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Short breaks boost productivity

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Cary Cooper of Manchester Business School suggests banning internal emails could improve productivity

A third (36%) of workers believe that taking regular, short breaks from work boosts their productivity and energy levels, according to research from Electric Tobacconist.

Out of the 1,000 employees surveyed for the Take a Break report, half (49%) take a break every two hours, and 15% do once per hour.

Activities in these break times include getting a drink (62%), chatting to colleagues (43%) or using social media (33%). A quarter (23%) said they have discovered some news or information during breaks that has been beneficial to their work.

However, employers were less convinced, with just 14% thinking that workers taking regular short breaks is a positive thing.

Cary Cooper, 50th anniversary professor of organisational psychology and health at the University of Manchester's business school, told HR magazine that employers need to understand the importance of allowing breaks. “Are these employers who don’t see these breaks as positive out of their minds?” he asked. “People need interaction away from their screens.”

Cooper suggested a radical change to ensure employees take time away from their desks. “People should not be allowed to send emails to people in the same building as themselves,” he said. “This would mean they would have to go and speak to their colleagues face-to-face.”

Cooper added that employers should carefully consider the impact of technology on their employees. “We need to be careful that we control the technology, rather than letting it control us,” he said.

Separate research from Oliver’s Travels found that employees are having trouble taking a break from work, even when on annual leave. Almost half (45%) of the 1,400 office workers polled said they check work-related communications on holiday, with 20% saying they check multiple times a day.

Almost four in 10 (37%) reported that they cannot go a single day without logging on, 29% said they could last at least 48 hours, and only 11% said they could manage a whole holiday without checking.