Contributed by Anum Yoon
Take a look at your team: There are probably one or two members who seem to have it all down. They get the most done, they do great work and they do it all without seeming more stressed than anyone else. So what’s their secret to being the most effective they can be? It’s break time.
Taking breaks throughout the day can really improve your productivity. You may be thinking, “Of course it can.” Obviously, no one can be 100 percent productive for all eight hours every day. However, many of us continue to find reasons not to take breaks while working.
This is detrimental for a number of reasons. Not taking breaks causes a difficulty focusing, being unable to process new information, and losing sight of the goal at hand. Luckily, there are scientific reasons to start taking breaks and encouraging breaks among your employees.
Break Time Pays Off
Throw out all those rumors about attention span because brief diversions from big tasks actually improves focus in workers. Most people start underperforming on a task because they haven’t taken a break. Inserting small breaks into the time spent doing a project vastly improves the brain’s ability to focus on the task at hand.
A study done by the Draugiem Group has taken that theory one step further. It found that the most efficient workers are working at a ratio of 52 working minutes to 17 break minutes every day. If you’re working an eight or nine hour day, that translates to about seven or eight breaks. And right now you’re probably thinking, “Seven breaks? That’s crazy!” But it isn’t.
The truth is that most people feel guilty about taking breaks, even if a manager is encouraging them to do so. And that’s not all: 55 percent of employees feel that they can’t possibly take a break during the work day, even though 86 percent of workers feel that they would be more productive with more breaks. Employees working an eight or nine hour day aren’t just working that eight or nine hour day. They’ve often got kids to take care of, responsibilities at home and a tiring commute to and from the office to occupy their time as well. More and more, people are feeling burned out by their everyday lives.
Try these break ideas to keep your team’s mind off their work for those 17 minutes:
Grab a Snack
Eating a healthy snack will replenish the brain’s energy and release the glucose necessary to keep it focused in the long term. That translates to increased productivity throughout the day. Try some dark chocolate, almonds, oatmeal or blueberries.
Everyone loves a good cat photo. Gather around someone’s desk and look at some adorable kittens and puppies. According to one study, looking at cute pictures of baby animals will improve focus and performance on tasks.
Go out for a real lunch break with your team and try your best not to talk about work. Research has shown that when the brain spends a little time thinking about other activities, productivity actually increases afterwards.
Meditation is not just for Yogis anymore. Studies have shown that meditation and conscious breathing exercises can help you focus better at work. Meditation training can keep you on task longer and less distracted, but meditation has other benefits as well. Meditating before, during or after the work day can help to improve memory and decrease stress levels, allowing employees to work more efficiently and to feel less overwhelmed across the board.
The office doesn’t have to be a no-break-zone. Encourage a little break time throughout each day and your team will be happier, healthier and more productive.
Anum Yoon is a freelance writer and blogger who started and maintains Current on Currency, a personal finance blog for 20-somethings.