Take a Breather: Why Regular Breaks Are Good for Your Work Ethic

OK, so talking about how much workers need breaks isn’t every employer’s favorite pastime — but it should be. Attempting to work long hours at a time without a single moment of rest doesn’t produce results the way we used to think it did — it’s a work model of the past. We understand the human brain more every day, and one topic we’ve nailed down is the positive effect of breaks on our productivity and work ethic.

It isn’t just about wanting a break to check Facebook or grab a bite to eat. It’s about the science-backed fact that taking breathers from time to time increases our performance. Here are five proven benefits of taking breaks.

1. Show Your Brain Some Appreciation for the Hard Work

Did you know your prefrontal cortex (PFC) keeps you focused and concentrated during heavy mental work? It keeps your eyes on the prize and helps you use willpower to avoid impulsive decisions. It’s also responsible for executive decision-making and logical thinking, which means you have a lot to thank it for.

Think about those moments when you feel completely stumped by some problem or overwhelmed by your task list, take a short walk or nap and return to find the issue much more manageable than you left it. Those are the powerful results of a small break for your PFC. Be sure to take the right kind of break to get the much-needed boost today’s work world requires.

2. Improve Your Overall Mental Functions

Productivity, creativity, mental clarity and emotional well-being all depend on the right number of breaks throughout the day. If you know there’s a big deadline on its way, you might feel compelled to work endless hours without even looking away from your computer screen. Rather than working on one task for an extended period of time, schedule multiple tasks in thirty-minute increments. This will allow different parts of your brain to rest while flexing other mental muscles. Learn this habit to diversify your day, become smarter and rest your brain.

Not only will you work smarter by using breaks, you’ll find yourself being more creative. It’ll be easier to engage with the task, get yourself into a flow and come up with creative solutions to whatever problems arise. Bottom line: Take a break — your work depends on it.

3. Motivate Yourself and Make Better Decisions

These two go hand in hand. It’s easy to forget about long-term goals when you’re feeling mentally and physically fatigued. Many people believe willpower isn’t an unlimited resource. No matter how much you try to force yourself to get the work done and churn out more results, you’ll eventually hit a wall that prohibits further production.

No matter what industry you’re in, you probably have to make several important decisions throughout the day — both big and small. Decision fatigue causes you to lose some of your willpower and the ability to reason logically. You’ll be more likely to choose easy, safe options and gravitate toward simplistic decisions and procrastination throughout the day. Working without breaks will mean you put in more hours with fewer, lower-quality results, so why not just take a break instead?

4. Eliminate Physical Distractions

Nobody can work long hours without distractions if they’re in physical pain, but the reality is people are trying every day across countless fields. Those who work in front of computers often suffer from wrist, forearm and hand discomfort, but there’s good news: Studies have shown taking a five-minute break each hour eliminates pain. In addition, short walks, yoga and other physical activity throughout the day reduce the likelihood you’ll develop obesity, diabetes, heart disease and even depression.

5. Improve Your Relationship With Your Boss

While the word “break” might not sound like the most productive idea to your boss, you’ll find yourself on better terms with them when you can pump out more high-quality work in shorter amounts of time. You don’t always have to take breaks in a way that will frustrate them or make them wary of your performance, either. A break can take the form of a short nap, but it can also mean a quick stretch, brisk walk, a moment on social media, a few seconds of laughter or just a chat with your nearest coworker.

In fact, you can choose from any number of apps, tools and methods to keep yourself well-rested and on track in a way that fits best for your particular lifestyle and workplace. Just know no matter what you choose, you’ll be well on your way to higher productivity and a healthier work ethic you, your coworkers and your employer will admire.