing support on a project they are not responsible for or staying late in the office. This in turn leads colleagues to perform reciprocal OCB behaviors and ultimately, an increase in workplace efficiency and productivity,” explains Bashshur.

Generating a ROI
Encouraging employees to take a break can make a real difference in terms of office productivity, but how else can businesses generate a real return on investment (ROI)? Here are some tips for businesses looking to derive value from within their own organization:

1. Let it all hang out – give me a break
Regulating of one’s emotions in jobs that demand high levels of positive affective displays, such as sales or customer service representatives, are particularly draining on one’s personal resources. Encouraging employees to take a rest break before they begin to feel overwhelmed will help employees maintain performance, manage stress and fatigue, decreasing the future potential for burnout.

2. Lend a helping hand – help out a colleague
According to a study by the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Konstanz the experience of helping others can help employees feel better about themselves and act as a buffer against burnout. The findings also suggest that even the idea that employee actions are helping other colleagues or society is beneficial and using anecdotal stories to demonstrate how their actions are benefiting others may have the same affects in preventing emotional exhaustion.

3. Encourage your employees to volunteer
Every third European and every fourth American citizen spends one or more evenings per week engaging in unpaid activities in which he or she helps another person, group or cause, for instance, coaching a sports team or leading a self-help group meeting. Research by the University of Konstanz in Germany shows that the amount of time spent of volunteering after work is positively related to being able to detach psychologically from work and was positively related to active listening at work the following day. Their research suggests that being able to fully detach from ones job in the evening also enhances an employee’s well being at work, allowing them to react more positively to co-workers.

4. Think positive
Helping your employees and colleagues to stay positive about the job may have more of an impact than just a good attitude. Research conducted with 358 employees working with people with specials needs reported that positive work reflection predicted an increase in OCB and proactive behavior, such as taking initiative and being creative on the job.

The wealth of research, including that commissioned by HP, confirms the powerful impact breaks, informal networking with colleagues and the office environment have on productivity in the workplace. hp-ipg

The implications from a business perspective are compelling – it is, indeed, the small gestures that can make a difference, even to the bottom line. The same can be said of HP IPG’s LaserJet printing range – quietly, inadvertently helping businesses generate ROI for over 25 years.

About HP
HP creates new possibilities for technology to have a meaningful impact on people, businesses, governments and society. The world’s largest technology company, HP brings together a portfolio that spans printing, personal computing, software, services and IT infrastructure to solve customer problems. More information about HP is available at http://www8.hp.com/za/en/home.html



Information Sources:
Beal, Daniel J., Green, Stephan G., Trougakos, John P., Weiss, Howard M.. (2008) Making the Break Count: An Episodic Examination of Recovery Activities, Emotional Experiences, and Positive Affective Dispalys. Academy of Management Journal , Vol. 51. No. 1, 131-146.

Grant, Adam M., Sonnetag, Sabine. (18 August 2009) Doing Good Buffers Against Feeling Bad: Pro-social Impact Compensates for Negative Task and Self Evaluations. Organizational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes 111 13-22.

TNS Infratest 2007; United States Department of Labor 2009 http://www.tns-infratest.com/presse/eurobarometer.asp

Binnewies, Carmen, Lorenz, Christian, Mojza, Eva J., Sonnentag, Sabine. (2010). Daily recovery experiences: The role of volunteer work during leisure time. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, Vol 15(1), Jan, 2010. pp. 60-74.

Carmen Binnewies, Sabine Sonnentag, Eva J Mojza (2009). Feeling recovered and thinking about the good sides of one’s work. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology Vol 14(3), pp. 243-256.



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