One word. Exercise!

I know what you’re thinking. How can this be the solution to my low productivity? More so when we have a pandemic?

When COVID-19 became a pandemic, everything was in disarray. Our lives were affected. Companies downsized/closed, jobs were lost, schools were closed and remote working became a reality.

Having to work from home has had its set of challenges. Your productivity might have reduced.

The CDC and WHO note that pandemics can be stressful. Be it a case of stress eating, the feeling of isolation, among others.

The good news is that there’s a solution to the low productivity and increased stress that you’ve had. This is in the form of exercise.

But first, let’s have a look at the impact that COVID-19 has had on our productivity.

The impact of COVID-19 on our productivity while working from home

Remote working is seen as the future of work. This view is supported by a study by Nicholas Bloom and Colleagues. The study showed a 13% increase in performance for the call center employees (for Ctrip, a Chinese travel Company) working from home.

Since working from home has become a norm, this seemed to be the perfect moment to evaluate the impact of working from home.

Unfortunately, the pandemic presented unique challenges for remote working. There is uncertainty on the endpoint of the pandemic. Family and parental responsibilities also come into play.

Speaking to Stanford News, Nicholas Bloom cites four factors that might lead to reduced productivity during the COVID-19 era: children, space, privacy, and choice.

Unlike the Ctrip study where participants had the freedom to choose whether to continue working from home or in the office, we don’t have that luxury.

COVID-19 related stress

Stress levels have been predicted to increase during this pandemic. According to the CDC and WHO, fear and stress are some of the reactions that people have while going through a crisis. And although life is moving back to normal, the pandemic is far from over and stress issues might persist.

Stress might result from the reduction in social events as a measure to curb the spread of COVID-19. However, these measures are for our own benefit.

Uncertainty with regards to when normal life will resume coupled with the potential of being infected might also contribute to stress.

This explains why stress is a major concern. This is supported by the results of a survey done by Ginger that showed that almost 7 out of 10 workers consider the COVID-19 pandemic to be the most stressful event in their career life.

Exercise as a solution

Engaging in physical exercise is a sure way to boost your productivity and reduce stress levels.

Impact of exercise on productivity

The impact of exercise on productivity was evaluated in a ‘sit less and move more’ study carried out in Spain. The study showed an increase in productivity, a reduction in absenteeism, and an increase in efficiency of the employees who moved more.

A ‘move more’ approach is an example of light-intensity physical activity. This seems to be the key to an increase in productivity where exercise is involved.

Impact of exercise on stress reduction

The association between physical activity and mental health became evident following the publication of a cross-sectional study that was done in the UK. The study showed a reduction in physiological distress where a daily routine of physical activity (including household tasks) was involved. These benefits increased with an increase in the duration of the physical activity.

So, how does this work?

There’s a neurochemical explanation about these benefits. Indulging in physical activity is associated with a reduction in levels of stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol). Furthermore, exercise enhances the production of endorphins. Endorphins are neurochemicals that are responsible for the feel-good factor.

Incorporating exercise while working from home

The significance of exercise cannot be ignored. As you deal with the uncertainty and challenges that this pandemic has posed, you should incorporate exercise into your routine.

You need to make sure that the activity that you select is light-weight otherwise fatigue will set in leading to a reduction in productivity. You also need to choose something that you like and/or are comfortable with.

The key thing is to have a daily routine. This works for both productivity and stress reduction. You also need to figure and set a timeline for indulging in the activity that you choose.

You might be asking, is there a preferred activity that will help with both stress and productivity challenges?

The answer is NO.

There’s a wide range of activities that you can choose from. Be it walking, squatting, push up, etc. Look at this list here and choose something that works out for you.

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