John Trougakos, assistant professor of management at the University of Toronto, is one of many experts who contend that workers need to reenergize by taking regular breaks from mental tasks. Mental concentration, Trougakos notes, is similar to muscle in that it becomes fatigued after long periods of sustained use.
Why We Need Breaks
It’s important to detach from your work in order to recharge your internal resources. Recent studies show that taking breaks helps increase overall productivity and mental acuity, reduce fatigue levels, and boost alertness.
- The average American works 9.3 hours a day, often without a defined break. Only about one-third report that they leave their work area to take a lunch break. The rest either grab something to eat at their work station or simply don’t eat at all.
- Just one “micro-break” of 30 seconds to five minutes improves mental sharpness by an average of 13 percent. If you work for extended hours at a computer, a simple 15-second break every 10 minutes cuts fatigue by a full 50 percent.
- In a study of employees who suffered from wrist, hand and forearm discomfort, a five-minute break every hour effectively eliminated their pain.
- Taking regular breaks of 1.5 minutes increases worker productivity by 6.45 percent. When that time frame is upped to a full two minutes, productivity improves by 11.15 percent.
Making it Happen
As the statistics indicate, it’s easier said than done for most people to take breaks from the pressure of their work. But there are ways to make taking a breather part of your daily routine.
- Set your priorities. Make a to-do list, with the most important tasks at the top. Check them off as you complete them – and include taking a break after a certain point.
- Avoid interruptions. Politely decline requests to stop and chat or otherwise be disturbed when you’re “in the zone.” Let those well-meaning colleagues know when you plan to take five and ask them to save their news till then.
You don’t need to plan for what to do during your down time. After all, that’s the whole point of taking a break. But it’s interesting to note that:
- Web browsing can be highly refreshing. Those who spend time every day surfing the Web are 9 percent more productive than their colleagues.
- Meditation works. This doesn’t mean you have to light candles, cross our legs and hum. You simply need to take a conscious step to thoroughly relax. Deep breathing and stretching can be done right at your work station.
- How about a power nap? Medical studies have shown that a 15 to 20-minute nap helps you channel energy and refocus. An afternoon nap of that duration provides more rest overall than sleeping in an extra 20 minutes.
When it comes to productivity and concentration, everyone has a different capacity. But in general, taking a break is a boost for health, morale, energy and productivity.
Contact the team at PrideStaff Fresno for additional resources to help you and your employees optimize performance and ultimately, business results.