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The Key to Increasing Productivity? Employee Breaks

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If you want to boost your business’s productivity, try encouraging your employees to step away from their desks every now and then.

More than 85 percent of employees believe taking regular breaks during the day would make them more productive, according to a new study from Staples. Overall, more than one-quarter of workers don’t take a break other than for lunch.

The research discovered that one in five employees said guilt is the reason they don’t take any breaks, while 55 percent said they don’t feel they can leave their desk to take a break.

John Trougakos, an associate professor of management at the University of Toronto, said job-related stress is an alarming trend that’s plaguing workers and costs companies hundreds of billions of dollars each year.

“However, these costs can be reduced with regular work breaks, while improving employee effectiveness, satisfaction, and reducing strain and fatigue,” Trougakos said. “Disconnecting from work can do wonders for people‚Äôs energy and mind-set.”

The study revealed that breaks can prevent employees from feeling burned-out: 59 percent of those surveyed said more breaks would improve their work happiness, and 43 percent said it would boost their personal happiness. Additionally, 37 percent said regular breaks during the day would improve their health.

“It’s important that employees understand the value of taking a quality break,” said Tom Heisroth, senior vice president of commercial and enterprise sales for Staples Advantage. “Disconnecting can increase their happiness, health and productivity.”

The research shows that the key to getting employees to get up from their desks to recharge may lie in break rooms. Nearly 60 percent of those surveyed said a well-stocked and comfortable break room would encourage breaks, while 76 percent said such break rooms would allow them to unwind and relieve stress.

To help employers encourage breaks, Staples and Trougakos recommend several tips:

  • Provide healthy snacks and beverages. Employees want snacks, and the majority prefer healthy options, such as nuts and granola bars, compared to chips, cookies or candy.
  • Think about comfort. Furniture is an important consideration for the overall comfort and appeal of the break room. Employers can provide furniture that allows employees to unwind with their snacks and beverages, and socialize with colleagues.
  • Disconnect when taking a break. Trougakos said employees need to mentally detach from work to restore the energy it takes to work productively. Thinking about work doesn’t relieve stress, and employees won’t fully recharge or maximize the usefulness of a break.
  • Maintain a break-encouraging workplace culture. This helps reduce employee guilt from taking necessary breaks and makes breaks more effective. Ultimately, this will improve worker well-being and productivity.
  • Encourage positive energy. Employees should do something during breaks to generate positive feelings, since these emotions are energizing, improve creativity and can increase productivity.

The study was based on surveys of more than 200 office workers at organizations of all sizes across the United State and Canada.

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