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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….

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 recharge, 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. It’s hard to be creative when you have been sitting 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. This is especially important whilst working from home.

So, where does the jigsaw come in?

Although we don’t have the budget for Google style office spaces, and are mostly working from our home desks at the moment, we have been focused on enjoying time away from our desks, following the regulations for screen time breaks. Allowing us to refocus our minds, be more creative, increase our concentration levels, and in turn be more productive.

Prior to the pandemic, and our move to working from home for the time being, we even started a jigsaw in the office, to tempt us away from our desks at lunch time, or for a quick mind-reset between tasks.

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 mind with a puzzle, or trying some stretches at your desk.

We can certainly recommend it!

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