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How to improve productivity with strategic breaks
Taking breaks is good for productivity. A study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that regular breaks reduce soreness and eye strain – both important factors for working longer periods with better focus.
The study was published in 2000 and it looked at 42 workers at the Internal Revenue Service. They were all tasked with data entry – a job that is monotonous and requires sitting at a computer for many hours. One group of workers had two breaks during a regular shift – one 15-minute break in the morning and another 15-minute break in the afternoon. The other group of workers had four additional breaks of 5 minutes, spread throughout the day.
Researchers measured the workers’ keystrokes and accuracy. Both groups had similar results for quantity and quality of work. Even though the second group of workers had an additional 20 minutes of breaks throughout the day, their output and quality were the same.
More importantly – the workers with the additional breaks had less eye fatigue and body soreness. They were more comfortable because they were able to get more relief from sitting. Strategic breaks throughout the day can improve productivity compared to the traditional approach of one break in the morning and one break in the afternoon.
Workplaces can promote strategic and regular breaks by adopting a company culture that promotes regular pauses and offering opportunities to stand and move around. A simple approach is to have areas of the office devoted to untraditional meetings. Instead of going from sitting at desks to sitting in a meeting, host meetings around high-top tables and provide stools for comfort. This minor modification to traditional meeting tables provides the option to take a break from sitting.
Another approach to remind workers to take a break from sitting is to remind employees to go for a short walk or switch their desk from sitting to standing. The Office IQ from Humanscale is an innovative tool to monitor, track and remind workers to take a break from their routine.
These simple approaches will encourage workers to take a few extra small breaks in the day. By improving comfort and productivity, this extra time if far from wasted.