We’ve come up with a lot of good excuses to stay chained to our desks (and our one true life partner, our trusty work iMac)—trying to get as much work done as possible in the 8 or 9 hour workday. And God forbid, you wouldn’t want the manager to think that you were slacking off.
However, the social networking company Draugiem Group conducted a little experiment to analyze the habits of their most productive employees. Were the ones who were glued to their screens (and chairs) all day really the most productive? Using time-tracking app DeskTime, they discovered the most productive 10% of the bunch shared one thing in common: effective breaks. And we aren’t just talking a quick 5 minute break, either—the top performing folks took a mental rest for a whopping 17 minutes. (That’d get you through almost all of a Seinfeld episode!)
Here’s their secret formula: Complete focus and dedication (aka “working with purpose”) for 52 minutes, then complete focus and dedication to not working by stepping away from the desk for 17 minutes.
So this doesn’t mean picking up your phone to scroll through your Instagram feed or diving into the black hole of whatever subReddit you’re subscribed to. (Though Hiroshima University conducted a study that found those who looked at cute photos of puppies and kittens were more productive—no joke). It means walking outside to grab lunch (in lieu of ordering through Seamless for the umpteenth time), chatting with a co-worker over last night’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy, or even taking a crack at that book you keep “meaning to read.” Like any good athlete or musician that rests between strenuous training sessions, our minds need to take a break to refresh attention span, increase engagement levels and breed creativity.
And a last note to managers: it’s important to remove the stigma of taking longer (or even too many) breaks. The biggest reason why your employees aren’t leaving their desks, in fact, is probably you—and your unintended judgment.