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Why Your Business Should Embrace Employee Breaks

Here’s a statistic that will probably surprise you:

The most productive workers actually take a 17-minute break for every 52 minutes they work. – Source

Most office workers will be familiar with the pressure to always look busy. Especially in open office plans where your coworkers (and your boss!) can see your screen, nobody wants to look like they’re slacking.

If you’re familiar with this style of working, however, you’re probably also familiar with the pitfalls of it. Brain fog, lack of concentration – and, possibly worst of all, boredom. It’s an ineffective way to work. Worse, it means that the work you’re producing is likely to be error ridden and of such low quality that you’ll end up spending more time redoing it.

Today, we’re going to be explaining all the benefits of taking breaks to you so that you can start to introduce them into your workday.

Benefits Of Taking Breaks During The Work Day

Breaks increase productivity

One of the largest benefits of taking breaks from work is that they help you to be productive while you’re working. The idea of taking breaks being negative is usually because of a misconception employers have; they assume that breaks are time taken out of time that would otherwise be spent working.

By this logic, you can’t blame your boss for not encouraging breaks. If you could get 7 hours of work out of an employee for the same cost, why settle for 6?

Why is this logic flawed? Because it assumes that all time spent “working” is time spent producing quality work, when the opposite is usually true. We all have energy spikes and dips; times when we’re tired or unfocused and we start to work slowly – when we start to make mistakes.

All that happens when you don’t take breaks is that when you hit one of these dips . . . you keep working at that low output.

Image result for productivity drop

Let’s look at an example:

When you’re working at 100%, you may be able to log 100 orders in an hour. You’re energised and refreshed – fast and clear-headed. You’re in your zone. 

When you’re working at 50%, you may be logging 35. You’re slower, firstly, but you’re also unfocused and making mistakes that you then need to go back and correct.

If you work 3 hours at 100%, you will start to feel yourself burning out – it’s inevitable. From here there are a few options:

Firstly, you could recognise you’re burning out, take a break and give yourself time to recharge your mental batteries; after which you can return to working full throttle.

The option most people take, however, is to push through. While you may think you’re making yourself look like a dedicated employee, what is actually happening is that your productivity levels are just going to sink lower and lower. If you’re burnt out already, think of what the effect of working extra hours on top of that is going to have on your mental resources.

Breaks help to increase creativity – and your brain needs to switch between “focus” and “diffuse” mode to problem solve

The brain has two modes; focused and diffuse. Focus mode is the setting your brain slips into while concentrating – when you’re forcing yourself to hone in on one particular activity. Things like learning and reading activate focus mode.

Diffuse mode is your brain’s relax mode, when it’s free to wander and drift. Day-dreaming is a prime example of diffuse mode at work.

Initially, you probably think that focus mode is what you need to hone in on to be productive – but that’s not entirely true. While focus mode is what most of your time at work will be spent in, diffuse mode plays an integral role in creativity and problem solving too.

In fact, your brain does a lot of its problem solving in diffuse mode. Have you ever had a “Eureka!” moment? A completely random moment of creative clarity? Well, what you’ll notice is that these moments usually happen in the middle of doing something completely unrelated to the problem at hand – like showering or driving. This is diffuse mode hard at work!

Taking breaks actually helps us to concentrate

Studies have shown that focusing on a task for too long is actually counterproductive and hinders performance. Taking a small break, however, allows your brain to refocus on the task at hand.

“We propose that deactivating and reactivating your goals allows you to stay focused,” Psych Professor Alejandro Lleras said. “From a practical standpoint, our research suggests that, when faced with long tasks (such as studying before a final exam or doing your taxes), it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself. Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task!” – Source

As we’re sure you’ll agree, there are a multitude of benefits to taking a break every so often that your work and productivity can highly benefit from. Especially in this summer heat where it can be easy to get overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to take a ten minute break from the computer screen – your work will likely thank you!

How To Keep Your Office Productive and Engaged During Summer

Summer has now hit the UK – and your office needs to be ready.

Warmer weather has a profound impact on Britain; our railways stop working and  our roads have the potential to literally melt. However, for the people of the United Kingdom, summer is a great thing! The warm weather has been proven to improve people’s moods and encourages them to get out and be more sociable.

