November 28, 2022
Positive interventions that distract us from difficult tasks actually help to reduce our stress levels, according to new research published in the Journal Work & Stress. The study, conducted by an international team of researchers at WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management and Trinity Business School suggests that short positive work distractions can help people to overcome daily demands like dealing with annoying emails or the tasks they dread. In turn, this allows them to be more engaged, creative, and helpful toward their 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).
According to 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. 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 behaviour 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, Associate Professor in Organisational Behaviour, Trinity Business School, added:“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.
“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.”
The researchers gathered their results by examining 85 employees over 12 workdays, who received a daily text- or video-based positivity micro-intervention to replicate enjoyable work distractions.