The Modern Workplace: People Places and Technology | Taking breaks and productivity levels in the workplace

Taking breaks and productivity levels in the workplace

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Posted 17 October 2019 14:42:30 BST | By Admin

Breaks at work are often somewhat of a ‘nice in theory’ part of our day, rather than a standard component. We’re often too busy to take the full breaks we’re entitled to, and toxic presenteeism and working culture can scare some into staying at their desks all day. In fact, only 56 percent of employees take a regular half hour (or less) break.

Is this enough rest time during the working day?

Experts say, probably not.

Related article: Is the four-day week good for business?

Apparently, there are three main reasons to take regular breaks at work, and in turn, help boost your productivity:

  • Stop boredom

Do you ever sit at your desk and stare into thin air? Yeah, us too! It’s nothing to feel ashamed of, as there’s a good reason we all do it. Our brains are not used to being so focused on one thing for so long, so at some point, it’s inevitable that you’re going to zone out. In this situation, a break will help distract you for a while, allow you to regain your energy, and put you back into the right mind set, without any guilt.

  • Retain information

It’s said that our brains have two different modes: the ‘focused mode’ where we are concentrating on something or learning something, and the ‘diffused mode’, where our mind is more relaxed, and can wander; however, studies have shown that whilst daydreaming your mind often figures out the trickiest problems – think about all those light bulb moments you’ve had on your daily commute, in the shower, or even when you’re drifting off to sleep.

  • Re-evaluate goals

Taking breaks allows us to take a step back and make sure we are doing everything in the correct way, helping us regain our focus and our concentration, whilst getting rid of distractions. This has a positive impact on productivity levels – after all, during the workday, our priorities are often changing as new and more pressing responsibilities land on our desks.

Four methods that will help you get the most out of your breaks!

1) The Pomodoro method

Sometimes when you’re busy, one of the best ways to implement breaks is in small amounts. Set an alarm for every 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break. After accumulating a few shorter breaks, aim to take a longer 30-min one.

2) 90-minute work blocks

Originally discovered by William Dement and Nathan Kleitman, the 90-minute work blocks suggest that every 90 minutes, you take a 20- minute break.

3) The 52-17 method

Studies have shown that working for 52 minutes at a time, and then taking a 17-minute break, can make the most productive workers.

4) Two 15-minute breaks a day

This is a more straightforward approach to taking breaks, particularly for those who have less flexible working days. Simply take two 15-minute breaks a day, and aim to take one of them at 3pm, as it’s reportedly the least productive time of day.

Change in the workplace takes time, small steps like the above can make a fantastic start of it, providing a more productive, focused and collaborative setting for all.

Supporting technology adoption and change management is the next step, resulting in a more reactive and responsive method to the needs of your workforce. 

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