Let’s start by defining beliefs versus values…

 Beliefs are simply thoughts- thoughts about the way the world “should’, “ought to” or “must” be. For example men should take the garbage bins out and women should clean the house. Might work for you but doesn’t work for me!

On the other hand our values are a set of standards held deep within us. They underlie our moral conscience helping us to determine right from wrong. Examples of universal values are respect, honesty and fairness.

We have a tendency to judge ourselves and others by both our beliefs and values. Although they are intended to guide our behaviour and support decision making sometimes we discover they no longer work for us. Different life circumstances present that require us to change our thinking.

Misguided belief systems

Today’s workplace is not the same place it was 50, 20 or even 10 years ago.

One of the biggest changes in the workplace involves the diversity of the work group. This diverse group includes gender, racial and religious differences, along with generational gaps — all contributing to a range of different value and belief systems, which can impact upon the work environment.

Old belief systems

Values and belief systems of each generation change over time. Factors that influence values and belief systems over time include culture, institutions, policies, social movements, colleagues, friends, media, peer groups and education. [i]

Belief systems exist in all areas, including the workplace. However, it is often the workplace where old belief systems (that no longer work) still exist, thereby causing stress for employers, leaders and managers.

Some examples of outdated beliefs include:

  1. Working long hours means you are more committed to the job than others
  1. Employees should leave their personal problems at the door
  2. Emotions in the workplace are unacceptable
  3. Managers are smarter than their employees
  4. A manager’s account of a situation is more honest/ trustworthy than a subordinate’s account
  5. Seeking help means you are not coping and weak
  6. Leaders must have all of the answers
  7. Employees who question the way things are done and speak up are “trouble makers”

Some of the above beliefs are a result of the baby boomers’ effect upon working environments. This group of people (born between 1945 and 1964) are generally willing to work hard and are loyal to their employer. They value job security and authority, and as such, are willing to follow a chain of command and value corporate paternalism.

Despite being around for some time, these belief systems are no longer true, and often don’t support a harmonious, happy and productive workplace. One of these is the idea that working for longer hours is better.

Take a break for better productivity

Over recent years, researchers have examined the area of productivity at work. While previous generations believed you got more done, the longer you were at work, research has proved differently.

Taking a break not only improves your productivity, but it can improve your health, which also has positive outcomes for the workplace.

A 2014 study found taking time off from work actually increases productivity. [ii] The study found that continuing to work without a break increased the likelihood of stress and burn out. As we know, excessive stress can lead to depression, anxiety, memory problems and poor decision-making.

Further studies (as reported in The Wall Street Journal [iii]) found that during a holiday, mood, energy and satisfaction all improved. This equated to feeling happier, more energized, and better quality output upon return to work.

Improve your health

Taking a break from work has shown to improve health, which equates to reduced absenteeism and illness, lower staff turnover, and higher productivity. For example:

Those who take a complete break from the office (i.e. no contact at all) were less stressed and less likely to suffer from ‘burnout’ than those who don’t switch off. [iv]

  • Men at high risk of coronary heart disease who did not take an annual holiday had a 21 per cent higher risk of death from all causes, and were 32 per cent likely to die of a heart attack. [v]
  • Women who holidayed once every six years or less were almost eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease, or have a heart attack, compared with their counterparts who took at least two holidays per year.[vi]
  • A study commissioned by Air New Zealand in 2006 found that after a few days on holiday, people improved their sleep quality and recorded an 80 per cent improvement in their reaction times. Upon arriving home, their sleep quality remained the same and their reaction times were 30 to 40 per cent higher than prior to taking a break. [vii]

Active holidays are better

While holidays and time away from the office benefit us in many ways, researchers have discovered the most benefits are found when vacation time is combined with physical activity. [viii] [ix]

In particular, people who took an active holiday such as hiking, diving, skiing or snowboarding, returned home feeling less sluggish and more refreshed than those who took a sedentary holiday. They got back into routine a lot quicker with 20 per cent claiming to be ‘back-to-normal’ within just one day.

Researchers believe that keeping your body and mind active while on your holidays makes you ready to focus on work when you get back.

