Blog: Confessions of an SME – Solving the productivity ‘puzzle’ one piece at a time…

Confession, we haven’t always taken regular breaks from our screens. But not anymore with the help of a…jigsaw! Now you may be wondering how a 1,000 piece jigsaw, completely unrelated to our field of work is helping to improve our productivity and spark new ideas? Chris Price-Jones, Chairman and Director responsible for H&S tells us how...

Let’s start with some facts: overuse or improper use of display screen equipment can cause workers to experience fatigue, eye strain, upper limb problems and backache – not ideal. It is recommended by HSE regulations that short, frequent breaks should be taken from intensive display screen work.

The HSE state that ‘a 5-10 minute break after 50-60 minutes of continuous screen and/or keyboard work is likely to be better than a 15 minute break every two hours’. Now, we may naturally take these breaks when we pop to make a panad, or to take a few minutes to organise our to-do lists, but can we be sure that we are really following these guidelines?


Bad news for our waistline

Hands up if you’re guilty of taking lunch breaks at your desks whilst answering emails in between bites? Research by BUPA suggests that almost a third of UK workers usually eat lunch at their desks, with 43% saying that they were too busy to pause and take a break for even a few minutes.

It’s also bad news for our waistline. An article by top food psychologist Dr Christy Fergusson, states that ‘research has shown that eating while distracted can lead to overeating. For example, one study found that those eating while watching TV ate 36 per cent more pizza and 71 per cent more macaroni and cheese. What's more, the type of distraction doesn't matter. So while you're unlikely to watch TV at your desk, chowing down lunch while staring at a screen: scrolling through a spreadsheet or mulling over emails, could be just as detrimental.’

Now the reasons for not taking breaks, or eating lunch while working at your desk can vary, perhaps it’s the office culture, increasing workloads, or is it more to do with a fall in our productivity throughout the day leading to tasks taking longer to complete?


But doesn't taking breaks make us less productive?

Our productivity falls throughout the course of the day, so while we may be able to focus and get tasks completed quickly at first, the longer we spend at our desks the more our focus and productivity falls. Taking breaks allows us to re-charge, replenish our energy and increase our focus. University of Illinois psychology professor Alejandro Lleras explains:

“From a practical standpoint, our research suggests that, when faced with long tasks, it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself. Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task!” Source

Taking regular breaks can also boost our creativity. Its hard to be creative when you have been sat at your desk working on the same thing all day. Taking a break can provide a new perspective on challenging projects. Breaks can also improve our mental wellbeing. Using lunch break to complete stress reducing activities such as a brisk walk can have a lasting positive impact.


So, where does the jigsaw come in?

Following a suggestion by a colleague (see our previous blog about how our away days helps us listen to new ideas) to draw us away from our desks at lunch time, the BIC office has started completing a jigsaw over lunch, or for a quick mind-reset between tasks. Not only is it helping us to follow the regulations for screen time breaks, it is also allowing us to refocus our minds, be more creative, increase our concentration levels, and in turn be more productive. So, although we don’t have the budget for Google style office spaces, our cheap and cheerful jigsaw is contributing to creating a positive working environment, with a space for us all to enjoy away from our desks.

Next time you find yourself staring at your screen, unable to focus on that task you just need to get done, why not try taking a short break, whether that be a short stroll in the fresh air, exercising your minds with a puzzle, or try some stretches at your desk (we also tried this and have a brilliant video of ‘sally up, sally down’ but we won’t embarrass anyone by showing you this!).

We can certainly recommend it!


 BIC's Chairman, Chris is an experienced innovator. A food and drink specialist, he has spent his career in new product and service development, process development and improvement. He has a wide-ranging business and industrial management background, from factory floor to group board level and has over 40 years in food R&D. He has also spent time in education as a lecturer and at senior management level. Chris is also the director responsible for H&S and has a keen interest in productivity improvements. You can read more about Chris here.