Healthy Habits

Habits That Foster Work Productivity, Mental Health, and Employee Wellness

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By Marc Sweger

Vice President, Client Solutions & Delivery

Are you wondering if it is too late to kickstart your new year’s resolution? It’s not, and it never is. We can all decide to improve our health, habits, and routines today. I committed to focusing on my health and well-being this year and have already witnessed an improvement in my work productivity, focus, and overall mood. I did some research into the specifics of how sleep, exercise, and diet influence my work performance. In this post, I share my findings with you.


Sleep is what brings you into the new day and the effectiveness of your workday is dependent on the amount of sleep you get each night. The American workforce loses 1.23 million working days due to sleep-deprived employees. The cost of insufficient sleep ranged from $299 billion to $433 billion in 2020. Without proper sleep, employee wellness and performance are affected in the following ways.

  • Difficulties paying attention and focusing: Without the proper amount of sleep, your body can’t metabolize glucose and turn it into energy deposits. This leads to difficulty concentrating and a diminished attention span.
  • Cognitive decline and memory impairment: Memory consolidation occurs during sleep and when you don’t get enough hours each night, it leads to gaps or blind spots in memories—never a good thing at work! When you’re sleep-deprived, you’re more likely to make errors and omit important information. You will also suffer from decreased creativity—which you need for brainstorming and strategic planning sessions.
  • Poor emotional regulation: When you’re not well-rested, it’s much more difficult to keep your emotions in check—causing you to act impulsively or lash out at a coworker in anger.
  • General health issues: Continued lack of sleep negatively affects your body physically and mentally. This results in more doctor visits and an increase in the number of days you call out sick to work.

Here’s what I do: Jocko Willink—a former Navy Seal Commander, author, leadership consultant, and motivational speaker—is famous for his routine of waking up at 4:30 a.m. He has inspired me to get up at 5:30 a.m. to start my day. To do this, I have to go to bed earlier to get the proper amount of sleep— usually before 10 p.m. This routine gives me more time in the morning to prepare for what I need to accomplish and complete my exercises while my family is still sleeping. Laying my work clothes out the night before eliminates potential morning frustrations. I no longer start my day feeling rushed and have plenty of time to get to work. As a result, I am in a more positive, motivated mood when I arrive at work.


An International Journal of Workplace Health Management study found that workday exercise improved time management and workload completion by 72 percent. Exercising regularly improves employee wellness and work performance in the following ways.

  • Increased energy and reduced fatigue: Regularly increasing your heart rate gives you the energy you need to perform at your best throughout your workday. Exercise helps you fall asleep more quickly and sleep more soundly. We have already learned the benefits of sleep!
  • Improved concentration: Exercise helps keep your blood, glucose, and oxygen levels high—which are all needed to feed your brain. When your brain is operating at full capacity, you focus better, concentrate more, and make smarter decisions.
  • Lowed stress and anxiety levels: Exercising consistently has been found to increase the production and brain sensitivity to neurotransmitters that regulate your stress and anxiety. The less stressed and anxious you are, the better you perform.

Here’s what I do: My routine includes riding my exercise bike—my Christmas gift to myself— for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. I have also been drinking more water and resistance training with free weights. Since starting this routine, I‘ve lost weight, gained confidence, and increased my energy and stamina.

Diet and nutrition

Workers who eat five portions of fruits and vegetables—at least four days per week—have been found to show a 25 percent higher job performance than those who don’t. Eating unhealthily is linked to a 66 percent increased risk of loss of productivity and has been estimated to cost $1.24 trillion in lost productivity. Without a healthy diet, employee wellness and performance are affected in the following ways.

  • Overall mental health and mood: When you’re hungry, you’re less focused and more irritable. Why is mental health important in the workplace? Having healthy employees that show up to work in a good frame of mind and are ready to work benefits everyone.
  • Cognitive performance: Have you ever eaten a big lunch high in carbs and had trouble staying awake all afternoon? That’s because, after about 30 minutes, your glucose levels drop. If you eat a healthy lunch, your glucose levels will level off and you’ll be able to stay alert and focused all afternoon.
  • Higher stress and anxiety levels: 83 percent of U.S. workers suffer from work-related stress. Popular lunch foods—like white bread sandwiches, pasta, and cookies—can increase your stress level because they affect your blood sugar and insulin level. After eating these foods, you’ll feel an initial energy burst but then quickly become tired and distracted—causing stress, anxiousness, and irritability.

Here’s what I do: I prepare meals for myself in advance. Meal prepping has helped me eliminate stress and ensures I’m eating healthier than I would be grabbing fast food on a work break.

This blog was written by Acara Recruitment Specialist Marc Sweger.