Feeling stressed? Tired? Skipping out on work might seem wrong, but according to one neuroscientist, it could end up making you more productive in the long run.
Photo by Steven Pisano.
It's common to feel tired after a long day at work or to need a holiday after a month-long sprint to finish a new feature. But sadly it's also common to feel tired all the time. To lack enthusiasm about your work. To feel cynical and disengaged from what you do.
As Dr Tara Swart explains to Fast Company, taking a little extra time off from work is good for your brain. In order to be productive, Swart says, you need blood flowing to all parts of your brain. Otherwise, you don't get enough of the glucose and oxygen delivered to the brain that you need to think and keep focused. But when you're too stressed at work, or feel like you're being treated unfairly, the brain moves your blood supply away from the higher centres of your brain and switches into what's called "survival mode". In this state, you can work well enough to get by, but your productivity suffers and you're less willing to work with others.
According to Swart, without the proper blood flow being sent to the higher, executive functions of the brain, you lose your ability to regulate emotions, suppress your biases, switch between tasks efficiently, solve complex problems faster, and you think less creatively. In the video, Swart likens your brain to being the CEO of your body:
...if you knew how your CEO thinks, what their values are, or how they like to work, you'd be able to give them the best piece of work that you can. It's exactly like that with your brain. The more you know about how it works, the more you can get out of it.
So Swart suggests you take some personal time off whenever you're really stressed or having interpersonal problems in the workplace. Call in sick even if you aren't, or better yet, take one of those "mental health days" that aren't used often enough. You'll come back more productive, creative, and feeling warmer towards your coworkers. So, yeah, anyway, I'm going to go take the rest of the day off (don't tell my editors), and I hope you do too.