Research on energy-management strategies distinguishes between work-related strategies and micro-breaks. Work-related strategies are activities used to replenish energy levels at work, such as switching tasks, or making a “to do” lists. Thus work-related strategies are often associated with meaning and purpose, including learning something new. In contrast, micro-breaks can be used at any time and are not related to work activity, such as having a snack, or going for a walk. Fritz et al (2011) found that people who use more work-related strategies reported higher levels of energy. However, the use of micro-breaks may be used because people are feeling fatigued, rather than being energising. Certainly, when I feel tired, I am more likely to reach for the biscuits. Nevertheless, snacks tend to be more of a comforter, rather than leading to renewed vigour.
However Zacher et al (2014) studied the different impact of different energy-management activities on wellbeing within the same people, over the course of a day. Consequently, it was suggested that micro-breaks can have short term benefits on wellbeing, whereas work-related strategies can have longer term benefits. Therefore, to maintain energy levels, it is likely that we need a combination of work-related strategies and micro-breaks.
The Conservation of Resources Model (Hobfoll, 1989) suggests that people increase and maintain personal resources, including objects, environment, support and energy levels. It causes stress when we experience work/home conflict, or any threat to decrease our resources. Therefore, whether it is the undermining boss crushing our self-esteem, or the kids wanting to play football when we are already ill, it can create a deficit in our mental, emotional or physical energy levels and wellbeing.
In order to help maintain and build our resources, it is useful to first raise awareness and appreciate our current resources. Therefore those people who create opportunities and time to include energy-management activities could expect to have higher wellbeing. But you already knew that really, didn’t you? However, when did you last consciously recall and reflect on what resources and energisers you use and how often?
Further research is currently being conducted to explore how different energising activities link to our wellbeing, engagement and work-life-balance. If you are interested in reflecting on and increasing your self-awareness on the current energisers you use; and other potential options you could use in the future, you can participate in the study until 31st March 2017 at go.uwe.ac.uk/energyproject. There is also an option to participate in a free prize draw to win a “Productivity Ninja” book!