Imagine that you've just arrived at work exhausted. As you walk to your office, a co-worker asks if you can help them with a task. If your first instinct is to say yes, a new study says you should rethink that.
Researchers from the Michigan State University found that helping a colleague complete their own tasks in the morning before your own exacerbates feelings of mental exhaustion and tiredness. This, in turn, decreases your productivity.
Scientists studied 91 full-time employees over a period of 10 workdays. Participants completed two surveys a day, in the morning and afternoon, on their workplace experiences.
"The increase in mental fatigue from helping co-workers in the morning led employees to reduce their helping behaviors in the afternoon," says Michigan State associate professor of management Russell Johnson in a statement.
"Perhaps more interestingly, they engaged in more self-serving political behaviors in the afternoon as well," he adds.
The research also found that when people don't focus on themselves first thing in the morning, these negative feelings and their mental exhaustion worsen throughout the day.
"They switched from being other-oriented in the morning to being selfish in the afternoon," says Johnson.
The study suggests getting your work done before helping a fellow employee to avoid these feelings in the office.