Self Care: The Secret to Productivity

By Abby Wilson

Self-care isn’t easy for many to practice, especially in the workplace.

In fact, 63% of U.S. employees stated the stress from their job caused them to regularly engage in unhealthy behaviors.[i]

But the opposite is true as well. A significant, positive relationship was found between self-efficacy (a byproduct of self-care) and high job performance.[ii]

What elements constitute self-care, and how can they lead to better job performance?


An article in P&T: a Peer Reviewed Journal for Formulary Management found that people who don’t receive adequate sleep are often not aware of the sleep deprivation takes on them. Lack of sleep takes a toll on psychological well-being. It also negatively effects cognitive functions, such as performance, working memory, cognitive speed, inaccuracy. [iii]

While sleep may not be at the top of your priority list, it should be. Seven to eight hours of sleep every night is the recommendation for optimal performance.[iv]

An article from the Harvard Business Review lists ideas for getting an adequate amount of sleep:

  • Stick to a consistent bedtime and wake up schedule
  • Avoid certain substances close to bedtime (caffeine within seven hours, alcohol within three hours, and nicotine within three or four hours)
  • Exercise
  • Meditate
  • Don’t look at your screens before bedtime

HBR also points out that naps help to. Even 20 minute “power naps” can improve your quality of work.[v]

Consider implementing these ideas as practice of self-care and remember to get your zzz’s. They’re important!


Exercise can increase positive serums and chemicals in the brain, improve cognition, and Combat Stress. Exercise also positively impacts the model memory and procedural learning parts of the brain. These benefits directly translate to job performance. And what boss doesn’t want their employees to have a better memory on the job?

In fact, the company TotalWellness encourages its employees exercise during work hours. The company recognizes the benefits of exercise on productivity. For this reason, it has an office gym and offers group exercise classes two days a week.

As TotalWellness’ article points out, “The benefits you will receive from your employees’ improved health and work performance will more than outweigh the cost of paying them to work out.” [vi]

Even 15 minutes of exercise can make a difference in your work day. Who doesn’t have 15 minutes to spare?


A study published by the Population Health Management Journal showed that employees with an unhealthy diet were 66% more likely to have low productivity at work then those who regularly ate whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. [vii]

Employees may not realize that simply grabbing a donut from the break room could derail an entire afternoon. Indulging in a high amount of carbohydrates can cause the body to produce an excess of insulin and experience a sudden drop in energy levels. This “sugar crash,” known as hypoglycemia, is a productivity thief and results in a loss of concentration.

Many diet-related decisions are made at the workplace, since individuals typically spend a minimum of 40 hours per week at work. Employers have the power to promote healthy behaviors in the workplace. This may include promoting dietary interventions, supplying nutritious snacks, or providing company meals.

Productivity relies on a well fueled body, so be mindful of the sweets you snag at work. Your body will thank you!


Is it possible to work for eight hours without taking a break? Maybe, but it isn’t healthy or effective. Employees need to refresh and take five-minute breaks every now and again.

Short relaxation activities lead to feelings of vigor, enjoyment, and concentration, according to a study from The Journal of Applied Pscyhology.[viii] The study also found that employees can be energized by social interactions, which lead to increase energy at work.

So, ironically, it turns out that taking breaks throughout the day will help you be more productive. Here are a few ideas to help you unwind for a minute or two:

  • Go for a walk
  • Read a relaxing book or article
  • Browse the internet
  • Play a game
  • Talk to your coworkers

Have you ever heard the saying, “work smarter, not harder”? Start working smarter by incorporating breaks into your workday.

Improve Your Productivity, Today

Self-care is more than buying yourself an ice cream cone after a hard day. Self-care includes being in tune with your physical, mental, and emotional health.

While practicing self-care requires effort, the benefits cannot be overstated. Getting an adequate amount of sleep, exercising, eating nutritious foods, and taking breaks can make a world of difference in your workday.

If you’re looking for ways to improve productivity, consider implementing these practices in your daily routine. Your future self will thank you!

[i] John Elfein, “Work-Related Stress Caused Unhealthy Behaviors U.S. 2015-2017,” Statista, last modified January 14, 2019,

[ii] Rebecca Thompson Lindsey, “The Relation of Nutrition, Exercise, and Self-Efficacy to Job Performance” (PhD diss., 2018).

[iii] Susan L. Worley, “The Extraordinary Importance of Sleep,” P&T: a Peer Reviewed Journal for Formulary Management 43, no. 12 (December 2018).

[iv] “Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency.” National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, accessed October 15, 2019,

[v] Christopher Barnes, “Sleep Well, Lead Better,” Harvard Business Review, September 2018,

[vi] Alan Kohll, “Why We Pay Our Employees To Exercise At Work,” Forbes, last modified January 9, 2019,

[vii] RM Merrill, “Presenteeism According to Healthy Behaviors, Physical Health, and Work Environment,” Population Health Management Journal 15, no. 5 (October 2012),

[viii] Sooyeol Kim, Youngah Park, and Lucille Headrick. “Daily Micro-Breaks and Job Performance: General Work Engagement as a Cross-Level Moderator,” Journal of Applied Psychology 103, no. 7 (July 2018)

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