Work Hard, Play Hard: How On-The-Clock Breaks Can Boost Performance
Our workaholic culture is changing. In the past, web browsing on the job and long lunches were villainized as time-wasting behaviors. But new research shows that brief periods of distraction in the workplace can actually improve work performance.
The most innovative companies are embracing breaks such as naps, games, and goofing around. These activities don’t actually waste time, but gives your brain time to reset.
“Work used to be a repetitive rote task,” said Diane Rogers, a behavioral designer at IA Interior Architects in San Francisco. “In the future, those things will be done by machine. The creative will be done by people.”
Working Hard Or Hardly Working
Many employees in the U.S. strive to work hard in the workplace by taking on extra projects, working overtime, and rarely stepping away from their desk. Employees believe they need to work 24/7 to achieve good standing in the workplace.
But working hard around the clock and chaining yourself to your desk is a recipe for disaster, not success.
According to a Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychological Association, up to 80% of working people say they feel stress on the job and half of them say they need help managing that stress.
Another 65% of working people said their workplace stress has caused difficulties such as health problems.
In fact, 62% of employees said they end their day with work-related neck pain, 44% leave with strained eyes, 38% leave with hand pain, and 34% have difficulty sleeping because of work-related stress.
What Does This Mean For Employers?
Stressed employees can have a major impact on the productivity and efficiency of the workplace. Approximately one in five Harris Poll survey respondents said they had quit their earlier jobs because of workplace stress.
Overworked employees often deal with chronic stress, which can quickly turn in to job burnout. According to Harvard Business Review, the psychological and physical problems related to job burnout costs $125B to $190B a year in healthcare spending. Up to $300B is lost in productivity every year because of workplace stress.
So how can we mitigate workplace stress and increase productivity and overall enjoyment in the workplace? By taking breaks and “wasting time.”
Routine Breaks Refresh The Brain
There are many studies about how breaks can help your brain take in information, restore motivation, increase productivity and creativity, and prevent decision fatigue. But what kind of breaks work best at the workplace?
Here are a few workplace breaks that innovative companies around the globe are using to keep their employees happy, healthy, and motivated.
- Short naps. Certain companies such as Autodesk, VMware, and Google have set up calming areas where employees can get in a quick nap during the workday. Naps that are around 20 minutes long can help boost energy, improve learning, and improve long-term memory.
- Games. Games like cards, chess, ping-pong, or video games can spur creativity and boost imagination. This is because play has been shown to improve cognitive functioning, which in turn reduces stress and improves focus.
- Relaxing break rooms. You don’t need to nap or play to get the benefits of a work break. Studies show that getting up and away from your desk to talk to a friend, get coffee, or goofing around for a few minutes can help prevent decision fatigue and improve performance.
It’s important to take routine breaks while you’re working to prevent fatigue and boost motivation. When you start to feel like you’re lagging behind your usual workflow, it might be time to “waste time.”