The power of taking a break at work

Susanna Kahr

With a smartphone in your pocket, it can start to feel like you’re on call all the time, no matter what industry you work in. The pressure to perform leads many workers to glorify the hustle and avoid taking breaks from work, because they want to get as much done as possible. At kununu, we’re all about working smarter not harder which is why we love taking breaks. Learn why taking a break at work might be the smartest way to excel.

The Hidden Power of Taking a Break at Work

When you eat a nutritious lunch on your lunch break, you have the stamina to focus on important work for the rest of the afternoon. Skip lunch, and you’re likely to develop low blood sugar, feel fatigued, have trouble concentrating, or even develop anxiety. Clearly you’re a better performer when you eat lunch.

The same analogy holds true for taking a break from work. The purpose of a break is to refresh your mind, body, and spirit. Whether it’s fifteen minutes to catch up with a colleague over a cup of coffee or a 10-minute stretch break in your office, you will be able to perform better after you take a short break.

“Short short short breaks.” – anonymous employer review at Xfinity

Data indicates that employees are more engaged long-term when they take lunch breaks than when they skip lunch since they worry their boss may believe that they are not a hard worker. Intuitively this all makes sense, but you might be wondering why a break is so beneficial.

How Breaks Deliver a Positive Job Performance

When you’re focusing on any one thing for long time, it’s natural to get tired. When your brain gets tired from thinking, and you don’t take a break, you may find yourself staring at the computer for long periods of time or struggling to read the same paragraph. You may start to beat yourself up because you can’t get something done, especially if you’re working on a tight deadline. Continue to put pressure on yourself and you will eventually complete the project, but if you’re honest with yourself, you know that it wasn’t your best output–and also that it took much longer than projected.

“They did ok with giving us all as much time off as we needed.” – anonymous employer review at Wyndham Hotels & Resort

If you had stopped when you realized that you were no longer productive and had that stretch or coffee break, you would have given your brain the break it needed to feel refreshed. Coming back to work after the break, you may have had a sudden insight. The prefrontal cortex is the region of your brain that is responsible for motivation and performance management. During the typical day on the job, it’s this aspect of your brain that helps you make decisions, analyze information, and complete tasks. The longer you work without taking a break, the more likely your prefrontal cortex is to tire. That’s when you experience symptoms like difficulty concentrating or lack of productivity.

Even a short break will increase your ability to focus, help you catch mistakes, and boost your morale because suddenly it’s easier to achieve. Breaks are also beneficial when it comes to creative work. If your position involves creativity, take a break when you feel stuck instead of trying to force a creative breakthrough. Switching tasks or getting up from the desk and moving your body will often lead to an intuitive solution to the problem at hand.

“I take lunch any time I want between 11-1 and I also get an hour for my lunch break.” – anonymous employer review  at Yokowo American Association

Breaks are highly beneficial before major performances, for example when you have to give a talk at a business conference and you’re up late working on your slides. If you exhaust yourself preparing for your conference without taking the breaks you need to feel rested, then you could compromise your immune system due to stress.

An athlete knows that their performance benefits from recovery days, so they schedule rests in between periods of intense training. By following the same approach, you can stay on track with your goals and workplace performance while reducing stress and overwhelm.

 

Convinced of the power of breaks but not sure the best way to use them? Implement a healthy habit, be it meditation, visualization, stretching, or a power nap. Use the time to stay up to date on developments in your field by reading industry blogs or publications, or our tips on how to maintain a good mental health.

 

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