How you can feel better, to focus better and be more productive

If you find it hard to focus this time of the year, you are not alone. For most of us, the New Years Resolutions are forgotten, and we’re just treading water to meet our deadlines before the end of the year.

Apart from the general exhaustion from a long year, you may not be aware how much your health also affects your productivity. And we’re not talking about the times you are down with the flu or a serious tummy bug, but all those other little niggles: headaches, nausea, fatigue, and backache to name a few. They aren’t always obviously distracting, but in the long term, can take a big toll on your productivity at work.

Presenteeism is the new absenteeism

We all know about absenteeism. Presenteeism, though, is when  you are physically present at work, but not functioning at your best because of health-issues. Studies suggest this can cut productivity by 33%, and seems more costly for the company than absenteeism! And unfortunately, it’s not that obvious. Your office mate not arriving for work is noticeable, but you’ll never really know how much their ongoing allergies is slowing their performance.

General health habits, like what you eat and how often you exercise can also impact your work. For example, one survey found

  • Employees with unhealthy diets were 66% more likely to report productivity loss compared to healthy eaters
  • Workers who rarely exercised were 50% more likely to report lower levels of productivity compared to active co-workers

Presenteeism shouldn’t be confused with “boredeeism”! Surfing the internet or chatting to Facebook friends is an obvious productivity killer. Presenteeism means you’re not that productive because of real health problems, even  when you are genuinely committed to doing a good job.

Are you suffering from presenteeism?

Your health affects both quality and quantity of your work. You may work slower, have to repeat tasks, or start making more mistakes. These all add up to lowered productivity. For example,

  • Allergies can interfere with concentration and cause fatigue
  • Irritable bowel or reflux cause continuous discomfort, distraction and frequent bathroom breaks
  • Depression can cause anxiety, irritability and fatigue
  • Arthritis and joint pain can make manual labour slower or more difficult
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Overcoming health distractions to boost productivity

The problem with presenteeism is simple: when people don’t feel good, they don’t do their best work. How can you deal with presenteeism to ensure you always give of your best?

  1. Get a diagnosis. Ongoing niggles are a sign of something that isn’t quite right. If you’re experiencing pain or discomfort for any extended period, it’s time to have it checked out by a medical professional
  2. Make your managers (and yourself!) aware of the problem. Once you have identified that there is a problem, it’s important to address it! If you need to take medication, for example, make sure your manager knows about it.
  3. Don’t ignore output in favour of input. Simply put: don’t ignore your health – it directly impacts your ability to be productive!
  4. Commit to a sustainable work/life balance and set some boundaries. Create balance both at work and at home. Do this by always taking a lunch break and switching off your email when you get home. Performance is rewarded on results, not long hours!
  5. Choose a healthy lifestyle. Remember these 3 things: eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly and prioritise sleep. Healthy living is not a cast-iron guarantee against presenteeism, but it does stack the odds in your favour, by reducing the risk of developing it!