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Long breaks at work don’t increase your productivity (like, at all)

Don’t let management see this. Recent studies show that long breaks from work (like using the company-provided foosball table) don’t actually increase productivity. Dang.

coffee break

coffee break

Say it ain’t so

For years we’ve been told that breaks at work would be good for our productivity. Many companies have directed their culture to reflect this idea: Google famously has nap pods, pools, and bowling alleys at many of their campuses. The Dropbox offices come with fully equipped music studios and game rooms–with DDR, ping pong, and tournaments. Twitter’s employees get massages and yoga classes throughout their day.

And even if our workplaces don’t look like these organic funplexes, we’ve all justified our twenty minute pauses to check Facebook, find new cat videos, or run to the nearest coffee shop.

Because productivity.

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The findings

However, a new study is suggesting that our beliefs about breaks at work might be all wrong. The study, done at Baylor University, looked at 95 employees over the course of five days. It determined that while breaking from work tasks is beneficial, breaks shouldn’t necessarily be a free-for-all–taken at whatever time and for however long we’d like.

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Here’s what the study found:

Mid-morning breaks are more replenishing than afternoon breaks

While you might be accustomed to getting slowly started in the morning, easing your way into the work day with a long stop by the coffee pot and a leisurely look through your inbox, this study found that you are most productive in the first two hours of the day–that you should wait to refill your mugs or look through your email until you truly need the break, at about mid-morning.

There’s no evidence than non-work related activities are better

As it turns out, a break to say, empty the recycling bin, wipe down your desk, or consult with a colleague is just as replenishing as a break to chat about the weekend or browse through an Instagram feed. The point is just to take a break from the task at hand. This is information that you should probably withhold from your boss, of course. But…

Preferred activities are more replenishing than non-preferred

So if you really really hate emptying the recycling bin then it’s not actually a good idea to consider that a break.

Frequent short breaks are more replenishing than fewer long breaks

This is unfortunate news if you were hoping to talk your boss into following Google’s lead by installing a bowling alley next to your office. Breaks lead to more productive work if they are short and frequent, rather than drawn-out and…infrequent. A quick five minute walk down the hall at the end of the hour, for instance, is more advantageous than a 30 minute round of knocking down some bowling pins (or raiding the breakroom fridge, or hiding out in your car).

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#Productivity

Written By

Amy Orazio received her MFA in Creative Writing at Otis College of Art and Design, in Los Angeles. She lives in Portland now, where she is enjoying the cross section of finishing her poetry manuscript and writing for The American Genius.

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