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When you think of workplace stress, most of us think of frazzled colleagues or people staying up late or waking early to “get everything done”. But there are more sinister behaviors of stress. Employees are more likely to engage in unethical behavior like stealing, falsifying time sheets, or worse.

So researchers examined what learning new things does to impact people’s stress at work, besides breaks and vacations.

From Chen Zang, Christopher Myers, and David Mayer at the Harvard Business Review:

The first study revealed that, in the face of stress, employees experienced fewer negative emotions (e.g., anxiety, distress) and engaged in less unethical behavior (e.g., taking company property, being mean to coworkers) on days when they engaged in more learning activities at work compared to other days. Similarly, in the second study, these benefits were more common among employees who reported taking on more learning activities at work than other people.

In contrast, relaxing activities did not buffer the detrimental consequences of stress — employees experienced the same levels of negative emotions and engaged in just as much unethical behavior on days when they took on more relaxing activities at work, compared to other days (study 1), and when they generally focused on relaxation more than others (study 2). Relaxation thus did not appear to be as useful a stress buffer as learning was.

The full story is well worth your time to read and includes tips for how to strategically learn at work and combat stress. The story also concludes that even being on a team where other people are learning may be just as conducive to your stress reduction as learning things yourself.

If it’s been a while since you or your team has taken part in a training, look at Vantage Point’s course offerings. Consider signing up or requesting a course tailored to your work.

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