While we are legally allowed to take breaks at work, many of us probably feel guilty taking more than our legally allotted 30-minute lunch and two 15 minute breaks. Many workplaces frown on taking more breaks than these. The upper management likely thinks that more breaks equal less productivity, when in fact, studies are showing the exact opposite. This is leading to many companies revising their break policies for their employees.
Does Taking Breaks at Work Increase Productivity?
Yes, taking more breaks at work increases productivity. Sitting in one position for too long leads to mental and physical fatigue, as does performing repetitive actions like typing at a computer or running machinery. Mental and physical fatigue can lead to difficulty focusing, which can lead to errors, and at some jobs, errors are hazardous to people’s health.
There are two modes that the human brain functions in, learning/focusing and consolidation. Taking breaks allows your brain to absorb what it has just learned, which will make remembering and implementing what you’ve learned easier. It also allows you to improve your posture, which is crucial for maintaining healthy joints.
When to Take Breaks at Work
Robert Pozen, senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and author of Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours, recommends taking a break every 75-90 minutes. This recommendation is supported by Tony Schwartz, of The Energy Project, whose research shows that humans naturally move from full focus and energy to physiological fatigue every 90 minutes.
Most of us are either ignoring these signals of fatigue because our work structure doesn’t allow for more breaks. This can lead to an overuse of caffeine and sugar, which will artificially boost our energy. Unfortunately, too much caffeine and sugar can lead to an even bigger energy crash.
Another good number for gauging when to take breaks is 52 minutes. When tracking employees through the DeskTime app, software start-up Draugiem Group found that the most productive employees took a 17-minute break about every 52 minutes. These productive employees were found to “work with purpose” during the time they were working.
What this research is showing us is that it’s less about a rigid timetable and more about finding your particular rhythm for how long you can focus and do quality work before feeling fatigued.
Why is Taking a Break Important
Here are a few reasons why breaks at work are important and helpful to the organization as a whole.
1. Fewer accidents and injuries due to lack of focus and fatigue.
The importance of this cannot be overstated. In jobs where a lack of focus or fatigue can risk safety, taking more breaks allows employees to do their jobs more safely. This in turn reduces costs due to lost time from accidents and the costs related to any potential injuries.
2. Significant increase in employee productivity, which means an increase in a company’s profitability.
More productive employees make a company more money. While it may seem counterintuitive, breaks improve an employee’s ability to focus, thereby making the employee more productive, and increasing the quality of the work being done as well.
3. Improved posture while sitting at a computer or working machinery.
Having good posture makes for better work, and reduces the risk of musculoskeletal disorders, which have a hefty price tag for American employers overall. Taking breaks allows an employee to relax their muscles, and enables them to have better posture while working.
4. Increases in employee morale.
There are many benefits to increasing employee morale, and number one is increased productivity. There will also be lower absenteeism and higher retention. Both of these will lower company costs and improve profits. A company’s clients will also benefit from higher morale, as customer service improves. Finally, employees with high morale will be more creative and innovative, which is priceless.
Encourage Wellness and Productivity with BioFunctional Health
If you’re looking for more ways to encourage employee wellness, or if you’d like to encourage healthy behaviors in employees while they are taking breaks, consider doing a Wellness Challenge through BioFunctional Health Solutions. It’s not only breaks that are important for improving productivity and increasing focus and energy, it’s how employees take those breaks as well. A wellness challenge will focus on activities like eating well and exercising, both of which make quality break activities. Supporting your employees' better health is supporting their focus and productivity, and increases employee satisfaction and loyalty! Reach out to BioFunctional Health to get started today for the best employee wellness solutions.
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