The so-called work-life balance has been discussed for years now, with concepts such as the four-day week and Google’s fabled ‘20%’ policy becoming popular amongst millennial entrepreneurs, at least in principle.
Many ideas which aim to address the work/life balance conundrum have either failed to materialise, or been significantly misrepresented. In the case of Google’s 20% policy, many argue that it never, in fact, really existed, and that Google employees were only ever afforded time to pursue projects that would benefit the brand (rather than their own personal endeavours).
Despite these failed efforts however, it does appear that brands are becoming increasingly aware of how an employee’s leisure choices can positively impact their productivity at work, and consequently boost their performance. So, what are the key ways in which leisure choices can actively improve daily productivity?
Improved Problem-Solving Abilities
The concept of hobbies benefiting productivity can be traced back to the 1950s, when psychology professor Robert Root-Bernstein began studying this correlation by looking at the careers of successful male scientists over the course of 20 years.
Root-Bernstein found that the most successful scientists (including four Nobel laureates) were more likely to engage regularly in imaginative and hands-on hobbies, including those pertaining to art and music.
Creative hobbies of this nature are found to improve an individual’s problem-solving abilities, with those who engaged in such activities thought to perform between 15% and 30% more effectively in the fields of analytical and critical thinking.
They were also more likely to come up with creative solutions to problems in a short period of time, demonstrating an improved ability to think quickly under pressure.
Improved Cognition and Memory Performance
Furthermore, it has been proven that creative hobbies also boost the functional components of the brain, leading to improved memory and fact retention over time.
In one study, for example, it was shown that doodling and sketching can actively improve memory function by as much as 29%, which is a significant enhancement that can have a dramatic impact in any workplace.
It’s not only creative hobbies that have this type of impact either, with cardiovascular exercise also enhancing cognition and helping to increase productivity at work over time.
This is just one reason why a growing number of workplaces offer cycle-to-work schemes and discounted gym memberships, and this trend will only gather further momentum in the future.
Increase in Use of New and Often Overlooked Areas of the Brain
As we can see, different hobbies and activities are capable of boosting productivity in alternative ways to the ones we are used to thinking of. There are many other leisure pursuits too, aside from art and sport, which can work various aspects of the brain and ultimately improve our productivity at work.
For example, playing strategic games such as chess actively enhances the brain’s level of plasticity, improving its ability to change and adapt as a result of learned experience.
And learning to play a musical instrument exercises and strengthens the corpus callosum, which is the area of your brain that bridges the left and right hemispheres. Studies have shown that this can refine physical co-ordination, improve the ability to learn systematically, and enhance focus in other areas of our lives, including our work.
So, it does indeed seem to be the case that, by practicing different hobbies and undertaking a balanced range of activities in your spare time, you can boost your performance and increase your productivity at work quite significantly.
Now, where did I put that harp?