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The Science Behind Taking Breaks at Work

May 28th, 2020

When you’re faced with a tough task, your instinct may be simply to power through until it’s finished. However, research on how humans work reveals that sometimes, the best thing you can do for a difficult problem or question is to walk away – at least for a little while. 

Here’s how and why taking brief breaks can make you better at what you do: 

1. Movement helps your mind and bodywork at their best. 

Jobs that require constant sitting are hard on the body and brain alike. Taking just a few minutes each hour to stand up, stretch, or walk around can help reduce your risk of health issues associated with sedentary jobs, like heart disease, diabetes and depression. It can also help your brain reset, allowing you to come back to your desk refreshed and ready for another 55 minutes of focusing. 

2. Breaks help prevent decision fatigue. 

“Decision fatigue” occurs when the brain is so tired or overwhelmed from having to make choices that it starts to shortcut to the safest, easiest choice, even when that’s not the best choice in the situation. Restore your willpower and reasoning ability by taking breaks throughout the day. Your resulting decisions will be more effective and meaningful. 

3. Breaks can provide a boost of motivation. 

The commonly-held belief that taking breaks means you’re not sufficiently motivated is flatly contradicted by science. Multiple studies indicate that motivation is easier to sustain if we alternate periods of concentration with complete breaks from the subject at hand. An added bonus: Taking your mind off a tough task can also generate a burst of inspiration or creativity, revealing the best answer to a previously impenetrable problem. 

4. Resting the brain improves learning, even when we’re awake. 

For many years, researchers have understood the vital role of sleep in helping us retain what we learn and experience. Research into rest periods taken while awake reveals that this type of rest also helps us remember facts, processes, and experiences. If you’re learning a new skill, take breaks to let your brain organize and process the new information.  

For help balancing work and rest, contact THE RIGHT STAFF, LLC. Our recruiters help Minnesota job-seekers find open positions with great employers in Minneapolis and surrounding areas. Reach out today to learn more. 

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