General Musing

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Discriminating Against Breaks is Counter Productive #productivity

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Some weeks ago I read an interview with a Dutch Internet Entrepreneur who was launching a book on how to create a start up. I haven’t read the book so I can judge that, however what surprised me was his tip to give smokers only 23 days holiday rather than 26 days as they are 1.5 hours less productive every day. I think that he’s missed the point when it comes to productivity, and I’ll tell you why:

Historically smoking and coffee breaks where perfectly acceptable, now people look on people who take frequent breaks as lazy or unproductive. Smoking might decrease hours behind your desk, it might even decrease the number of hours actually worked by 1.5 hours a day, which is 18.75% if we assume a working day has 8 hours. However the overall office productivity according to many studies is 62.22% of the time worked. This means that productive office hours are just under 5 hours, if we assume pro rata smoking might be an actual working time loss of 56 minutes (11.67%), where 34 minutes (7.08%) are consumed by the 37.78% none productive hours spend at the office. Studies say that between 1 and 3 hours everyday are spend browsing the web at work for personal business, which works out to between 12.5-37.5% of time spend at work which is approximately the amount of time that people are unproductive. That covers the ignorant “bums on seats” productivity argument.

Naturally there is also a loss when it comes to health, smokers are overall less healthy than former- and non-smokers. Some studies should that they miss a third more days in the office due to sickness. Smoking is also a risk factor for RSI, although smokers don’t seem to be exposed to the other risk factors, including lack of frequent/regular breaks and sitting for long periods.

The attribution of laziness or unproductivity to people taking breaks is counter to the way the mind and human body work. Just as RSI complaints are due to a lack of regular breaks, the mind becomes less focused after 20 minutes of being focused on a task. And although it is also possible to refocus multiple times after 60-90 minutes the mind becomes less efficient. Having regular breaks allows the brain to recover its focus, and it allows the body to recover.

In fact research has shown that taking breaks a step further and having power naps during work is ideal to increase productivity. Just 20 minutes in the afternoon after lunch, when the pancreas starts to release insulin which triggers tryptophan to be created and converted into serotonin in your brain. And as it takes up to 4 hours to digest your last meal anytime between 1 and 3 pm would be ideal for napping.

Source: So many I decided against publishing them. 😉
Image source: Luisus Rasilvi

Written by Daniël W. Crompton (webhat)

November 15, 2011 at 12:19 pm

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