Any time away is better than nothing

If you can’t quite swing a holiday, at least try to ensure a work-life balance. Using some of your downtime to engage in some form of physical activity, will yield further improvements in your quality of work. Some findings researchers have discovered include:

  •  20 minutes of exercise, facilitates information processing and memory functions[x]
  • Creativity levels increase for up to two hours. following an aerobic workout [xi]
  • walking can boost creativity by up to 60 per cent [xii]
  • people who exercise on a regular basis are more productive than those who do not engage in regular activity [xiii]
  • Regular aerobic exercise changes the brain to improve memory and thinking skills. [xiv]

The need to work in harmony

Workplaces are diverse environments. With three generations now in the workplace — Baby boomers, X Generation and Y Generation (aka dot com generation),[xv] there are likely to be a range of different beliefs and approaches to work. Add into the mix different social and moral values, it can be a hotbed for tension, conflict and angst.

In order for workplaces to be harmonious, a more flexible approach is needed. And perhaps part of this process involves looking at current belief systems that exist in the workplace, and questioning whether they are still valid in today’s environment.


[i] Common Cause Foundation, How values change, http://valuesandframes.org/handbook/4-how-values-change/

[ii] Oxford Economics, An Assessment of Paid Time Off in the U.S.: Implications for employees, companies and the economy, February, 2014. http://www.projecttimeoff.com/research/assessment-paid-time-us

[iii] The Wall Street Journal, Yes, You Really Do Need to Take a Vacation, updated, 1 August, 2010, http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB128062467281422929

[iv] Journal of Applied Psychology, Effects of Respite From Work on Burnout: Vacation Relief and Burnout, M Westman, D Ededn, 1997, Volume82, No. 4, pp 516-527, http://web.comhem.se/u68426711/24/Westman1997EffectsRespiteFromWorkBurnout-VacationReliefFade-Out.pdf

[v] Psychosomatic Medicine, Are Vacations Good for Your Health? The 9-Year Mortality Experience After the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial, BB Gump, KA Matthews, 2000, 62, pp608-612. http://people.umass.edu/econ340/vacations_health.pdf

[vi] American Journal of Epidemiology, Myocardial Infarction and Death among Women: Psychosocial Predictors from a 20-Year Follow-up of Women in the Framingham Study, ED Eaker, J Pinsky, WP Castelli 1992, Volume 135, Issue 8. http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/135/8/854.short

[vii] Air New Zealand, Science proves the value of vacation, published 1 December 2006, http://www.airnewzealand.com/press-release-2006-science-proves-the-value-of-holidays-dec06

[viii] The British Psychological Society, The work benefits of more active holidays, published 24 January 2014, http://www.bps.org.uk/news/work-benefits-active-holidays

[ix] Digital Hub, ‘Active’ holidays leave you less lazy when you get back to work, published 13 December, 2013  http://www.digitalhub.media/2013/12/sun-lounger-laziness/

[x] Science Direct, Effects of acute bouts of exercise on cognition, Phillip D. Tomoporowski, published 4 December 2002;  http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0001691802001348

[xi] British Journal of Sports Medicine, Exercise enhances creativity independently of mood, H Steinberg, EA Sykes, T Moss, S Lowery, N LeBoutillier, A Dewey. September 1997, Volume 31 no. 3 pp240-45, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1332529/

[xii] Journal of Experimental Psychology: Give your ideas some legs: The positive effect of walking on creative thinking, Oppezzo, Marily, Scwartz, L Daniel, July 2014 Vol 40. No 4, pp1142-52,  http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2014-14435-001/

[xiii] Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Employee self-rated productivity and objective organizational production levels: effects of worksite health interventions involving reduced work hours and physical exercise, U von Thiele Schwartz, U Hasson, August 1011, Volume 52 no. 8 pp 838-44 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21785369

[xiv] British Journal of Sports Medicine, Aerobic exercise increases hippocampal volume in older women with probably mild cognitive impaiarment: a 6-month randomised controlled trial, L F  en Brinke, N Bolandzadeh, LS Nagamatsu, CL Hsu, JC Davis, K Miran-Khan, T Liu-Ambrose, 7 April, 2014 (online) http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2014/03/04/bjsports-2013-093184.abstract?sid=ecff0a48-d4fd-4a9d-b34a-156ca915a79e

[xv] Huichun Yu, Peter Miller, Leadership style: the X generation and baby boomers compared in different cultural contexts, Southern Cross University, published 2005 http://epubs.scu.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1022&context=gcm_pubs