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Updated: September 18, 2023 101

101: Employee breaks

Those quick walks around the parking lot, down to a nearby smoothie shop or even a few minutes with one’s head down on the desk are beneficial. Chad Brooks of BusinessNewsDaily reports on a 2014 Staples study showing even though 85% of employees believed regular breaks would boost productivity in their workplace, one in five weren’t doing so (guilt being the reason). But employees need not feel guilty; breaks do a company good.

Microbreaks have major plusses. Brooks cites a 2021 North Carolina State University study showing fatigued employees can benefit from five-minute microbreaks in terms of cognitive functioning and redirected blood flow to overworked parts of the brain. The same study found employees who could take breaks on their own schedule best met their work goals.

Breaks improve decision making. A famous study references a case of Israeli judges who took two daily breaks. They were more likely to grant parole to prisoners after considering their cases, notes Meg Selig of Psychology Today. But when those breaks were taken away, the rate of parole gradually dropped to 0% “because judges resorted to the easiest and safest option – just say no,” she writes. Their judgments became more simplistic.

How breaks are spent matter, too.’s Kimber DiVincenzo suggests employers who want to avoid workers crashing from caffeine and sugar spikes offer alternative break options. Break rooms can have mediation areas and healthy snacks in vending machines instead of junk food, for example. Organized afternoon exercise breaks, like with stretching, are good. “Half to two-thirds through a shift is when workplace fatigue typically sets in the hardest,” she writes. “Exercise breaks bring a whole host of benefits for your team and increased productivity is just one of them.”

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