Employees need to rest in order to perform better. Seems obvious, right? Unfortunately, for many employees and employers it’s not.
According to a Tork survey from 2018, 20% of North Americans believe their boss will think they aren’t working hard if they take regular lunch breaks. Additionally, 22% of bosses agreed that employees who take regular lunch breaks aren’t hard workers.
These results are quite worrying. Especially when you take in consideration that a break is the part of your workday which helps you relax and recharge so you can go back to work as a more productive person.
The Benefits of Regular Breaks
Skipping breaks is not a way to make yourself more productive. On the contrary, you’ll feel exhausted, your attention will keep dropping, and you won’t be able to focus or complete any of the tasks you have left.
There are several types of breaks you can take throughout the day, so let’s see what are their benefits.
Microbreaks Stats and Benefits
Microbreaks last anywhere between 15 seconds to 5 minutes, and they have an amazing effect on our mind and body. For starters, just one such break can improve your mental sharpness about 13%! And if you’re working on a computer for most of your day, looking away from it for just 15 seconds every 10 minutes can reduce fatigue by half.
If you have any issues with arm and wrist discomfort, resting for 5 minutes every hour can help decrease that pain to the minimum. Furthermore, regular breaks of 1.5 minutes increase productivity by about 6%, while 2-minute breaks can increase it up to 11%.
How Distractions Affect Productivity?
Intentional distractions can be a good productivity booster. However, distractions like coworkers talking, approaching you to ask you a few questions, and so on are bad. As a general rule, people take more than 20 minutes to get back to task once they are “unintentionally distracted.” But what happens when the distraction is your choice?
Studies have shown that workers who spend up to 20% of their time browsing the web are more productive than those who keep fighting the urge to browse some sites online.
What If Your Corporate Policy Doesn’t Allow Frequent Breaks?
In many industries and large companies breaks are regulated by corporate rules and policies. For example, employees have 30 minutes to break into smaller chunks and use as bathroom breaks, or just to chill for a bit, while their lunch break is also 30 minutes. In this type of environment it’s a bit harder to take a 5-minute break every hour, but there’s a solution for that.
If you can take one 6-minute break every 80 minutes of work, you’ll be good. But you should remember to take a break BEFORE you need it. When you need a break, it means you’re already tired, but if you take a break before you need it, you’ll be able to get some rest ahead of time.
What Can You Do During a 2-Minute Break?
A 2-minute break is enough for you to check social media, and your WhatsApp messages. Additionally, you can stretch, walk a bit, and rest your eyes to avoid eye strain symptoms.
When you go on such break, you should turn on your stopwatch, or a time tracking software, so you can make sure you’re staying on schedule.
How Can You Encourage Employees to Take Breaks?
If you’re one of those bosses who think employees who take breaks aren’t hardworking it’s natural your employees would feel guilty for getting up from their computers every once in a while.
Unfortunately, this won’t result in higher productivity, but rather in secretly wandering through the internet, or in a weaker performance. Which is why you should take up a different approach when it comes to breaks.
In this section, we’ll cover some tips which you can implement to encourage your team to take a break when they need it.
Explain the Benefits
Take up a portion of your weekly all-hands meeting to discuss the benefits of taking regular breaks. You don’t have to lay out data and exact scientific facts, just talk. Let them know that they won’t be prosecuted for making another cup of coffee, and that there’s no reason to feel guilty for taking a break when they need one.
Lead by Example
It’s likely your employees are looking up to you when it comes to acceptable office behaviour. Which is why you should take care of your own health and practice regular breaks as well.
Once they see you’re taking regular breaks, running to the store, chatting with team members, etc. they’ll see such behaviour is okay, and they’ll more likely take a break themselves.
Provide a Break Area
Whether it's a terrace, a game room, or just a basic chill zone with books and lazy bags, you should create an area in the office which is dedicated to breaks. Having access to a place where they can just unwind for a bit will help employees take more time off and relax before going back to their tasks.
Encourage Your Team to Use Tracking Apps
If you’re using some kind of a tracking tool, you should let employees see their data at any time. This way, they’ll see if they’ve been trying to resolve an issue for a while, and then pause for a bit to get their creative juices flowing.
If you have a remote team, you should use one of the remote employee management tools. The majority of remote workers agree that they are having a hard time taking breaks and separating work from real life.
Also, in these tools, you can easily notice if it’s been a long time since someone had a break and send them a message to check if everything is alright, as well as push them to take a rest.
While providing a pleasant working environment is your duty, you shouldn’t forget that you’re a manager as well. It’s every easy to get wrapped up in tasks, projects, clients’ requirements and forget about your people.
Being a manager means you need to manage people as well. Not in a sense of acting like a bad cop, but rather as a leader, or a guide. Everything in your organization starts from you - employees will follow your lead, mimic your behaviour, adjust their actions to meet the criteria you’ve set. So make sure you’re being a good example.
We know that entrepreneurs are the greatest workaholics, and in the end we just want to remind you to give yourself a break. Take day off, or just start with a simple stretch behind your desk.
This article was originally published on December 5th, 2016. It was updated on November 8th, 2019.