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In Defense of Taking a Break

Today’s corporate world constantly reinforces that overworking yourself is the key to success. However, there are countless studies disputing the notion that increasing quantity also increases quality (in fact, it’s usually just the opposite). When you’re trying to climb the corporate ladder, it can be easy to fall into the trap of believing putting more time in is the best way to get your work done and prove yourself. However, taking short mental breaks can actually be the best thing to do for your productivity levels. According to this report from the New York Times, taking regular breaks from mental tasks improves productivity and creativity, and skipping breaks can lead to stress and exhaustion.

I can personally attest to this. There have been plenty of days where I am way too immersed in my work to force myself to take a break, yet on days like that I always seem to suffer the 3 p.m. crash. It’s simply unsustainable. Taking lunch at your desk may seem like the best option when your to-do list is 20 pages long, but the best thing you can do for yourself is to step away. For me, I’ve learned that writer’s block can be solved by taking a quick walk around the block; once I’m back at my computer, I feel like I’m looking at that press release I’ve been stuck on with a pair of fresh eyes. As someone who loves to read, I also always bring a book to work and spend my lunch break at the park next to our office reading. Even if I can’t take the full hour, letting my PR brain turn off for just a little allows me to return from lunch refreshed and refocused.

Some companies have caught on, with growing trends including installing “standing” desks and implementing flexible workday hours. However, most businesses are a step behind and as a result set their employees up for failure and unintentionally negate efficiency. Unfortunately, according to this story from Fast Company, some industries are even moving backwards and shortening employees’ lunch times; in fact, only one in five office workers reports taking an actual lunch break away from their desk, according to a survey by workplace consulting group Right Management.

It’s time we all caught onto the beauty of break taking. Staring at a computer screen for 8 hours a day is never going to spark your creativity or lead to the next great idea. We should all do ourselves (and our brains) a favor and incorporate short breaks into our busy schedules.