Why you should take breaks more often
Updated: Aug 24
When the pressure is on at work taking a break can seem like a counter-productive thing to do. Taking a break when you’ve got so much on your plate might be the last thing crossing your mind. However, there is plenty of research out there showing taking regular breaks is not only good for productivity but your mindset too. Keep reading for your excuse to take another tea break.
Why do we need breaks?
The human body isn’t designed to be productive 8+ hours a day like a robot. While the average working days is 8 hours, to be operating at 100% for those 8 hours is impossible. There is varying research but most shows we can only focus for about 1 hour at a time and in an 8-hour working day, people are only productive for 3 of those hours. In order to increase productivity we might do some exercise, have a coffee or take a breath of fresh air outside - all these give our minds a mental break.
How do breaks benefit us?
Not taking breaks often leaves us rundown and unproductive, not taking breaks has been proven to give us fatigue, damaged eyes and lack of focus. Our brains are busy using the prefrontal cortex for daily thinking. When we take a break this part of the brain gets a rest but doesn’t switch off completely. A study from the University of Southern Carolina shows our brains use this time to make important connections like ‘connecting the dots’ of a problem or information retaining.
You’ll be more likely to have new ideas.
Taking a break allows the creative parts of your brain some downtime. If you never take a break you’ll exhaust these parts of your brain limiting your ability to form new creative ideas. If you’re constantly trying to form new ideas and work at a fast pace you don’t allow any time to form new ones or see the whole picture. Talk a walk or a coffee break and finding a solution to that problem should become easier.
Better information retaining
Ever sat through an entire meeting or lecture to come out the other side not remembering a thing? Taking breaks often gives your mind time to retain the information you’re trying to fill it with. If you’ve overdone it, retaining information will become a lot harder.
Better mental health
Not taking enough breaks can lead to a build-up of stress and affect your mental health. Take a break and a few deep breaths often to make sure you’re not feeling too stressed. Check-in with yourself and start including more breaks during your workday.
As most research suggests we can only be focused for 1 hour at a time. After this, we’ll start to get distracted or not be working at our full potential. Taking a quick 5-minute mental break will help you refresh and be able to focus for another hour. With research showing we’re only productive for 3 hours of an 8-hour working day, try to find ways which help you increase this productive time - breaks being one of them.
If you work in an office taking regular breaks with your colleges can help build social connections and is a great time for team building. Being able to get on with your colleges out of work time will make your day to day more enjoyable and also strengthen the dynamic of your workplace.
While it may feel like taking breaks often is a waste of time, it can prevent burnout later down the track which could have you taking days off completely. Working overtime is a necessity sometimes but if you’re constantly doing this without breaks, you’ll burn out quicker. Read a previous article to learn more about Burnout culture - how to stop overworking.
Quality of breaks
Find out what works for you and makes you feel refreshed. Scrolling through Instagram doesn’t always make the best break, try getting out of your chair and going for a stretch of the legs instead. Breaks will look different for everyone, but have an experiment to see how often you need them, how long for and what makes you feel the most refreshed.