Picture this. You’re the boss. You walk through your office, and one of your employees quickly "alt-tabs" or "command-tabs" on their computer, so that their active window switches just before you can see what they've been doing.
Perhaps it's characteristic of you, perhaps not, but you call them out. You ask what they were looking at and didn't want you to see.
You hover, as they sheepishly alt-tab back to reveal ...
a funny YouTube video, or
a meme someone shared with them, or
a personal email they were composing, venting about life and the absurdity of the modern office.
You get the picture. And, my friend, you might have a problem.
It's not that your employees are goofing off on company time (and how 20th century it sounds to put it like that). Instead, it's that they're afraid to let you see them.
Because if you want happy employees—and if you believe rightly that happy employees will likely lead to a more successful business—psychology and neuroscience suggest this is exactly what they should be doing.
A recent experiment backs it up, according to Trinity College Dublin:
Positive interventions that distract us from difficult tasks actually help to reduce our stress levels, according to new research from WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management and Trinity Business School.
The research, conducted by an international team of researchers, shows that short positive interventions, such as watching a funny YouTube video, can help you to overcome daily demands like dealing with annoying emails or the tasks you dread.
In turn, this allows you to be more engaged, creative, and helpful toward your coworkers.
The team of researchers studied 85 employees over 12 workdays, tracking their reactions at work after they were sent a daily text, or video-based positivity micro-intervention.
"Consistent with our predictions," they wrote in Work & Stress: An International Journal of Work, Health & Organisations, "work engagement, organizational citizenship behavior, and creativity" were better "on days when participants experienced positive affect, which was enhanced through the positivity micro-intervention."
In other words: A funny video, a compassionate interaction—really, any kind of "short positive interventions"—had an appreciable, positive effect.
Vera Schweitzer, a researcher at WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management, explained:
"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."
There you go: case-closed. Let it be known at work that you're all in favor of a habit of little breaks for laughter. No alt-tabbing required.
7 other things worth knowing today
Lionel Messi has finally done it. Argentina won the 2022 FIFA World Cup on Sunday, defeating France in penalty kicks in one of the most dramatic matches in the history of the sport. (Fox Sports)
Some of Google’s biggest rivals are coming together in a kind of rogues gallery with the hopes of creating new open source services to knock Google Maps from its mapping throne: Meta, Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, and none other than Dutch geolocation company TomTom. (Gizmodo)
Nationwide graduation rates have risen in recent decades, the number of adults who struggle to read remains stubbornly high: 48 million, or 23%. (ProPublica)
A former Twitter worker convicted of spying for Saudi officials, and selling Twitter user information for cash and an expensive watch years ago, was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison. Ahmad Abouammo was found guilty in August on criminal counts including money laundering, fraud, and being an illegal agent of a foreign government, according to a copy of the verdict. (Yahoo News)
Pope Francis said he signed a letter of resignation in the first year of his reign to provide for the possibility that he would become incapable of fulfilling his duties. “I signed it and said, ‘If I should become impaired for medical reasons or whatever, here is my resignation,’” the pope told the Spanish daily newspaper ABC in an interview published Sunday. (WSJ)
Confidential data of about 112,000 taxpayers inadvertently published by the IRS over the summer was mistakenly republished in late November and remained online until early December, the IRS disclosed Thursday. (Bloomberg Tax)
President Joe Biden and his family held a private memorial service Sunday to mark the 50th anniversary of the car crash that killed his first wife and their baby daughter. Also, here's the recording of the wildly unempathetic condolence call from President Nixon soon afterward. (Yahoo News)
Thanks for reading. Photo by Jay Zhang on Unsplash. I wrote about some of this before at Inc.com. See you in the comments!
I agree that having some downtime during the day is a good thing. But beware going down a rabbit hole when you do so. One of my morning newsletters usually includes a funny Tweet or Instagram, I usually look at that in the morning to start my day. I love beginning with a smile and/or a laugh.
Excellent reminder that just because organizations and our leadership teams may have custody over our bodies, when they imprison our minds they lose far more in the long run.