The eight-hour workday became the norm when the Ford Motor Company found that number resulted in maximum productivity at its factories, explains Jeff Stibel, an author and the CEO of Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp., in a recent LinkedIn post. But, the problem is, the human brain is not meant to focus on the same task for hours at a time.
“The idea of an eight-hour day with a short lunch break is based on the most effective formula for physical labor, not mental work and certainly not creative mental work,” Stibel says. “Evidence shows that the brain cycles from highest attention to lowest attention approximately every 90 minutes. This suggests that you should hit the reset button about that often.”
This is precisely why “hip” Silicon Valley tech companies started the growing trend of offering unique perks that encourage employees to step away from their desks.
“One of the best ways to recharge is to engage in something different,” he says. “If you’ve been reviewing a document for 90 minutes, don’t take a break by reading news articles. Get up and do something completely different.”
Here are three ways to give your brain a break during your workday:
Be physically active. Exercise is good for our brains. That’s why company-sponsored yoga classes and in-office gyms are becoming increasingly common, Stibel says. “If you can’t get in a full workout, don’t fret: stretching for five minutes or even using a standing desk makes small changes that can spur creativity and recharge your batteries.”
Do something you love. Playing office games, going window-shopping, or meeting with a friend for coffee are great ways to give your brain a break from work. “Take advantage of what’s [in] or near your office,” Stibel says. “Being fully engaged in an activity lifts the mood and contributes to feelings of overall well-being.”
Get in touch with nature. “Being outside activates different brain regions than sitting inside, as most of us do for the majority of our workday,” he says. Easy ways to incorporate nature into your workday include taking a walk in a nearby park or regularly having lunch outside.
“Brain breaks can make a big difference in your ability to be productive, creative, and innovative. The paradox is that doing less often allows you to do more,” Stibel concludes.