According to new research, investing our spare time in a hobby could actually help to make us more confident in our abilities at work – as long as the activity is sufficiently different from our job.
With more and more of us working large amounts of overtime and committing to longer commutes, the amount of time we spend doing the things we enjoy is growing smaller and smaller.
In fact, recent research has shown that a third of us spend less than 42 minutes a day doing something we enjoy, which amounts to just 3% of our daily 24 hours.
Of course, our leisure time is especially important because it allows us to unwind and relax from the potential stresses of the workplace. But a new study has proven that the stress-reducing nature of our hobbies isn’t the only benefit we can expect from doing the activities we enjoy.
The research, published in the Journal of Vocational Behaviour, has shown that spending more time on a hobby can boost the confidence we have in our ability to perform our jobs well – as long as the hobby is sufficiently different from our actual jobs.
The team of psychologists from Sheffield University recruited 129 “hobbyists” for the study, and asked them to keep track of how much time they spent on their hobbies over a seven month period. They also asked them to fill in a scale measuring their belief in their ability to do their job, as well as one which measured their resilience at work.
The study revealed that when the participants spent longer than they would normally on their hobby, their belief in their ability to perform their job improved.
However, this was only true when the hobby was sufficiently dissimilar to that person’s job. In fact, if someone invested a lot of time in a hobby that was too similar to their job, that actually had a detrimental effect on their confidence in the workplace – probably because it made them feel even more exhausted and burnt out.
The leader of the study Dr Ciara Kelly, said: “A high commitment approach to hobbies can help us to build skills and experiences that improve our confidence in the workplace, so is beneficial - as long as the hobby doesn’t interfere with, or place the same demands experienced at work.
“Consider a scientist who is an avid rock climber. Since climbing is so far removed from their day-to-day work activities, they can still recover from the demands of their job and replenish their resources, despite investing a great deal of effort into honing their climbing skills.”
So next time your boss asks you to work late and skip out on your book club or yoga class, why not point them to this research? Being curious and learning new things isn’t just a way to help your mental health and avoid burnout – it can actually make you a better employee, too.