Unfortunately, these benefits often don’t always transfer over to the office. A recent study found that productivity in the workplace decreases by 20% during summer. In addition to this, it was also found that attendance decreases by 19%, projects take 13% more time to complete and workers are 45% more distracted.

None of these statistics are ideal for your business, so today we’re going to be sharing our top tips for keeping your office engaged and productive, even in this summer heat.

1. Make sure you’re keeping the office temperature cool – but don’t overdo the air conditioning

Uncomfortable temperatures are one of the largest factors that prohibit productivity. Being too hot in summer can cause dehydration, light-headedness and headaches – not to mention, far more serious problems like heatstroke or heat-exhaustion.

Making sure that the temperature that your office workers are working in is neutral and comfortable is essential for them being able to actually work.

However, having the AC blasting too high can have the opposite effect. While working in heat can cause your employees to suffer, working in the cold is just as bad!

2. Encourage your employees to stay hydrated and, if you don’t already, provide free water

The effects of dehydration cannot be overstated – for health purposes, let alone productivity the workplace. The effects of dehydration include:

  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Headaches
  • Dry skin
  • Drowsiness

These symptoms of dehydration will all have a direct impact on productivity; if your employees are tired, dizzy and suffering from migraines, how will they be able to concentrate? How can they focus on their work? They can’t – and your business’s output will suffer for it.

Worse than this, dehydration can actually lead to worse, potential long-term health problems such as:

  • Heat injury.
  • Urinary and kidney problems.
  • Seizures.
  • Low blood volume shock (hypovolemic shock).

As you can see, making sure that your employees are hydrated throughout the day is essential. Not only should you encourage your employees to bring in their own water, you should provide free, accessible water for your office.

3. Flexible hours

Another possible avenue to consider is the introduction of flexible working hours. In summer, employees typically want to be in the sun, not cooped up in the office, so introducing more flexible hours can be the best of both worlds.

A lot of companies see success with this tactic. Employees are more engaged with the business as they appreciate the flexibility – and are more productive during their working hours. As we’ve already discussed in this blog, working more hours doesn’t amount to doing more work – it’s how productive your employees are during the time that they’re working that you need to focus on.

A few ideas for a flexible summer hours policy include:

  • “Early weekend” – on Fridays, allow employees to leave an hour early.
  • Start earlier, finish earlier – during summer, it can just get hotter and hotter as the day gets on, so some people may want to start early and spend less time in the heat.
  • Working from home (/remotely) options – we’ve covered the various benefits of working from home in detail on this blog already (as well as the drawbacks), but it can allow employees to work from the comfort of their own home – which is a big bonus in this often uncomfortable weather.

4. Encourage vacations

You may be slightly taken aback by this next tip – we are, after all, trying to keep your employees at work and fighting fit. However, as we’ve discussed in our post about taking breaks during the workday, one of the most beneficial things for your productivity happens to be not working!

Let’s face it: your employees are all dreaming about taking full advantage of the summer months by going on holidays and escaping to the beach. Why not encourage them to take a trip so that they’re refreshed and ready to work when they get home?

5. Buy desk fans and/or office fans

A quick way to cool down the office? Try investing in some office fans!

Two of the issues that can arise when relying on air conditioning to keep your office cool are that air conditioning can be too harsh – and that someone will always want it on a different setting. Making use of desk fans is a perfect solution to this problem; employees can control how hot or cold their environment is to suit their individual needs.

6. Encourage employees to take short breaks

Short breaks during the workday can help employees to consistently work productively.

In 2008, a University of Illinois study found that the brain’s cognitive resources drop after a long period of focusing on a single task, decreasing our focus and hindering performance. Breaks act as a mental reset and allow us to come back more focused and productive. – Source

During summer, there are so many things waiting to distract your employees – the insufferable heat, the arguments over the air conditioning, the looking out the window and daydreaming about the beach – that it’s inevitable. Why not get ahead of it and encourage your employees to take the breaks that they need?

7. Prioritise communication and most important work in the morning

Our last tip is to take advantage of the most productive time of day – the morning. Mornings will generally be the coolest part of working hours, plus your employees haven’t been cooking in the heat all day; these are optimal working conditions.

If you can prioritise tasks and schedule the most important ones for this time of day, you’ll be getting the hard part out of the way straight off the bat.

We hope you found these tips helpful and will be able to implement some of them in your workplace this summer. If you found this post useful, don’t forget to share.