The Links Between Breaks and Productivity

Working hard is the key to success, but it is possible to work too hard. In the workplace, many employees are afraid to take breaks because they feel guilty.

These employees believe the only way to advance in the workplace is to dedicate themselves to work. When these employees finish an assignment earlier than expected, they ask their manager for a new assignment right away. Perhaps they only finished fast in the first place because they were pushing themselves too hard to begin with.

This method of pushing yourself works well in the beginning, but it quickly leads to burnout. If you want to get the most done during the workday, then you need to take breaks. Otherwise, you are too tired to perform well during the day. No matter how hard you push yourself, your brain is too scrambled to produce quality work, and even simple tasks end up taking significantly longer. When you do finally crash and burn, you are out of commission for longer than if you had taken scheduled breaks. Of course, if you take too many breaks, you risk ruining your productivity. Managing breaks and productivity can be tricky, but there are several tips you can follow to balance the two.

Try to Break Early

One of the easy mistakes to make is waiting too long to take a break. Many employees convince themselves you are only allowed to take a break when they are feeling stressed. These employees normally take a break later in the day, sometimes opting to work through a traditional break time to leave early instead.

If you wait until you are stressed to take a break, then you need more time to recover. Instead, the best move is to take an earlier break in the day, before you are stressed out. Taking a short break gives you enough time to recover, allowing you to dive back into work for the remainder of the day without slowing down due to burnout.

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Even waiting until lunchtime may be too long. Instead, try to take a mid-morning break. Many business consultants compare this tactic to staying hydrated. You do not want to wait until you experience dehydration before taking a drink. Instead, you take a drink when you start to feel thirsty. It is better to take several small drinks throughout the day instead of treating dehydration at the end of the day with a giant glass of water.

Enjoy Your Break

This may sound like an obvious tip, but a surprising number of workers do not enjoy their breaks. Part of the problem is employees frequently have a difficult time disconnecting from work, especially if they work from home. When workers take a break, it is hard to push work to the back of their mind.

If you spend your entire break thinking about how you still have to finish your report, then you are not actually taking a break. Taking a break is about getting away from work so you can refresh your mind and improve your mood. If you are having a hard time getting work out of your mind, try the following during your break:

  • Go on a walk.
  • Grab a snack outside the office.
  • Head outside and listen to music on your phone.
  • Time your break with a coworker so you have someone to speak with.
  • Read a book, magazine or news article, ideally something not relating to your work.

Encouraging Breaks in the Workplace

For many employees, the reason it is hard to take a break is because of the workplace environment. Once you stop working, you feel judged. You do not want your boss to think you are slacking off or come off as lazy to other employees who are still working. It is not uncommon for everyone in the workplace to feel stressed, but everyone is too afraid to make the first move and take a break.

Moving into 2019, more companies are encouraging employees to take a break. One of the ways employers make it easier to take breaks is offering more relaxing break rooms. Something as small as setting the break room further away from the office and adding some comfortable furniture makes it feel more relaxing.

Other employees provide wellness programs to ensure employees take a break. Even if employees do not want to participate in a wellness program, they feel more comfortable taking a break during this period when everyone else is also on break.

If everyone in your office is still hesitant about taking breaks, then bring up all the positives. Some of the areas to focus on are:

  • Better productivity – When you get away from your work and take a break, you get your energy back and have an easier time focusing. Many employees hit a roadblock and spend hours trying to get through, only to find the solution when they finally take a break and have a few seconds to rest.
  • Less stress – Unfortunately, there is no way to remove stress from the workplace entirely, but it can be managed. Working under stressful conditions hurts productivity. When you are stressed, you become difficult to be around, making the rest of the workplace uncomfortable, further hurting office productivity.
  • Better for your health – If you force yourself to work, then you increase your odds of getting sick. If you get sick, then not only are you less productive, but you are also unable to enjoy your breaks until you feel better.

Long-Term Breaks

When most employees discuss breaks, they typically refer to short breaks throughout the day. These breaks are important, but you do not want to overlook the benefits of long-term breaks. For most employees, the best example of a long-term break is the weekends. These two days give employees a chance to truly disconnect from work for a few days and do something relaxing.

Companies provide vacation days specifically for this reason as well. However, this perk is not available to all workers. Instead, try to work break periods into your schedule. When you finish a long project, speak with your manager about setting aside a few days where you have a reduced workload or work part time so you have a chance to recover.

If you are a team leader on a project, then try and take an hour or two every week to go out for a long lunch. If you are close with your coworkers, then you can even get together after work. A good policy at these hangouts is to agree to minimal work discussion so everyone is able to escape work-related stress for at least a few hours.

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