Encourage employees to go on Facebook and read the newspaper

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FacebookSnooping(300x188).jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 188px; border-width: 0px; border-style: solid; margin: 5px; float: left;" />Encouraging employees to take a short break after 40 minutes of work is more beneficial to productivity than a long lunch break, an education expert has said.

Short breaks to read the news or browse on social media can boost a person’s productivity by as much as 9%.

“Most people work in jobs that require a lot of mental exertion and the average person's concentration span is about 20 to 40 minutes. People can be sitting in front of a screen for two to three hours and not be productive. There's a reason why school periods are only 40 minutes long,” said senior education lecturer Dr Tony Holland from the University of Technology Sydney.

He said that employees who chat to a colleague for a few minutes, have a coffee, or even go for a walk around the block would have improved performance.

But not all breaks were equally beneficial.

Taking in some exercise is the best way to take a break, and Holland said an engaged worker could be 30-40% more productive after coming back from a quality break.

While it’s unlikely that workers would have the opportunity to take in forest stroll, in a 2009 study Melbourne University’s Brent Coker found that walking through the forest, for example, would restore people’s concentration much faster and to a higher degree than sitting in the lunchroom.

It is also important that employees who take their breaks by surfing the net don’t spend more than 20% of their workday browsing.

“What we found is that employees who surf the internet for fun were about 9% more productive than those who didn't or couldn't. We found that [using] more than 15 to 20% of time surfing the net had a negative impact on productivity. Those who were surfing excessively were pretty poor workers,” said Coker.

The key to productivity-inducing breaks appears to be short, sharp breaks taken at regular intervals throughout the day.

A recent survey of 1,800 employees on workday habits by recruitment firm Robert Waters found that:
 

  • 41% were regularly bored at work – 51% said their boredom was highest in the afternoon (1.30pm-3.30pm)
     
  • 36% specified late afternoon (3.30pm-5.30pm) as their mental ‘switch off’ time
     
  • 10% specified mid-morning/noon as their mental ‘switch off’ time
     
  • Just 3% were bored early in the morning (8.30am-10.30am)
     
  • 84% said they did things unrelated to their job throughout the day to keep themselves entertained

Non-work related activities included: socialising (53%); checking personal emails (52%); reading news/gossip/industry websites (42%); coffee break or walk (40%)

 

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