Society

Leisure is essential for staff to perform well

camel ride

Tourists enjoy a camel ride along the Diani beach on June 8, 2021. PHOTO | WACHIRA MWANGI | NMG

scottbellows

Summary

  • Recreation activities provide a myriad of both mental and physical health benefits.
  • Those viewing recreation as wasteful and unproductive are also more likely to hold lower life happiness levels along with greater anxiety and stress.

Jepkemoi and Marura shared an office at their logistics firm employer in Kwale County. Both worked difficult hours 7:30 am to 6:00 pm five days a week. They traced clearing and forwarding accounts of their customers and liaised with accounts receivable and credit control on customer payments. Both were well-liked in the office and performed well according to their annual performance reviews.

However, one main distinction seemed to separate the two staff. Jepkemoi often worked late until 9 pm and 10 pm on weekdays and then many weekends often found her in the office. On the contrary, Marura arrived on time and usually left promptly when 6:00 pm hit. She looked forward to her time off and spent time walking calmly along the beaches of Diani, attending cultural festivals, and often had dinner with her friends and family.

Jepkemoi, on the other hand, saw leisure time as unproductive and intentionally sought to achieve her goals through hard work and reaching professional milestones. When she did gather with her social circle, take walks, or go on day trips, she often did not find that the experiences relaxed her.

By November, Jepkemoi and Marura's employer decided to conduct staff perception surveys. In and amongst the standard questions about staff attitudes, intentions, and behaviours, the employer included some personality and satisfaction questions as well. W

hile the survey was anonymous, the life satisfaction portion allowed employees to optionally input their names if they sought psychological support or a specialist to reach out to them. Both Jepkemoi and Marura filled in their names during this optional space.

Their supervisor was surprised to find that despite their similar performance, Jepkemoi suffered from significantly lower life satisfaction than did Marura. Upon referral to an organisational psychologist, Jepkemoi discovered that her disdain for leisure time was negatively affecting her overall workplace and life outlook.

Scientifically, in four different research studies recently conducted by Gabriela Tonietto, Selin Malkoc, Rebecca Reczek, and Michael Norton, they found that when someone does not view leisure time favourably, and instead sees it as wasteful or indulgent, then they are much less able to enjoy free time when they do take it.

So, in the above example, if Jepkemoi finally gave in and went on a holiday at the urging of her friends, the result would be negligible because she would not be able to unwind, relax, and recharge given her predisposition of animosity towards leisure time in general.

Recreation activities provide a myriad of both mental and physical health benefits. Despite the benefits, surprising numbers of people find leisure time and activities to be a luxury and an unproductive waste of time. Those viewing recreation as wasteful and unproductive are also more likely to hold lower life happiness levels along with greater anxiety and stress.

When researchers try to utilise productive and useful words and descriptions to explain recreation activities to employees, the simple change in phrasing had no effect on workers’ mindsets. The above social scientists recommend instead framing the whole concept of leisure, rather than specific activities, as goal-consistent with achieving more at work and life.

If staff can see the positive side and benefits of leisure as actually helping them achieve more and better results in the long run, then they may reduce their negative outlook towards leisure and be able to enjoy recreation time and activities more and reap the mental and physical health benefits.

Perhaps then we should rephrase the old adage, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” into “all work and no play makes Jack unproductive, stressed out, anxious, and unhappy with life”.

[email protected] Twitter: @ScottProfessor