While seemingly contrary to common sense, recent studies indicate that taking regular breaks from work is important to boost productivity. Just as taking breaks from physical activity is necessary in order to recover and prevent injury, taking breaks from mental concentration is equally important to keep us performing at our best. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, this article from the New York Times suggests that frequent breaks, not long hours, promote productive work. Employers should recognize that just because employees are “working” does not mean they are getting much accomplished. An employee who routinely skips designated breaks in an effort to catch up on work will likely be stressed, exhausted and performing sub- optimally.
In order to increase productivity, employees should not only take regular breaks, but they must take them effectively. Employees need to detach from their mental work during breaks in order to efficiently recharge their cognitive stamina. Physical movement keeps employees from becoming mentally stagnant. Studies show that employees who step away from their desks and take a quick walk to the bathroom or break room for a cup of coffee perform better than those who endure without a break. Employees who keep at it can become numb to the constant mental stimulation and may be unable to continuously treat the task as important. Taking a break allows us to come back to the job at hand with renewed energy and sense of purpose. Of course, taking too many breaks can lead to procrastination. Employers and managers should work to find the right balance for their employees given the particular work environment and type of work being performed. Read more in the New York Times article.