How Taking Breaks Will Increase Productivity

How often have you looked up and realized that you missed lunch? Maybe even missed dinner? Today’s “work…work…work” mentality has taken a toll on employees’ performance, job satisfaction, and health. Keep reading to discover how to reverse the effects of too much work and not enough downtime.



Today’s 24/7/365 world of technology and instant gratification has transformed every aspect of modern life– most dramatically how we work. While technology and automation have made many tasks more manageable, it has also bred a whole host of issues in the workplace. 

The average American worker spends 9.2 hours per day at work–30% are skipping lunch or eating at their desk. The vast majority of workers can access their email and desktops on their smartphones. Working through meals has now become “normal.” Furthermore, it has become expected in many companies that key team members make themselves available anytime, anywhere. This change in work structure and expectations contributes to increased stress and employee dissatisfaction, which then snowballs into increased absenteeism, increased health insurance costs, loss of productivity, and staff turnover.

The average manager spends two days per week in meetings, much longer than they need to be. In addition to taking breaks, the structure of meetings can also be changed to increase productivity, participation, and efficiency.  When weather permits, having walking meetings with one or two staff members can improve not only focus, but can have benefits felt throughout the day. Fresh air, change of surroundings, and physical activity will increase mental acuity and mood while decreasing physical fatigue. Employee satisfaction and retention can also be positively impacted by taking business outdoors.

Some simple changes can be made to reverse what ails the modern workplace. The most natural solution is to take breaks throughout the day. Here is a breakdown on how breaks can increase productivity and decrease healthcare costs:

  • Fifteen seconds – reduce mental fatigue and preserve eyesight by looking away from the computer for 15 seconds every ten minutes.
  • Thirty seconds to 5 minutes – can increase mental acuity by 13%, increase focus, and productivity.
  • Two minutes – stand up and stretch for 2 minutes every hour to improve circulation, decrease muscle tension, and overall fatigue.
  • Five minutes – away from typing on a keyboard or clicking a mouse can combat hand, wrist, and forearm pain.
  • Six minutes – the optimal amount of time spent every 80 minutes, taking a break from all types of work to increase productivity and mental acuity.
  • Twenty minutes – while not always an option, a 20-minute nap can provide more rest, physical, and psychological recovery than 20 minutes of deep sleep. Alertness can increase by over 30%.

Take little breaks throughout the day and changing how you conduct meetings to get a dramatic effect on your, as well as your team’s mental acuity, efficiency, and, thus, productivity. Lead by example, take a break from the computer, get up, and take a walk around the office. While you are stretching, encourage your staff to do the same.


Productivity Toolkit – Inc. Winter 2017/2018

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