human resources online

Stop what you're doing and take a break!

If it has been 52 minutes since your last break, this message is for you: STOP WHAT YOU'RE DOING AND TAKE A 17 MINUTE BREATHER!

No, I'm not pulling these numbers out of the sky. According to a study conducted by Draugiem Group, in order to be at your most productive, you need to take a proper break a few times a day.

"Turns out, what the most productive 10% of our users have in common is their ability to take effective breaks. Specifically, the most productive people work for 52 minutes at a time, then break for 17 minutes before getting back to it," Draugiem Group's Julia Gifford wrote on The Muse.

In today's fast-paced working world, the pressure to work hard and appear busy is high. Just yesterday, we ran an article about how Singaporeans feel obliged to work longer hours - even though they don't think they're any more productive for doing so - which is not an uncommon sentiment across Asia.

The study by Morgan McKinley found 82% of professionals in Singapore believe they are working in excess of the hours stipulated in their contracts. Yikes.

But Gifford shares this following tidbit:

"The secret to retaining the highest level of productivity over the span of a workday is not working longer - but working smarter with frequent breaks."

Sabrina-Zolkifi-Sept-2014-jennifer-lawrence-gifI don't know about you, but this is music to my ears. I've always preferred to work in bursts, taking a little time away from my desk to say hello to a colleague, grab a snack or make a fresh cup of coffee in between productive periods.

I've found it gives me time to look at a problem differently, seek the opinion of someone outside the immediate team, and just take a moment to regroup.

And for anyone else who is as attached to their smartphone as I am, here is more great news. Research by Kansas State University found employees who are given smartphone ‘microbreaks’ are happier and more productive.

However, I get that it might still take some convincing before employees feel comfortable taking breaks. A study earlier this year by Staples found 66% of employees only take a break for lunch. So what can you do as a boss? Lead by example.

As we already know, I'm a huge fan of breaks, but it does help that editor Rebecca Lewis, and even our publisher, share the same philosophy.

Encourage breaks by taking the team out for coffee in the afternoon, or simply sending a funny link (this one gave the team a good laugh last week).

Let them know it's okay to not have their nose buried in their screen from nine to five, take time out yourself, and watch as your team becomes happier and more productive over time.

How often do you take breaks? Do you find it makes you more effective? Share your comments below.

Image: Shutterstock

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