Credit: Reynermedia

Smoking and drinking 'doesn't affect productivity' at work

But make sure you get a good night's sleep.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 01 Jul 2015

It’s no surprise a good night’s sleep is likely to stop your eyelids drooping mid-afternoon, but all those Bank Holiday cigarettes and alcohol might not actually impact your productivity at work at all – at least in the short term.

That’ll probably raise an eyebrow from anyone who’s struggled through a day in the office after a big one mid-week, but a study of more than 21,000 employees found there was no link between smoking, drinking alcohol and obesity and productivity in the workplace.

On the other hand, sleeping for six hours or less a night meant staff were more likely to underperform at work than those who slept seven or eight. Other factors correlated with lower productivity (which the researchers took care to point out didn’t necessary mean indicate causation) were financial worries, unpaid caring responsibilities, lack of exercise, mental health issues and musculoskeletal problems. Being bullied at work or put under unrealistic time pressure were also linked.

However, the research, carried out by Rand Europe and the University of Cambridge, only looked at short-term impacts on productivity, which could be affected by smoking, drinking and being obese in the long-run (as well as all the other bad effects, of course).

The study also had other shortcomings. It used data gathered via Vitality Health’s ‘Britain’s Healthiest Company’ competition, which both companies and staff chose to take part in, making the sample potentially unrepresentative. Their answers could also be inaccurate, given they were self-reported rather than independently gathered.

Nonetheless, by its measure, a 36-year-old, university-educated, white collar worker (the average survey participant) is likely to have the stomach for work after a big night out – as long as they’ve had at least seven hours sleep. Bottoms up and early to bed.

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