6 Reasons To Take Breaks At Work

Empty chair at a desk in a modern office space

We all want to get as much work done as possible during our day in order to maximize our productivity and meet all of the demands of our job, but there’s good evidence that taking breaks during work will actually make you more productive by keeping you interested, alert, and able to see things from a fresh perspective.

Here are six important reasons to take breaks during your work day.

1. Staying Interested

When we have to work on one thing for an extended period of time, it’s natural to eventually become fatigued or bored by it. Feeling stuck in a task you’re no longer interested in can be torturous, and chances are your boredom will create mental distraction and resistance making it take even longer! By taking a break, we take our mind off a narrow focus on the task at hand and come back to it with fresh eyes and a clear head. Even a short break can allow you to return to a task that seemed tedious with renewed energy and enthusiasm!

2. Preventing Burnout

While deadlines often make us feel the need to “get things done” with minimal downtime, taking breaks can actually make us more productive! Our downtime is when we rest and recover, not only from physical stress and exertion, but also from intense intellectual or creative work. Rest enables us to come back physically and cognitively stronger than if we try to keep working through fatigue, just as an athlete needs to balance peak performance with recovery. (See: What workaholics can learn from triathletes about being productive on Business Insider)

Man laughing at work with "Be Happy" post-it note on his forehead

3. Keeping Active

When we’re busy working, we can end up stuck at our desks staring at screens for long periods, without even realising. Physical activity improves blood flow to the brain, which is crucial for cognitive performance and maintaining your focus. Taking a break to move around, look at something other than a screen, and stretch your legs, can really help to improve your mood and clear your head, particularly if your job involves being sedentary most of the time.

4. Interacting with Your Colleagues

Some break activities are more beneficial than others! In general, a break should help you to temporarily disconnect your mind from the work task and experience positive emotions. Taking a moment to interact with your colleagues, or help them out with one of their tasks while you take a short break from yours, can be one way to increase feelings of positivity through social connection. (See: Why and How You Should Take Breaks at Work on Psychology Today)

Work colleagues having fun with photos

5. You’ll Learn and Retain Information Better

Our brains need periods of rest to consolidate new information. This is particularly important when  trying to learn a new skill or solve a challenging new problem. After a period of focus, a break will allow you to properly take in what you’ve learned and solidify it in your memory. (See: This Is How Many Minutes Of Breaks You Need Each Day on Fast Company)

6. Leaving Room for Reflection

It’s easy to get bogged down in a difficult problem, losing the ability to see the forest for the trees. Taking breaks where possible allows room to reflect on and re-evaluate what we’re doing and come at problems from a fresh perspective. Time away also makes it easier to spot mistakes that you missed when you were in the thick of it! This creates opportunities for finding better or more efficient approaches to try when you resume working. (See: The Science of Taking Breaks at Work on Buffer)

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