The Last Thing You Ever Thought Would Increase Employee Productivity

If you think that eating lunch at your desk today means you’ll be more efficient and productive, then this article will rock your world.

Get the most productive at work — yes, with breaks

Put on the brakes

Wake up and smell the coffee! The evidence clearly indicates that skipping breaks at work results in disengagement, dissatisfaction, and inefficiency. Tony Schwartz, head of a New York City-based productivity consulting firm “The Energy Project” said it best: “The trouble is that, without any downtime to refresh and recharge, we’re less efficient, make more mistakes, and get less engaged with what we’re doing.”

This claim is both intuitive as well as backed by scientific research… and the solution is fairly simple. Encourage your employees to take structured breaks. There are two main benefits when you start encouraging a break-friendly culture, they are 1. An increase in productivity and 2. An increase in employee satisfaction. We’ll go over the science behind it all, the hard ROI of a break-friendly office culture, and how you can apply this to your workplace today.

1. Stay Goal Oriented

Read any research on improving employee engagement and you’ll soon find out that it’s crucial for workers to have a sense of higher meaning in their day-to-day work. Let’s be honest- it doesn’t take a survey to figure out that if people feel their jobs are insignificant then they won’t work very hard or derive any joy from it. And even if they do fully understand how their work fits into the larger scheme of things, while working on any specific task during the day it’s only natural to lose sight of the forest for the trees. Taking regular breaks is the only way to step back and think about the bigger picture, and infuse fresh energy and motivation into otherwise mundane tasks.

2. Cure Boredom and Sustain Focus

To put it simply, boredom is the death of productivity. Taking breaks will keep you from getting bored, thus helping you stay focused. Makes sense, right? However, there is a critical distinction to make here… Distractions are not breaks. When you’re vacantly staring at your third Tasty video in a row, this is not productive. However, if you take a dedicated break when you need one, it can boost interest, creativity, and focus when you get back to your desk. So while distractions can steal productivity, breaks will keep your workers focused, engaged, and motivated.

3. Relieve Physical and Mental Strain

John Trougakos, an associate professor of management at the University of Toronto, says that work-related stress is on the rise and it’s actually costing companies hundreds of billions of dollars each year. “However, these costs can be reduced with regular work breaks, while improving employee effectiveness, satisfaction, and reducing strain and fatigue,” Trougakos said. “Disconnecting from work can do wonders for people’s energy and mind-set.”

You can leave your desk every once in a while

A culture that can’t break

So if this is a widely known and strongly proven fact, then why aren’t we all breaking regularly? Why are you feeling bad right now that you’re reading this and not doing something else? Guilt is the root of the issue here. We carry around the idea that if we take breaks we’ll be seen as lazy or ineffective. A study of office workers and managers by Staples discovered that more than a quarter of workers don’t take a break other than lunch. One in five employee respondents said guilt was the reason they don’t step away from their workspaces.

That’s partly due to company culture, noted Christine Corbet, a managing consultant in the New York City office of Right Management, a consulting unit of ManpowerGroup. “If you have a boss that’s never taking breaks, it’s hard to feel like you can take one,” she said.

The studies unanimously show a link between taking breaks and vital factors like higher job satisfaction, reduced fatigue, and greater initiative by employees to go the extra mile on projects.

Annnnd… Break!

So how often exactly should you take breaks? There are many brain-hacking methods to taking breaks. Some of these include the Pomodoro method, the 52–17 method, and the 20–20–20 rule. You can find lots of useful books/information about how to apply these methods, but hands down there is only one optimal break-taking method for your employees… and that’s giving them the freedom to experiment and see what works best for each individual. Here is a 2-step action plan to help get your employees on the right track.

Step 1. Make your culture break-friendly

Mindfully start reversing the stigma/guilt associated with stepping away from your desk by encouraging your employees to do the same. Start an open conversation about it, and let them know that taking breaks is smiled upon.

Step 2. Educate employees about how to get the most out of their breaks

According to an academic research experiment by Daniel A. Epstein, Daniel Avrahami, and Jacob T. Biehl, the definition of a “successful” break is one that leaves you refreshed and ready to start working again according to your goals. Begin by sharing this list with your employees to start educating on the importance of proper breaking, and erasing the guilt associated with the subject.

Watching Tasty videos on you phone does not equal a break. Plan it properly

The plans:

The Creativity Booster break plan: Take planned (rather than random) medium-length (15–20 minute) breaks and do low-impact physical movements such as walking or a guided stretching routine. Research shows that the brain performs optimally on creative tasks after resting the mind and using the body.

The Elite Energizer Break plan: Take a short (5–7 minutes) break at your lowest (least motivated) point in the day to reflect on your role in the company and why you are working on your current task.

Perfect Productivity break plan: If getting as much done as possible is your goal, take unplanned, random 10 min breaks and simply be “mindless.” This can include any activity that is not looking at a screen, and that is not thinking about the work you were doing.

The Stress-less break plan: Take a 7-minute break to specifically not think about work, and sit in a private area and think about the people you love, things you enjoy in nature, or how you could help others today. Rather than at random, do this at planned intervals throughout the day.

Sharing this list with your employees is a great first step towards improving morale, productivity, and motivation around your office! So break a leg!

For more ways to make your company culture better, check out our team building activities at Speakizi — Make your company great again!