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A three-day weekend might be good for work as well

Recent research has once again highlighted the need to strike a strong work-life balance and its impact on health

Extra time off from work is good for the health and productivity of workers, say experts.
Extra time off from work is good for the health and productivity of workers, say experts. (iStockphoto)

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It’s well known that work-related stress can severely impact our body and mind, especially when it doesn’t ease up after a while. The stress and anxiety might give us the energy to power through difficult situations—but over time, they start harming the body, causing anything from insomnia and nausea to blood pressure issues, even heart attack.

Small wonder then health experts keep reiterating the need to re-evaluate our relationship with work and how we strike work-life balance.

In fact, earlier this year, one of the world’s biggest trials of a four-day work- ing week showed that long weekends help employees and companies stay more productive. The 4 Day Week Global study, conducted in over 60 companies in Britain, had shown that absenteeism and the number of staff leaving fell sharply when four-day workweek was adopted. Importantly, “significant” increases were observed in physical and mental health, and overall life and job satisfaction, the study had found.

Also read: Kombucha to kimchi: Which fermented foods are best for your brain?

Another study, published earlier this month, concluded saying extra time off is good for the health of office goers.

Health researchers at the University of South Australia (UniSA) said they’re “all in” when it comes to a long weekend, according to the university’s press statement. In the empirical study, the researchers assessed changes in daily movements during and after holidays and found that people were more active and displayed healthier behaviours after a three-day break.

This research used data from the Annual Rhythms in Adults’ Lifestyle and health study, where 308 adults aged around 40 years wore fitness trackers all day (24 hours) for 13 months.

The findings showed that while on holiday, people engaged in 13% more moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each day, were less sedentary, and slept more.

“When people go on holiday, they’re changing their everyday responsibilities because they’re not locked down to their normal schedule,” said UniSA researcher Ty Ferguson in the statement.

The study also found that movement patterns changed for the better during holidays, with more increased physical activity and less sedentary behaviour.

People also slept for 21 minutes more, which can have a positive impact on mental health, improve mood, cognitive function and productivity.

“It can also help lower our risk of developing a range of health conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and depression,” Ferguson noted.

What’s more, the findings showed that the size of these changes increased consistently with the length of the holiday, indicating that the longer the holiday, the better the health benefits.

Senior researcher UniSA’s Carol Maher said that the study supports the growing movement for a four-day week. “This study provides empirical evidence that people have healthier lifestyle patterns when they have a short break, such as a three-day weekend. This increase in physical activity and sleep is expected to have positive effects on both mental and physical health, contributing to the benefits observed with a four-day work week,” Maher said.

Interestingly, this study showed that people’s increased sleep after a three-day break remained elevated for two weeks, indicating that the health benefits are lasting effects.

Researchers at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ), meanwhile, recently emphasised the need to address office stress more, explaining that those affected often don’t realise their physical and mental resources are reducing until it’s too late. These researchers had examined the link between typing and computer mouse clicks and stress levels, and found that the way people type and use their computer mouse can be better stress indicators than their heart rates.

The researchers used new data and machine learning to develop the model. “How we type on our keyboard and move our mouse seems to be a better predictor of how stressed we feel in an office environment than our heart rate,” mathematician and study author Mara Nagelin told AFP.

The study involved 90 participants who performed close-to-reality office tasks, such as planning appointments or recording and analysing data. The researchers recorded the participants’ mouse and keyboard behaviour along with their heart rates while regularly asking the participants about their stress levels.

Among the participants, half of them were repeatedly interrupted with chat messages and were asked to take part in a job interview. The experiment showed how differently stressed people type or move their mouses compared to those who are relaxed. “People who are stressed move the mouse pointer more often and less precisely and cover longer distances on the screen,” Nagelin told AFP.

The study also showed that when people feel stressed they tend to make more mistakes while typing and write in fits and starts, with frequent brief pauses. In contrast, relaxed people take fewer but longer pauses when typing. This link between stress, and keyboard and mouse behaviour can be explained through so-called neuromotor noise theory, according to the researchers. They are currently testing their model using data from Swiss employees who have agreed to record their mouse and keyboard behaviour through an app. “We want to help workers to identify stress early not create a monitoring tool for companies,” Kerr told AFP.

Also read: How typing and mouse clicks can detect stress

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